Governing Rural England provides a new perspective on the process of state formation in modern England. It begins by identifying the complex ideological, cultural, and institutional influences which shaped the political provincialism of later Hanoverian England. In contrast to traditional accounts, which emphasized the ineffective, even oligarchic, character of the administration of rural England, David Eastwood demonstrates its effectiveness and capacity to adapt, and uncovers the complex interplay between central and local institutions which lay at the heart of the late Hanoverian polity. By examining key areas of policy (poor law administration, police, crime and punishment) Dr Eastwood explains the ways in which new principles of public administration combined with rapid social change to create a profound crisis in English local government in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The resolution of this crisis led to a diminution in the role and power of traditional governing elites in rural England.
This complex reconfiguration of authority within the English state had a profound influence on the developing political culture and institutional framework of modern Britain.