This book is a study both of the political philosophy of Herbert Spencer, considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of Victorian Britain, and of the ideas of the Individualists, a group of political thinkers inspired by him to uphold the policy of "laissez-faire" during the 1880s and 1890s. Despite their contribution to 19th-century political debate, these thinkers have been neglected by historians, who have concentrated on the advocates of an enhanced role for government in economic and social affairs. The Individualists were forceful critics of this tendency to extend the frontiers of the state. This study of their ideas sheds light on the nature of late Victorian political argument, offering also a perspective on Spencer's political philosophy, which provided individualism with much of its intellectual justification. The book is intended to be of interest to those who wish to see free-market conservatism in an historical context. Scholars and students of modern British history and political thought should also find this work to be useful, especially those concerned with social, political, economic, and cultural history of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Currently Analyst, Banking Supervision Division, Bank of England; formerly Lecturer in Political Philosophy and Political Theory, Lincoln College, Oxford (1986-1989)