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In this lively and interesting study, G. R. Searle tackles the conundrum at the heart of Victorian life: how could capitalist values be harmonized with Christian beliefs and with concepts of public morality and social duty? Middle-class Victorians who broadly welcomed industrial growth and embraced the doctrines of 'political economy' were sensitive to the charge that theirs was a selfish and materialistic creed. Consequently, if public morality was to be reconciled with the market, wage-labour had to be distinguished from slavery, investment from speculation, and entrepreneurial acumen from dishonesty and fraud. These ideas about citizenship and public virtue offered a greater challenge to rampant capitalism than any pressing need to alleviate poverty. Through its exploration of 'Victorian values', this book provides lessons for all those engaged in the present-day debate about the moral and social consequences of unleashing free market forces.
Author of the forthcoming 1885-1918 volume of the New Oxford History of England