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Title: Republicanism becoming conservative : Robert Southey and political argument in Britain, 1789-1817
Author: Craig, D. M.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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Abstract:
This dissertation uses the intellectual life of Robert Southey to reassess the problem of 'romantic apostasy' between 1789 and 1817. Like Wordsworth and Coleridge, he is understood as an ardent supporter of revolution in the 1790s who retreated into an authoritarian and backward-looking conservatism by the 1820s. By placing him in context, and considering the actual arguments he used, it is possible to see that many of his religious, social and political ideals remained unchanged. He became conservative because he viewed a defence of existing institutions as the best means of furthering liberty and morality against the threat of religious and political anarchy. The first chapter briefly introduces the problem and Southey's significance, before turning to reconsider the issue of republicanism in the late eighteenth century. It argues that 'rational dissenters' cannot be viewed as either republicans in the classical sense or liberals in the modern sense because of their protestant perfectionism. The second chapter examines Southey's 'radical' beliefs in the context of Rousseau and Godwin, and argues that the failure of the French revolution did not destroy his ideas. In the third chapter I show how he viewed the war against Napoleon as a justified war against tyranny, and how it was necessary for Britain to become a more military nation in order to defeat France. Chapter four examines Southey's social thought. The first half reveals that he saw Malthus's Essay on population as an attack on the benevolence of God and the possibility of moral progress. The second part argues that he believed poverty had been caused, in part, by the institutional privileging of the rich, and that the solution lay in greater benevolence, state support, and education, which would create the conditions of economic autonomy for the populace. The fifth chapter shows that Southey's theology remained unchanged from the 1790s, and that he adopted a utility-based defence of the establishment to preserve the moral benefits of rational protestantism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.598122  DOI: Not available
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