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Title: Fabians and 'Fabianism' : a cultural history, 1884-1914
Author: Downing, Phoebe C.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is a cultural history of the early Fabian Society, focusing on the decades between 1884, the Society’s inaugural year, and 1914. The canonical view is that ‘Fabianism,’ which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as the ‘doctrine and principles of the Fabian Society,’ is synonymous with State socialism and bureaucratic ‘efficiency.’ By bringing the methods of cultural history to bear on the Society’s founding members and decades, this thesis reveals that ‘Fabianism’ was in fact used as a dynamic metonymy, not a fixed doctrine, which signified a range of cultural, and even literary, meanings for British commentators in the 1890s and 1900s (Part 1). Further, by expanding the scope of traditional histories of the Fabian Society, which conventionally operate within political and economic sub-fields and focus on the Society’s ‘official’ literature, to include a close examination of the broader discursive context in which ‘Fabianism’ came into being, this thesis sets out to recover the symbolic aspects of the Fabians’ efforts to negotiate what ‘Fabianism’ meant to the English reading public. The Fabians’ conspicuous leadership in the modern education debates and the liberal fight for a ‘free stage,’ and their solidarity with the international political émigrés living in London at the turn of the twentieth century all contribute to this revised perspective on who the founding Fabians were, what they saw themselves as trying to achieve, and where the Fabian Society belonged—and was perceived to belong—in relation to British politics, culture, and society (Part 2). The original contribution of this thesis is the argument that the Fabians explicitly and implicitly evoked Matthew Arnold as a precursor in their efforts to articulate a kind of Fabian—latterly social-democratic—liberalism and a public vocation that balanced English liberties and the duty of the State to provide the ‘best’ for its citizens in education and in culture, as in politics.
Supervisor: McDonald, Peter D. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; History ; Economic and Social History ; History of Britain and Europe ; Intellectual History ; Political ideologies ; Education ; Sociology ; Cultural history; British literature; literary history; British history; British socialism; Fabianism; Bernard Shaw; H. G. Wells; Edith Nesbit; history of British education; British drama; Russian emigres; Hubert Bland; Sidney Webb; turn of the century Britain; Pierre Bourdieu; literary modernism