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Title: Investigating character in England, c.1880-1914
Author: Roberts, Nathan George
ISNI:       0000 0001 3524 9744
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2002
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In the decades around 1900, the idea of character functioned as a remarkably versatile means of describing and evaluating both the individual and the collective. Building on the work of recent histories that testify to its importance in the social and political thought of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this study seeks to explore how character was investigated and theorised in England from the 1880s to the First World War. From the 1880s, a number of English thinkers complained that, allthough character was seen as a crucial factor in individual and national success, little was known about its nature and the ways in which it could be recognised and cultivated. In response, a number of studies, colloquia and guides emerged that sought to establish an intellectually reputable means of understanding character. Psychologists, educationists, evolutionists and social theorists elaborated new conceptions of character that reshaped older evangelical and classical accounts by locating character in describable mental, evolutionary and physiological phenomena. These accounts helped reaffirm the significance of character in a respected language and furnished tools for both its efficient cultivation and detection, tools that were felt to be of no little use in a culture anxious over national decline and the direction of social change. This reaffirmation of the value of character came at a price however, as character began to dissolve under the gaze of investigators who became increasingly impatient with the moral connotations of a conception of mind that remained resistant to close scrutiny, particularly as personality was emerging as a more favourable means of envisioning the self. The study of the contemporary debates over the nature and value of character provide an insight into the intellectual preoccupations of the period and a means of further understanding the rise and fall of one of the principal elements of the cultural landscape of late Victorian and Edwardian England.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available