Leslie Stephen and the Clubbable Men of Radical London


In this paper, the second of a series of three, I appraise Stephen’s economic writings from 1865 to 1882 and trace the extent to which his involvement in the Radical circles over this period shaped his economic views by considering, in turn, each social setting in which he interacted with other Radicals. The historiographical aim of this exercise is to demonstrate that the personal interaction in the array of social sites frequented by an individual moulds the course of the arguments that finally appear, for posterity, in his or her reviews, articles, books and speeches and, further, that the nuances and strong positions adopted in these publications can only be properly understood once the activities that took place in these social sites are considered. I wish to show, in short, that Stephen’s published works—and indeed the printed judgements made by all Radicals—were moulded by non-scientific variables such as the physical presence of the charismatic individuals who frequented these social sites, the friendships and enmities formed in the social melees that took place in such settings, and the rules of etiquette and formal institutional procedures that governed what was said (and not said) in these forums.


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