Alborn, Timothy (Lehman College and the City University of New York)
Journal of Victorian Culture, 11.1 (2006) 154-160
To get into the proper spirit for reading Richard Price’s British Society, it helps to bear in mind J.A. Hobson’s quip concerning the ‘mental consistency’ of the British people, who had, he claimed, ‘developed a curious … aptitude for entertaining incompatible and often self-contradictory ideas and motives’. Far from thinking this trait ‘highly dangerous’, as Hobson deemed it, Price defies a whole series of dichotomies on his way to presenting the period from 1680-1880 as an internally coherent transition between a clearly premodern Tudor-Stuart era and a decidedly modern long twentieth century. The key [End Page 154] to Price’s narrative is his claim that ideas and motives which have long appeared, both to Hobson and to subsequent historians, as transparently at odds were in fact nearly always negotiable during the two centuries prior to 1880.