Posts Tagged ‘Education’

IEA Book on Privatising the Education System

June 28, 2016

Privatising Education Book

The Profit Motive in Education: Continuing the Revolution, James B. Stanfield, ed. (London: The Institute of Economic Affairs 2012).

I’ve been meaning to some research and reading on the government’s privatisation of the education service, as shown in Thicky Nicky Morgan’s policy of converting all state schools into academies. I found the above book, published by the IEA, a right-wing think tank, in one of the charity secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. This book is a whole-hearted endorsement of the promotion of private, for-profit education, both in Britain, Sweden and the US. The blurb states

The UK government – in common with the governments of many Western countries – is in the midst of implementing policies to reform education. However, the government has, as a matter of principle, decided that profit-making schools cannot provide state-funded education even if they would lead to substantial improvements in quality.

This monograph makes the case for widespread acceptance of the profit motive in education. It does so not by presenting statistics that demonstrate that profit-making organisations could drive up quality – there is already a substantial literature on this. Instead, the authors show how profit-making organisations could create an entirely new dynamic of entrepreneurship and innovation. As well as improving quality and reducing costs within existing models, such an approach could lead to the development of completely new ways of providing education.

The authors of this monograph have a range of international experience. Many of them have run profit-making schools in countries more accepting of the profit motive than the UK, such as Sweden. Others have struggled against the odds to participate in education reform programmes in the UK. Overall, this collection makes and important contribution to the international debate about education reform.

Basically, this is a book to encourage the privatisation of the education system, as shown in the contents and various chapters.

Chapter 1, the introduction, by James B. Stanfield, has the section, ‘Questioning the Anti-Profit Mentality’; 2, by Steven Horvitz, is entitled ‘Profit is about learning, not just motivation’; Toby Young’s chapter, 3, is about ‘Setting up a free school’, and so on, from contributors in America and Sweden. The final chapter, by Tom Vander Ark, is entitled ‘Private capital, for-profit enterprises and public education’. This has individual sections on ‘New openings for private capital’, ‘The for-profit advantage’, and ‘Combining philanthropy and profit-seeking investment’.

This is by and for the people, who want to privatise our schools and charge us all money for sending our children there. One of the chapters speaks glowing about the voucher scheme, to allow parents to opt-out of state education, and spend the money that would have been spent by the state on private education for their sprogs instead.

I don’t take any of their guff about the supposed advantages of for-profit private education seriously. Buddyhell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, did an excellent article on how the introduction of Neoliberalism, including Milton Friedman’s wretched vouchers, had trashed the Chilean educational system, leading to massive inequalities and demonstrations by students. See:
He has also served up more article taking down Toby Young, one of the more visible and offensive of the Tories, who keep on turning up in the media. Mike over at Vox Political has also put up very many articles, showing that free schools and privately run academies perform worse than schools run by the LEA. One of the chapters in this book is on budget fee-paying schools in the US. They would have to be. A friend of mine told me that in the heyday of British private education just before the War, but private schools were on very tight budgets just a few steps away from bankruptcy. If they took on more than a handful of non-fee paying pupils, they’d go under.

Or is this just Eton’s excuse for only taking one, non-paying pupil, in order to qualify as a charity and so get public money?

The book’s only value is as a guide to the people, who want to privatise the British educational system, and why they believe in it. And the Institute of Economic Affairs unfortunately not only influences the Tory right, but also the nominal Left. I’ve got a feeling the Blairites were in contact with them and had them as their advisors.

This is the ideology and the people behind it, who want to sell of Britain’s schools. And if we really do value education in this country, for the benefits it brings in itself, and not as income stream for public-schooled self-styled entrepreneurs – they have to be stopped.


Sixth Form Colleges to Go Part-Time Next Year due to Tory Cuts

March 12, 2015

In addition to reporting Cameron’s plans to encourage more students to become maths and physics teachers, the I also carried a report yesterday on research carried out for the Sixth Form Colleges Association by the Institute of Education and another research group, London Economics. They predict that from September next year, 2016, government cuts will mean that the country’s 93 sixth form colleges will only be able to provide 15 hours teaching a week.

The report also shows that teaching in English sixth form colleges has gone down by three hours a week or six weeks a year since 2012.

If the report is accurate and sixth form colleges are forced to go part-time, then it means that English sixth form students will only receive half as much teaching as those in the best performing colleges in Shanghai and Singapore.

This is absolutely disgraceful, and shows what premium the Tories really place on state education. I’ve blogged before about how the Tories seem to want to return this country to the early 19th century, when education was reserved largely for the rich and privileged.

This was in very sharp contrast to France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, which were rapidly developing systems of mass education. Those of Switzerland and the Netherlands were particularly impressive.

I remember one of Thatcher’s cabinet boldly announcing when I was at school that schools should do no more than teach children the ‘three ‘R’s – reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, and no more. It so shocked the headmaster of my old school that he actually took to his lectern in assembly to denounce it, all the way while being careful not to appear to be party political.

Despite Cameron’s smooth words about promoting maths and science in schools, this shows that that attitude is alive and well in the Tory party.

I also wonder if the schools are being deliberately run down, in order to prepare them for full privatisation. Private enterprise has already been brought in to run schools, according to Friedmanite dogma. Now it appears that the government wishes to do the same to schools as it did for the other nationalised industries. They are to be run down, and then sold off at an immense profit to private industry, which will then immediately start introducing charges and run them for profit.

If this is the case, then we can kiss goodbye to the free education so many people have dearly fought for.

I hope I’m wrong.

But regardless of why the government is doing this, it’s still a disgrace.

Gove Versus Reality

September 28, 2013

I’ve reblogged a piece from The Uphill Struggle and one of the comments on it criticising Michael Gove’s contemptuous attitude to the profession and pointing out just how hard teachers really work. This was in response to Gove’s plan to increase their workload, showing that he doesn’t have any appreciation for the true amount of work teachers already put in. The Uphill Struggle herself is a teacher, and the comment I reblogged was from a teaching assistant. My posts can be found here, at and here, respectively.

I also found this short film, Michael Gove Versus Reality on Youtube. The film is only 6.44 minutes long. In that short space of time, it manages to refute every aspect of Gove’s education policy. It disproves his selective use of statistics, which ostensibly show that Britain’s educational performances is declining. According to the Ontario professor shown in the film, actually Britain’s educational performance had improved. The apparent decline is simply due to the number of countries included in the statistics doubling. It also refutes the Tories’ claim that academy schools and the effective privatisation of education automatically leads to an increase in quality. Gove cites Sweden has one example, but any increase in educational standards there has been accompanied by concerns about greater social exclusion and increasing division. Gove also tries to cite American Charter Schools as also examples of better educational performance through schools, which are independent of the public (state) school system. Yet the statistics there show that 47 per cent of Charter Schools are no different in their educational results from state schools. Indeed 37 per cent of Charter Schools are actually worse than those in the state sector.

The video also shows that, despite Gove’s rhetoric about the nobility of the profession, teachers actually feel that the minister does not respect and value them, and the majority of the profession feel demoralised because of Gove’s negative attitude. It considers that the true motive behind Gove’s reforms are not a concern to raise standards, but to lower teachers’ wages and working conditions. Of course the true motive is profit. He wishes to privatise education, so that it can be run for profit by private companies. Gove has challenged the teaching unions with the accusation that their opposition to his reforms are ideological. This shows that the opposite is true: it is Gove’s reforms that are ideological. The video is at I also include it here below.


Regarding Gove’s claim that the academies somehow outperform British state schools, in some parts of Britain the opposite appears to be demonstrably true. In Somerset all the failing schools are academies. Some of this may simply come from the fact that the system was introduced by Labour to transform failing state schools. The point remains that if this was the originally intention, then it has not been fulfilled. The schools are still failing despite their independence from state management. I’ve no doubt a similar situation also prevails in other parts of the UK as well.

Back to Thatcher for Schools: Teachers forced to Rely on Handouts due to Poor Pay

September 17, 2013

The Independent yesterday (16th September 2013) reported that teachers were increasingly turning to handouts to support themselves due to inadequate pay. The article begins

‘Growing numbers of teachers are being forced to accept emergency cash handouts to help pay for food, accommodation and clothing.

Cash crises are particularly hitting stand-in supply teachers – many of whom do not receive any pay during the long summer holiday break – according to new figures released to The Independent.

Data from the Teacher Support Network, a charity set up to help teachers in hardship, shows that £120,000 in grants were awarded to struggling teachers in the academic year September 2012 to June 2013.’

It can be read at:

This unfortunately is part of Thatcher’s legacy, and a return to the issues facing teachers when she was in power in 1985. The teaching unions then took industrial action over her plans to cut or limit wages increases and the education reforms she was introducing. They were afraid that these would not only harm teachers, but damage the British educational system as a whole. They believed this would harm the children in their charge and stop them achieving their true educational potential. At least some of these fears have been realised.

Government ministers and educationalists have become worried in the past few years that education, particularly primary education, has become a ‘man desert’. Few men are entering education, and so boys, particularly those from the working class, are falling behind girls educationally. Particularly in areas where fathers absent, these underachieving lads are turning to criminality and violence due to a lack of positive male role models.

This is an issue I know many teachers were worried when Thatcher clamped down on teachers nearly thirty years ago. I know female teachers, who were worried that the increasingly poor pay would put men off from teaching. I can remember being asked by a visiting lady at my first college whether there were any men training to be teachers there. Now unfortunately these fears have come true, and society is paying the price.

The more general issue of teacher’s poor pay and conditions was the material for a skit by those great funsters, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. Here’s their take on the issue, as relevant now as it was then.


When Mel died, Britain lost one of its funniest and most brilliant comics. RIP, Big Guy!

A Learning Support Assistant on the Lack of Government Support Given to Them

September 17, 2013

This is a comment by a Learning support Assistant on The Uphill Struggle’s Open Letter to Michael Gove, which I’ve reblogged. The Assistant gives their support to The Uphill Struggle and her description of the hard work actually done by teachers. They also describe how hard Learning Support Staff work, and their importance in teaching children. The comment begins:

I would also love to add here that the delightful Mr. Gove is also attempting to take away almost all the support staff within schools. If anyone here has had any experience caring for or attempting to teach a mainstream student, you can understand the difficulties you can face. Now a good few years back the rules of inclusion changed: and a vast amount of special schools closed down. These students who desperately need additional support are amongst mainstream students and are demanding on both support staff and teachers.

You take away the support staff, add an hour onto the day… You have an ADHD student who struggles to make it to lunch, with no one to manage his/her behaviour in an oversized classroom of learners. By the afternoon, most students are exhausted; not to mention those with disabilities which force them to put a vast amount of added focus into tasks. All these students look forward to is the holidays. Support staff don’t even get cushy pensions, as the chap below relished to inform us of. Sure we don’t have the marking to do, but we still care for the students and as such, take our own time to provide resources, most of which come from our own pocket! (just as teaching staff do [you try squeezing money out of the government for education-aiding materials deemed “non-essential”]’

There is much more. Again, from my own experience of talking to and studying with my teacher friends, Learning Support Staff’s comment is an accurate description of the problems teachers experience. This is the reality at the chalkface, contrary to the received opinion spouted by the ignorant that teaching is easy and that anyone can do it. The Uphill Struggle’s post ‘An Open Letter to Michael Gove’, is at Scroll down until you find it. There are also other excellent comments from other teachers and learning assistants. Look for the comments by Mrs Ann Seddon and KittyKat, who left teaching because of the demanding nature of the job. And there are many more. One commentator also describes how they know many teachers on antidepressants. Again, this has also been my experience too. This is the stuff that needs to be read before people read or listen to the comments in the Right-wing press or by Conservative ministers and their supporters on television about a profession in which they largely have never worked and with whose members they have neither sympathy or understanding.

Private Eye on More Private Equity Firms in Government: Michael Gove Makes John Nash Minister

July 24, 2013

In my last post featuring an article from Private Eye, I discussed the Eye’s report that the then Tory health minister, Norman Lamb, appeared to be dimly aware that private equity firms actually weren’t very good at running hospitals and care homes. That didn’t seem set to stop them trying to increase such firms owning and running these services, and indeed it didn’t. Just a month later, in their issue for 25th January -7 February of this year, the Eye reported that Education secretary Michael Gove had appointed John Nash as minister. Nash is head of yet another private equity company. The Eye reported

Man in the Eye

John Nash

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s appointment of businessman John Nash as a minister suggests he wants private companies to be far more involved in running mainstream state schools.

Nash makes cash through his private equity firm, Sovereign Capital, which invests in higher education and training companies that receive millions for their poor performance on government contracts. Private firms are currently barred from investing in most state schools, but Nash’s new job might include opening up this market.

Given Sovereign’s record, this isn’t great news: it owns the private Greenwich School of Management, whose income from public funds has jumped to £22.6m – almost a quarter of the total going to private universities-since the coalition increased the number of private university courses funded by government-backed student loans (Eye 1330). Alas, when inspectors visited GSM in July student learning opportunities did “not meet UK expectations” and the college required “improvement to meet UK expectations”.

Meanwhile Sovereign’s website boasts of its backing for training firm ESG, which it bought in 2004. ESG training for the jobless was inspected five times by Ofsted between 2007 and 2009 and never received a single “good”. Inspection reports found “achievement and standards are inadequate”, a “low rate for job outcomes”, “slow progress in implementing quality assurance arrangements”, “insufficient resources in some centres” and “some poor learning resources”.

Despite this ESG won a £69m Work Programme contract from the Work and Pensions Department-and stumbled here too, failing to meet a 5.5 per cent minimum target for getting people into jobs. Sovereign says it sold ESG last July after it won the Work Programme contract, but documents at Companies House show Sovereign still owns about 20 per cent.

Press coverage of Nash’s appointment mentioned his investment in the Conservatives (he and his wife have given £300,000 to the party-and he now has a seat in the House of Lords and a government job!) but his Sovereign role wasn’t discussed because the Department for Education failed to mention it when announcing the appointment. The government did say Nash would step away “from all relevant business interests” while serving as minister. Sovereign Capital declined to comment.’

So the government is appointing yet another businessman from a private equity firm to oversee its privatisation of yet more state institutions. The private equity firm involved has an abysmal record in running those institutions it does possess. Its chairman is nevertheless rewarded for his persistent failure with a seat in the House of Lords, and position in government. It’s basically business as usual then, with the only difference being that this time it’s education that will suffer, rather than hospitals.

Book Review: The Development of the British Welfare State

July 16, 2013

By Michael Sullivan (Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall/Harvester Wheatsheaf 1996)

Sullivan State Book

This is another history of the welfare state, though from the standpoint of narrative history, rather than the documentary approach of From Beveridge to Blair. Sullivan’s book was published in the mid-1990s, but I’ve included it here as much of the material it contains is still relevant today.

The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the development of the British welfare state from the first Liberal legislation introducing old age pensions and health cover to the crisis in the welfare state in the decades from 1970 to the 1990s.

Part two deals with the individual welfare services – education, health policy and the NHS, the personal social services, post-war housing policy, and social security since the war.

The third part summarises the development and apparent decline of the welfare state, raising questions about it such as whether the welfare consensus was ever real.

Before the Welfare State

Chapter 1: ‘Before the Welfare State, covers the introduction of the first welfare legislation passed by Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal government of 1906. It has sections on the Embryonic Welfare State, discussing the first old age pensions, Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1910, and Liberal Social Insurance; Social Democracy: the Political Source of Reformism?; Marxism and Labourism as Twin Threats to Welfare Statism; Fabianism, Ethical Socialism and Social Democracy, with further sections on Fabianism: Its Appeal for Labour, Fabianism’s Contribution to Labour Thinking and The Contribution of Fabianism Considered; Ethical Socialism: the Heart of Labour Reformism; Tawney’s Ethical Socialism: Labour and Social Policy and Labour Social Democracy: Social Reformism Comes of Age.

The Road to 1945: War, Welfare and the People’s Will

Chapter 2 discusses the war years and the run up to Labour’s 1945 election victory. It has sections on the career of Ernest Beveridge and his proposal for the creation of the welfare state, consensus with the major stakeholders, the government’s reaction to the Beveridge report, the debate over the report and disagreements in cabinet about it, the parliamentary debate on Beveridge, which resulted in 121 MPs voting against the government for its reluctance to implement the report’s proposals, which resulted in Churchill being forced to accept it. The chapter also examines the role of collectivism; the emergence of Labour; Social Policy in War Time, with further sections on health policy, this significance of war-time policy for the social policy of the post-war period; Education Policy; and Conclusion.

The Emergence and Growth of the Welfare State

This deals with the development of the welfare state from its foundation in 1945 to 1969. It has the following sections: the Emergence of the Welfare State; the Economic Context; the Post-War Welfare State; Developing Social Security; Introducing a National Health Service; Labour’s Housing Policy; The Mosaic of Reform and Conservatism; Conservative criticisms of the welfare state; Consolidationists versus radicals; Conservativism and Social Policy 1951-64, which has a section on Convervatives and anti-welfarism; Conservative Responses, including Conservative justifications of the welfare state; Reactions to the Right: the Challenge of Social Democracy, including sections on Titmuss’ defence of the Welfare State, Crosland and the Welfare state and his redefinition of socialism, citizenship and social policy, and the rediscovery of poverty; Emerging Issues and Labour and Social Policy, 1964-9.

The Welfare State in Crisis

This chapter deals with the period from 1970 to 1995. The first section, Farewell to Welfare Statism, has sections, on poverty and labour, challenges to Keynes and Beveridge and Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech; the 1970s; Labour on the Welfare Crisis; Conservatives and Social Policy; Welfarism and the new Conservatism; the New Conservative Experiment from 1979-1990, with subordinate sections on dealing with unemployment, restrictions on public expenditure, the National Health Service, radical approaches to social policy from 1983 to 1990; Public Resistance to the Dismantlement of the Welfare State; The Major Governments and Social Policy, with sections on whether the 1990 to 1995 administration was a development of Thatcher’s project or its demise, health policy in the Major governments, education policy in the 1990, rethinking the social agenda, and the Major administrations and social policy. The last section in this chapter is an appraisal of the New Conservatism’s Social Policy, including a discussion of its long-term strategy and incremental change.

Post-War Education Policy: Continuity and Change

The has sections on the Labour Government and the Butler Act; The issue of Comprehensives, including sections on the debate within the Labour Party, the movement away from comprehensive education by teacher’s organisations, and the first comprehensive schools; Education and Society, 1951 to 1964, including sections on the squeeze on education spending, and the replacement of the squeeze by increased spending, the continuing debate over comprehensive education in the Labour party, the question of whether there was a resurgence in the Labour Left, or if it was a redefinition of social democracy, evidence from sociological and psychological research, changes in schooling and changing attitude among parents, education and the economy, and the attitude of the Conservative Party; the various reports into education of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Robbins Revolution in the expansion of the higher education.

Education, Retrenchment, Privatisation and Consumers

This chapter deals with the period from 1965 onwards. It has sections on Education Policy and the Labour Governments, 1964-70, including sections on the Labour government and comprehensive education, the unusual method in which this policy was introduced by administrative circular, the way the cabinet was not involved in the introduction of the policy, relations between central and local government, the Labour party and the professionals involved, such as teachers, and the use of the circular to avoid opposition in parliament; Conservatives and Education, 1970-4, with sections on Margaret Thatcher and the comprehensive schools, her ending of free school milk, her initial policies of expanding education; Education Policy during the 1974 to 1979 Labour Governments, with sections on comprehensive schools and the ‘great debate’ on education; and the Thatcher governments and education.

Health Policy and the National Health Service

This chapter covers the post-war period up to the book’s publication. This has sections on the creation of the National Health Service; the period of initial conflict, followed by consolidation, with sections on demand and supply, consolidation, the question of hardening of inequalities and the power of the medical profession; From ad hoc innovation to rational planning, with sections on the 1962 Hospital Place, and financing the National Health Service; the return to the ad hoc approach to reforms, with sections on the 1974 reorganisation of the National Health Service; the question whether the new philosophies actually led to changes in service, with sections on further reorganisation, the Griffiths Report, general management and the marketization of the National Health Service, marketization and the National Health Service: competitive tendering, marketization and health: private practice, private insurance and private facilities, the national health service reforms, the National Health Service and Internal Markets, papering over the cracks in the White Paper, the 1990 National Health Service and Community Care Acts, and where the NHS may go from here. The last section, Making Sense of It All, has further sections on supply and demand and equality. The post-script to this chapter notes the proposed changes by the Labour government at the date the book was written.

Personal Social Services

This chapter begins with a short summary of the post-War social services, including a section on the reorganisation of state social work. There is then further sections on personal social services in the post-War period; the changes in the 1960s, with further sections on the Seebohm report and community development; attempts to fill the gap between aims and resources in the 1970s; the arrival of community social work in the 1980s, with a section on the disappearance of the Barclay Report as it challenged the Neoliberal ideology of the Conservative party; the return of Care in the Community; attempts to explain personal social services policy, including the sections on the Left’s critique, the attack from the Right, and personal social services and the New Conservatism.

Post-War Housing Policy

This begins with Labour’s attempts to end the housing shortage, followed by sections on Macmillan and Housing; the return of the market; the construction of high rise flats; Conservatives and the market; the New Towns; the ‘affluent society’ and housing policy in the 1960s, with sections on demographic change, the reaction to the Rachman scandal, Labour and housing policy from 1964-70, a new ideology and the decision to build more houses, the ending of the construction of high rise flats, and the existence of the homeless poor in the new welfare state; the record of Ted Heath’s Conservative government on housing 1970-4; Labour and Housing, 1974 to 1979; Changing policies to housing during Margaret Thatcher’s three administrations, with sections on the right to buy, the 1988 Housing Act. The last section is a critical summary of Post-War housing policy.

Social Security Since the War

This has sections on the Conservatives and Social Security, 1951-64, with a sections on pensions; Labour, and Poverty and Social Security, with sections on demographic and economic crisis, the rediscovery of poverty, and the Left’s reappraisal; the Heath Government and Social Security, with sections on Keith Joseph and the Family Income Supplement, the expansion of social security, the retrenchment in welfare spending due to the 1973 oil crisis, and the integration of tax and social security; Labour governments and social security policy; the Thatcher Governments and Social Security, with section on the 1976-8 review, her first administration, the 1980 ‘Annus Horribilis’, attacks on ‘scroungers’, the Fowler Review in Mrs. Thatcher’s Second Administration, Income Support, Family Credit, Housing Benefit, Social Fund, SERPS, the promise of radical change, and the 1988 Social Security Act; Emerging Issues, with sections on the preference for means-testing, the retention of work incentives, fraud and abuse, racism against the Black community, the contraction of the role of the state in favour of charities, self-reliance and independence, and the construction of residual welfare state; the 1990s, with sections on workfare and the Tory ‘Bastards’ in Major’s administration. The final section summarises briefly the changes in social security from 1945.

From the Cradle to the Grave: The Beginnings, Development and Demise of the Welfare State?

This final chapter reviews the progress and changes in the welfare state in order to question whether it is at its end. It has the following sections, on whether there was a real welfare consensus, Keyne’s, Beveridge and the origins of the 1945 welfare settlement; Neoliberal and Radical Right hostility to the post-War consensus as ‘backdoor tyranny’, and scepticism on whether the consensus ever existed at all; the question of whether the consensus has been smashed, with sections on the problems of Thatcher’s first administration, and her administrations from 1983 to 1990, the National Health Service, Education, Social Security and Personal Social Services, and Housing; Majorism and Welfare, with sections on social policy spending and his introduction of Thatcherite policies on the family and personal responsibility; continuity and change in the welfare state from 1945 to 1995; Continuity and change, with further sections on the debate over equality, professionals and welfare; further directions in the welfare state, with sections on Labour and the welfare state in the 1990s, Blair’s shift from social class to community, whether the effective re-making of the Labour Party meant the death of social democracy, economic prudence, the acceptance of internal markets in the NHS; New Labours emphasis on social responsibility rather than social rights, opt-out schools, from universalism and selectivism, ineffecitiveness and inefficiency and consumerism in the old welfare state, and Labour and consumer choice.

Each chapter has a chronology and suggestions for further reading.

The book provides a detailed examination of the development of the welfare state over its first fifty years, and the nearly forty years prior to its establishment by Clement Atlee. It covers the political debates and manoeuvring over policy, and includes extracts from the speeches and documents made and compiled by its architects, reformers and adversaries. These can be quite long – the speech by Lloyd George advocating his ‘people’s budget’ is well over a page. It thus provides a good overview of the welfare state’s history, and the changes from state provision to the post-Thatcherite political climate of hostility, privatisation and marketization, and the reliance on charities.

Book Review: From Beveridge to Blair – The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State, 1948-98

July 15, 2013

Beveridge Blair Book

By Margaret Jones and Rodney Lowe (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002)

This is a documentary history of the first fifty years of the British welfare state written by two history lecturers at Bristol University. The book is part of a series of collected documents on aspects of contemporary history, aimed at sixth-formers and university undergraduates. The book’s blurb states

‘The creation of Britain’s welfare state in 1948 was an event of major international importance and is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of Attlee’s Labour government. On its fiftieth anniversary, for example, New Labour proclaimed ‘at its birth, the vision was broad … We need to capture that original Vision.

Yet the term ‘welfare state’ is now used, even by New Labour, with extreme hesitation. Moreover, although the public services it represents (such as the NHS and education remain at the heart of British politics, the election of Mrs Thatcher in 1979 reopened a fundamental battle over whether these services are best provided by government or the market.’

The blurb states that the book is intended ‘to inform and stimulate debate by providing a concise introduction to the evolution of both the structure of the welfare state and the attitudes towards it.’ It has an introduction, and then chapters on the political debate, social security, health care, education, housing and personal social services. There is also a chronology of events giving the year, the government of the time, and the events in the above departments of the welfare state.

The Introduction

This begins by noting New Labour’s ambivalence towards the welfare state, shown in the muted nature of the celebrations of its fiftieth anniversary in 1998. It then has the following sections: Defining the Welfare State; the Core Policies; the Exception of Employment Policy; and the Evolution of the Welfare State.

The Political Debate

This chapter is divided up into sections, each containing documents relating to that subject or area. The first is on Democratic Socialism, and has pieces on Marshall and the Evolution of Social Equality; Titmuss and the Virtues of Collective Action; The ideological Divide between Labour and the Conservatives, written by Anthony Crosland. The next section, Reluctant Collectivism, has extracts on One Nationism’ the Market and Community Case for State Welfare. Following this is the section on the New Right, with an extract from Hayek’s Roads to serfdom; the Institute of Economic Affairs and Choice in Welfare; Sir Keith Joseph and the Origins of ‘Thatcherism’; Charles Murray on the Emerging Underclass. The next section is on New Labour, and contains extracts from the 1994 Commission on Social Justice; There is a section on Incorporating Feminist Perspectives; after this is the sections on Frank Field and ‘Stakeholder’ Welfare, setting out his ‘Key Political Assumptions’; and Anthony Giddens and the Third Way.

Social Security

The chapter opens with the a brief description the types of benefits available and debates surrounding its nature and the principles by which it should be governed. It then has the following sections:
The Expansion of Social Security, with extracts on the Beveridge Vision, with its Three Guiding Principles of Recommendations, the Six Principles of Social Insurance, Flat Rate of Subsistence Benefit, Flat Rate Contributions, Unification of Administrative Responsibility, Adequacy of Benefit, Comprehensiveness and Classification. The next section is on Bevan’s abolition of the Victorian Poor Law, the Times’ summary of the Atlee’s welfare state, the introduction of earnings-related benefits, and Equality and Pensions. The section after this is on ‘Modernising’ Social Security, with sections on Thatcherite Principles, Breaking the Benefit-Earnings Link; the 1985 Social Security Review, the 1986 Reforms, Re-thinking Labour Policy, the 1998 New Deal and the Working Families Tax Credit. The next section is on the Controversy between Universalism and Selectivity, with sections on Choice in Welfare, Defending Universalism, Targeting and the 1976 introduction of child benefit. After this is the section on the Poor, with extracts on the Reality of Poverty in the 1950s, the ‘Rediscovery’ of Poverty in the 1960s, Low-Income Families in the 1970s, and Living on Social Security. The last section of this chapter is on Poverty and Social Exclusion, drawing on the 1999 census.

Health Care

The chapter on Health care also had an introduction to the issues involved, and then sections on the Vision, with an extract on Wartime Plans; the Allocation of Scarce Resource, with extracts on Bevan on Finance, The Guillebaud ‘Economy’ Report, 1956, and Enoch Powell and the Fundamental Dilemma; Restructuring the NHS, with extracts on the 1974 reorganisation, the Managerial Revolution, the 1988 Thatcher Review, the Introduction of Internal Markets, New Labour and the NHS; Controversies, with sections on Bevan’s Resignation, Pay Beds, and Privatisation and the 1988 Review; Health Outcomes, with extracts from the 1980 Black Report, and Health Inequalities.


This chapter has sections on The Vision, comprising extracts on the Wartime Ideals, Scientific Manpower, Conservative Ambitions, Higher Education, Nursery Education, Special Needs and Multicultural Education; Controversy: Comprehensive Education, with extracts The Case for the Defence, from Robin Pedley’s argument for it, the Conservatives attempt to reinstate choice in 1970, Labour’s insistence on reinforcing compulsion in 1974, and the Thatcherite Response; Controversy: the National Curriculum. This begins with a discussion of William Tyndale School, which became a national scandal. The teachers there were extreme advocates of ‘child-centred learning’, who didn’t really want to teach. Private Eye’s Ian Hislop included the scandal about the school in his history of education broadcast one Christmas a few years ago. One pupil at the school said violence from other pupils was so bad you daren’t go there without being ‘tooled up’. One teacher taking a reading group simply wrote on the blackboard, ‘I hate reading groups and sent the children out to play’. When confronted with the fact that most of the pupils at the school couldn’t read, the teacher’s replied that neither could people in the Middle Ages, ‘yet they built cathedrals’. The result was an outcry that resulted in the teachers involved rightly losing their jobs, and a campaign to introduce a national curriculum. Other extracts in this section include James Callaghan’s speech launching a great debate on the National Curriculum in October 1976, Shirley Williams as a representative of Old Labour on a ‘Core’ Curriculum, Margaret Thatcher’s Response and Attacks on the National Curriculum. the last section is on the consensus on education in the 1990s, composed of two extracts, the first on the Thatcherite Revolution, and the second on Labour’s continuation of the same policies.


The chapter on Housing has sections on the campaign to end the housing shortage from 1945 to 1955, consisting of further sections on wartime plans, Bevan’s position, the Conservative Vision and Macmillan’s Achievement; the Restoration of the Market, with sections on the 1957 Rent Act, the 1959 Labour Manifesto attack on the Conservative’s record, the Milner Holland Report into the operation of 1957 Act, and scandals such as that of the brutal slumlord, Peter Rachman, the 1965 Fair Rent Act, the shift from building new houses to the renovation of older properties, the 1972 Housing Finance Act,and Anthony Crosland’s attack on the 1972 Act. The next section, Eroding Public Provision, 1979-1998, has sections on the sale of council houses, the fiasco of the 1984 simplified housing benefit, which bore out Crosland’s previous criticisms of the 1972 Housing Finance act, the 1988 Housing Act, New Labour’s adoption of the same principles, and the implementation of the divide between provider and purchaser. The next section is on Causes Celebres, with sections on the outrage over Peter Rachman’s brutal treatment of his tenants in the East End; the explosion in the Ronan Point block of flats, which ended the construction of tower blocks, the foundation of the homeless charity, Shelter; the controversy over Clay Cross, in which the local council refused to raise rents resulting in a bitter political campaign that resulted to the radicalisation of the welfare state and the Winter of Discontent; and the New Labour Social Exclusion Unit’s Report on homelessness.

Personal Social Services (In other words, those requiring a Social Worker, Probation Officer or similar Care Worker)

This chapter on The Personal Social Services contains sections on the Statutory Sector, with extracts from the 1965 Seebohm Report, the 1986 Audit Office Report on the failure of the policy of ‘Care in the Community’, and the Thatcherite Solution. This is interesting, because it was delayed due to its recommendation that local authorities should work to clear objectives with proper government funding. The best care was to be provided for those in need regardless of the whether the organisation providing it were state, voluntary or private. The Tories did not naturally like this, as it appeared to enlarge the role of the government, not reduce it. The next extract in this section was New Labour’s Solution. The section on the Volutary Sector begins with Lord Longford’s defence of voluntarism, extracts from the Seebohm and 1978 Wolfenden Reports and the Conservatives’ re-prioritisation of voluntary provision in 1981. The next section, Children in Need, has a extracts from Lady Allen’s letter, highlighting the terrible conditions endured by children in care homes; the death of Dennis O’Neill, a 13 year old boy, who died of maltreatment at the hands of his foster parents; the 1948 Children Act, the 1960 Ingleby Report; the death of a seven year old girl, Maria Colwell, while supposedly under the protection of social workers; the 1989 Children Act, New Labour and the Crisis of Child Care, the 1997 Utting Report on the systematic abuse of children in care homes, and testimony by the children themselves on the failure of legislation to protect them.

The book is a fascinating overview of the first fifty years of the welfare state, as recounted and described by the people and events that set it up and shaped it. It shows the transition from the state provision of welfare services established at the Welfare State’s inception after the War to increasing private and voluntary provision of services, as well as reports on the failure of these policies. Critical to the process of privatisation has been the ideas of Von Hayek, introduced into Britain by Americans such as Charles Marshall, and into the Conservative party by Sir Keith Joseph and his protégé, Margaret Thatcher.

The Jesuits: Pioneers of Mathematics as University Subject

May 8, 2013

There were chairs of mathematics at the Italian Universities from the late fourteenth century onwards. There was a chair of arithmetic in Bologna in 1384-5. When Leo X reformed the University of Rome in 1514 he appointed two professors of mathematics. Pisa had a chair of mathematics in 1484. Galileo was appointed a ‘mathesis praeceptor’ at the University of Pisa in 1589 through the influence of Cardinal Francesco del Monte. Galileo’s own influence on the teaching of mathematics in Italian universities was immense. His pupils Benedetto Castelli and Bonaventura Cavalieri respectively held the chairs of mathematics at Pisa, the Sapienza in Rome, and Bologna. Evangelista Torricelli, one of Castelli’s pupils, succeeded Galileo as the court mathematician of the Dukes of Tuscany. Another of Castelli’s pupils, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli became the mathematics lecturer at Messina in 1635. Malpighi, Borelli and Borelli’s pupil Lorenzo Bellini introduced Galileo’s mathematical programme into biology.

It was the Jesuit Order, which made mathematics an explicit and integral part of the educational curriculum. The Order’s Constitutiones of 1556 stated that the Society’s aim was ‘to aid our fellow men to the knowledge and love of God and to the salvation of their souls’. The principal subject at the Jesuit universities was therefore theology, as the subject best suited to this. A wide range of other subjects were also taught in addition to it, including literature and history, classical and oriental languages, and the arts and natural sciences. These were included because they ‘dispose the intellectual powers for theology, and are useful for the perfect understanding and use of it, and also by their own nature help towards the same end’. St. Ignatius de Loyola himself stated that ‘logic, physics, mathematics and moral science should be treated and also mathematicss in the measure suitable to the end proposed’. The person, who was chiefly responsible for establishing Jesuit policy in mathematics and their achievements in the subject was Christopher Clavius. Clavius held the chair of mathematics at the main Jesuit university, the Collegio Romano from 1565 until his death in 1612. Clavius defended the role of mathematics at the University agains the doubts of other colleagues, establishing a school of mathematics at the Collegio. Clavius lamented the low value many pupils placed on maths and philosophy, noting that

‘Pupils up to now seem almost to have despised these sciences for the simple reason that they think that they are not considered of value and are even useless, since the person who teaches them is never summoned to public acts with other professors’. He also considered it a great shame and disgrace, that members of the order, who had little knowledge of maths, became speechless during conversations with leading men, who were much better educated mathematically. He artgued that a proper grasp of maths was necessary for understanding the rest of philosophy. He stated that

‘these sciences and natural philosophy have so close an affinity with one another that unless they give each other mutual aid they can in no way preserve their own worth. For this to happen, it will be necessary first that students of physics should at the same time study mathematical disciplines; a habit which has always been retained in the Society’s schools hitherto. Folr if these sciences were taught at another time, students of philsophy would think, and understandably, that they were in no way necessary to physics, and so very few would want to understand them; though it is agreed among experts that physics cannot rightly be grasped without them, especially as regards that part which concerns the number and motion of the celestical circles, the multitude of intelligences, the effects of the stars which depend on the various conjunctions, oppositions and other distances between them, the division of continuous quantity into infinity, the ebb and flow of the sea, winds, comets, the rainbow, the halo and other meteorlogical things, the proportions of motions, qualities, actions, passions and reactions etc. concerning which ‘calculatores’ wirte much. I do not mention the infinite examples in Aristotle, Plato and their more celebrated commentators, which can by no means be understood without a moderate understanding of the mathematical sciences…’

Clavius’ influence is strongly shown in the Jesuit ‘Ratio Studiorum’ – educational curriculum – of 1586 and 1599. This was strongly Aristotelian, except where Aristotle conflicted with Christian theology, and included the whole range of Aristotelian natural philosophy and mathematics. The section on mathematics in the Constitutiones argued it was included because

‘without mathematics our academies would lack a great ornament, iindeed they would even be mutilated, since there is almost no fairly celebrated academy in which the mathematical disciplines do not have their own, and indeed not the last, place; but much more because the other sciences also very much need their help, because for poets they supply and expound the risings and settings of the heavenly bodies; for historians the shapes and distances of places; for the Analytics examples of solid demonstrations; for politicians admirable arts for good administration at home and in time of war; for physics the forms and differences of heavenly revolutions, light, discords, sounds; for metaphysics the number of spheres and intelligences; for theologians the main parts of the divine creation; for law and ecclesiastical custom the accurate computation of times; not to mention what advantages redound to the state from the work of mathematicians in the care of diseases, in navigations and in the pursuit of agriculture.’

Dawkins and the other militant atheists have sneered at the idea of people of faith as teachers. But the great pioneers in teaching mathematics at university the level were the Jesuits, who taught it as a vital aid to faith, and as a vital and indispensible tool for the other sciences. They were certainly not unaware that improving the standards of maths teaching in the order would also raise their status in contemporary society. Neverthless, they did much to establish maths as a suitable and necessary subject for Christians to study. Some of these early Jesuit mathematicians were also friends of Galileo. They included Clavius’ pupil and successor at the Collegio, Christopher Grienberger. Despite the aim of the Society to promote Roman Catholic Christianity, Jesuit scientists also co-operated and corresponded cordially with Protestant people of science. Recent Jesuit historians have noted that the Jesuits in West Africa collaborated with their Dutch scientific counterparts in their exploration of the region’s wildlife, and contacted Scandinavian scientists in Norway or Sweden for the scientific information they had. Their science was still strongly aristotelian, but they were despite this able to make valuable contributions to science.


‘Mathematics and Platonism in the Sixteenth-Century *Italian Univrsities and in Jesuit Educational Policy’ in A.C. Crombie, Science, Art and Nature in Medieval and Modern Thought (London and Rio Grande, Ohio: The Hambledon Press 1996).

Christianity and the Origins of Democracy – the Sixteenth Century: Part 4

August 13, 2008

View of John Knox that Princes and the People themselves have a Right and Duty to Depose an Unjust Monarch Preventing the Establishment of True Religion

In his view of the relationship between the king and his subjects, Calvin allowed that unjust rulers could be deposed by the inferior magistrates, but stressed the subject’s duty to obey established authority, even when it was corrupt. John Knox, however, believed that the aristocracy and the estates also had their authority granted by God, and so had the right and duty to defend the innocent, punish criminals and establish proper religion. If the monarch refused to allow religion to be reformed, and the true faith to be established, then it was the duty of the aristocracy and the estates to depose them. If the aristocracy and estates refused to do this, then it was the duty of the people themselves to reform the church, a view he addressed directly to the people themselves in his Letter to the Commonalty. This view, that the people themselves had the right and duty to rebel against their social superiors when they were unjust and prevented the proper establishment of true religion, was immensely radical in an age when government and politics was viewed as the exclusive activity of princes and aristocrats, to whom the masses of ordinary people should be loyal and obey, but who were otherwise excluded from government and their political participation was viewed with suspicion and distrust.

View of Goodman that Kings Owed their Power to the People, and so can Depose Unjust Monarchs

Knox was not alone in his views, however. The English Calvinist, Christopher Goodman, stated in his book, How Superior Powers ought to be obeyed of their subjects; wherein they may lawfully by God’s word be disobeyed and resisted, published in Geneva in 1558 that kings owed their power and their authority to their acceptance as kings by their people, and that ordinarily they should be respected. Like Knox, he also believed that the aristocracy was ordained by God to defend their nation’s true religion, laws and prosperity and to act to limit and restrain the king’s power. Kings were also God’s subjects, and like everyone else they were obliged to work to the best of their ability in their vocation. If they abused their position, they could be deposed and punished. This was not just the duty of the aristocracy, but also of ordinary people, who are required to reform the church if the king and aristocracy refuse to do so.

View of Ponet that God Established Government for Human Welfare, but Form of the Government Left to Humanity to Decide

Another Protestant exile from the reign of Mary Tudor in England, John Ponet, also believed in and expounded the right of the subjects themselves to overthrow an oppressive monarch. Ponet had been bishop of Rochester and Winchester during the Reign of Edward VI before he sought refuge in Strasbourg after Mary’s accession, publishing his treatise on government, A Shorte Treatise of Politicke Power in 1556. Unlike Mariana and Buchanan, for example, who believed that government arose out of humanity’s natural inclination for company and co-operation, or the need for protection from aggression when in the primeval phase of human existence, Ponet believed that humanity was too corrupt to govern itself through reason. He attributed the belief that it was possible to the ancient pagans, and considered that history demonstrated that they had been wrong. Ponet believed that human actions should be guided by divine law, which is the law of nature. However, humans did not obey law unless coerced, and so God had created political power for humanity’s benefit, granting humanity the power to legislate for itself and enforce such legislation with appropriate punishment, including execution. God did not, however, specify which form of government humans were to adopt. That was left to humanity itself. God did not grant authority to only one individual, but to the community, as a co-operative association based on the reciprocal need of each individual for every other. It was the community that maintained justice and general welfare.

View that Best Form of Government Mixed Government of Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy, and that Power of Monarch Limited by Constitution and God’s Law

Ponet did not believe that any people could sensibly give unlimited power to a prince, and so considered the best form of government to be a mixed constitution where sovereignty was shared between the prince and a parliamentary assembly. England, France and Germany were all ruled by this form of government. Even those monarchs who ruled without a parliamentary assembly were subject to constitutional limits to their authority. They were bound by God’s law, and so could only legislate on relatively unimportant matters. Furthermore, Ponet urged that people should not automatically accept legislation that was merely human in origin. Laws must be considered and obeyed on their own merits, and not because of the authority of the people who had passed them. While people owed kings their love and loyalty, their first loyalty was to God, then their country and only afterwards to the monarch. He regarded princes as merely members of the commonwealth, which could exist without them. He stated that princes were liable unjustly to seize their subject’s property as their own, alter the coinage and raise taxes, political conduct that Ponet declared to be mere brigandage. They did not hold of themselves their kingdom, but simply had it in stewardship. Under the law of nature, people had the right to depose and execute oppressive rulers and tyrants, and so the community had the ability to withdraw the authority it had granted to the prince. While this should be done by the community as a whole, private assassination was justified in some circumstances.

Demands for Religious Toleration for Roman Catholics and Protestants by Edwin Sandys in England

Apart from the ability of the subject or citizen to take part in the process of making political decision, one of the great pillars of modern democracy is freedom of conscience. While both Roman Catholics and Protestants in the Sixteenth century generally wished to suppress each others’ religions through force, there was also a profound desire amongst many Christians for unity and toleration in Christendom. Edwin Sandys, a son of the Archbishop of York and pupil of Richard Hooker, in his A Relation of the State of Religion, criticised the intolerance of both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Both Roman Catholics and Protestants were Christians, and shared the same fundamental beliefs and doctrines that were the essence of Christianity. The doctrinal points that divided them could never be decided for certain. Thus, he felt, that Roman Catholics and Protestants should respect each other, and that the unity of Christendom could be restored through the establishment of a European church based on the Christian doctrines held by both Roman Catholic and Protestant. This was to be done either by a general council, which would impose its authority on the Pope and other participants in the controversy, or by the princes, though he did not feel that they could be trusted to put this into action. In order to put an end to religious disunity and conflict, Sandys wished to prohibit the claims to superiority by the various sects and faiths in Christendom. Instead of persecuting the various Christian sects, governments should instead force them to respect each other. He did not, however, believe that anti-Christian opinions should be tolerated, and so did not advocate modern concepts of secular democracy.

Demands for Toleration of Roman Catholics and Protestants in France by Politiques

The Politiques in France had expressed similar views rather earlier. They were mostly Roman Catholics, but also some Protestants, who regarded with horror the devastation, caused by the Wars of Religion, and felt that the only way to save France from further carnage and destruction was through negotiation and peace with the Huguenots. A 1574 pamphlet described the suffering inflicted on all classes in France by the War, and called for the Huguenots to join a states-general to bring about peace and save France from further destruction. Other pamphlets noted the moral damage the wars had caused, and the way they had discredited Christianity as a whole. The Huguenot writer La Noue declared that the wars had created a million libertines and Epicureans, while other writers stated that religious persecution had not suppressed heresy, but created only atheists. They argued strongly that the only way for states to survive and prosper was by tolerating two religions, and that the state should be above any specific religion. They also strongly argued that the existence of two religions in a country did not necessarily produce civil conflict or disunity, a point of view shared by Henry of Navarre himself. The Politiques were extremely sceptical about the claims of the Churches to possess the sole religious truth, but believed strongly that Roman Catholics and Protestants shared the same, basic, fundamental points of Christian doctrine. Thus the toleration of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism did not threaten the Christian nature of civil society, which was based on the fundamental Christian principles held in common by both Roman Catholic and Protestant. In 1590 the pamphlet Le Pacifique attempted to demonstrate the agreement between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism on fundamental doctrinal points in the form of a dialogue between a Roman Catholic and Protestant, who discover that the share the same basic Christian beliefs.

Demands for Religious Toleration by Sebastien Castillion

Similar views on toleration were held and strongly argued by the humanist Sebastien Castellion and Giacomo Contio, or Acontius. In his De Haereticis an sint persequandi of 1542-5, possibly written with a little assistance from Lelio Sozini, who held Unitarian views, and Martin Borrhee, and his Contra libellum Calvini, written in response to Calvin’s participation in the execution of Michael Servetus for heresy in Geneva, De Arte Dubitandi, the Four Dialogues of 1578, and the Conseil a la France desolee of 1562, Castellion argued for religious toleration. In the De Haereticis he attempted to support his arguments by quotations from some of the early Church Fathers and contemporary theologians and religious authorities such as Luther, Erasmus and Calvin himself. He considered that because there were points of doctrine that could not be decided for certain, all that could be required of people is that they attempt to understand the Word of God and follow it according to their conscience. Castellion felt that Christianity consisted in the knowledge that Christ was the Son of God and that his teachings were divine. He did not believe that religion lay in either ceremonies or beliefs that people could not understand, and firmly stated that Scripture did not support the persecution of those of different religious opinions. One defended religion not by killing for it, but by suffering death. He did, however, believe that the government had the right to punish those who denied the resurrection, the immortality of the soul and the authority of the government, though they should not be executed.

Demands for Complete Freedom of Conscience by Acontius

Acontius was a military engineer who had been employed by Pescara in Milan and Queen Elizabeth in England. In his Strategematum Satanae of 1565 he argued that most people formed their beliefs without the guidance of either reason or God, simply accepting tradition or the opinions of the mass of people around them. They are intolerant of others, partly because they cannot bear to accept that their beliefs may be wrong. He argued that religious controversy and wars were Satan’s way of causing trouble and destruction on Earth. He believed that there were a few basic beliefs necessary for salvation, but that most of Christian doctrine was simply speculation without any real value. He argued that only those doctrines that affected human conduct on Earth had any value. Magistrates had no power to punish heresy, not just because they had no power themselves to do so, but also because there was so much difference in opinion between the Churches on what was heretical that they too had little authority to make such decisions. He believed that there should be absolute freedom of religion, and that people came to the truth through doubt and free inquiry and discussion. For Acontius, those who undoubtedly possessed extremely heretical doctrines should be punished merely with excommunication, which should be a source of regret rather than anger and hatred.

Contribution of Christian Humanists to Education and their Stress on Tolerance and Dialogue rather than Conflict

Another fundamental pillar of democracy is the belief in the value of education, and that a just society and good government must be based on informed, educated opinion. In this area too the Christian humanists of the 16th century made a profound contribution. Erasmus believed that humans could be assisted to become good as they possessed free will, though this free will itself had to be aided in its turn by God’s grace. The human will could be directed towards goodness through religious devotion and learning. For Erasmus, if princes were educated according to humanist principles, the result would be a good society where princes ruled justly and, following Christ, established peace instead of war. As a result, he and other humanists, such as John Colet in England, established schools and academies. Their influence on the aristocracy was profound. Although their political ideas of a just society was Utopian, their idea of an educated aristocracy informed by humanist culture nearly became reality, so that after the mid-sixteenth century even minor members of the nobility had libraries showing a wide variety of interests. 26 Moreover, Erasmus and his followers, although entirely orthodox Roman Catholics, stressed the importance of dialogue, toleration and the importance of settling matters peacefully, rather than resorting to force. Their stress on God’s love for humanity, rather than His judgement of their actions, influenced Reginald Pole, Contarini, Castellion and the Socinians, and his advocacy of a tolerant Christianity was immensely popular in Spain, especially amongst the Conversos, whose ancestors had converted to Christianity from Judaism to avoid expulsion and persecution. 27


Both View that Power of the Monarch Absolute and that Royal Power Limited by the Constitution and Sovereignty of the People existed in Sixteenth Century

Thus, although much of the political theory of the sixteenth century stressed the absolute power of the monarch and the duty of their subjects to obey them, there were also other political views, held and defended by both Roman Catholics and Protestants across Europe, that stressed instead the constitutional limits on monarchical power, the importance and role in government of representative assemblies and right and even duty of subjects to resist and depose unjust rulers. Political theorists, theologians and philosophers in England, Scotland, France, Geneva and Switzerland considered that governments had been established for the benefit of their peoples, not the rulers’, that societies and governments were based on contracts and covenants between their members, rulers and the Almighty, and that monarchs owed their power not to any personal virtue, but because the community delegated it to them. The power of the monarch was limited by the law of God and natural law. Princes and parliaments acted as constitutional checks to monarchs to prevent oppression, and who were also representatives of the community and so had a duty to protect their ancient rights. If kings exceeded the bounds of their authority or failed to establish true religion, they could be overthrown by the aristocracy and other leading governmental officials and institutions, or even by private citizens. These views were based on medieval political theory, contemporary interpretation of Scripture and the necessity amongst Roman Catholics and Protestants wishing to defend their religion and defeat and destroy their opponents of finding theoretical support for their resistance to persecution, oppression or the authorities’ failure to maintain the true faith.

Sixteenth Century also Period of Demonds for Religious Toleration, and Improvements in Education

Alongside these demands for political freedom were criticisms of both Roman Catholics and Protestants for their intolerance, and demands for an end to religious persecution and freedom of conscience amongst a very few individual political theorists. Furthermore, the Christian humanist belief that the human will could be formed and directed towards goodness through education led to the foundation of schools and libraries, and an attitude of tolerance and dialogue rather than violent coercion.

Influence of Demands for Constitutional Limits to Monarchy and Participation in Government of People and Representative Assemblies and Religious Toleration Limited in 16th Century, but had strong Influence in 17th Century England

The impact of these ideas was limited, however. Although princes in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere granted toleration to various Christian denominations and sects, this did not necessarily prevent them from acquiring increasing power over their tenants’ lives and properties, so that during the 16th century serfdom increased. In western Europe, in France, Germany and Spain political power became increasingly centralised in the monarch and representative institutions, such as the estates, declined in importance, eventually to produce the absolutist monarchies of the 18th century. Nevertheless, these doctrines continued to have an effect. The Vindiciae, although largely abandoned by the Huguenots shortly after its publication, influenced contemporary Dutch political ideas and considerably influenced English political theories in the 17th century. 28 Castellion’s demands for religious toleration influenced the radical theologian, Dirck Volckentzoon Coornhert. In turn, he influenced Arminius, who otherwise strongly opposed and argued against his theology. Arminius’ religious views strongly influenced British theology and political theories in the 17th century, during the British Civil War/ War of the Three Kingdoms. In England although it was not noticed at the time, claims such as Thomas Smith’s that it was parliament that really represented every individual in the country pointed towards the Civil War in the next century. 29 Thus, while Europe generally became more authoritarian following the sixteenth century, nevertheless the political theories stressing the constitutional limits on monarchical governments and the role of representative assemblies influenced the Netherlands and Britain, creating the ideas for greater religious and political freedom that were to appear in the 17th century and which found practical expression in the British Civil War/ War of the Three Kingdoms and the development of modern, political theories like John Locke’s.


  1. Koenigsberger and Mosse, Sixteenth Century, pp. 104-5.
  2. Koenigsberger and Mosse, Sixteenth Century, pp. 105-6.
  3. Allen, History of Political Thought, p. 331.
  4. Allen, History of Political Thought, p. 268.