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The relationships between central government and local community have attracted much attention among historians of early Tudor England. Administrative studies have long since described the network of offices and institutions which theoretically implemented executive action; more recent work has analysed the social and political structure of individual counties. But the actual mechanics of interaction between centre and locality have received less attention. How, in practice, did an active and capable minister translate programmes and policies into action and good order at the local or regional level? What limitations, and what opportunities, did entrenched networks of local interest present to the central administration ? And what tools were available in turn at the centre to co-opt or overturn those networks as necessary in the service of the state?
It has been suggested that the political and economic power of Renaissance noblewomen declined significantlyfrom what it had been during the heyday of feudalism, and that this decline was caused by the expansion of royalpower and the growth of national monarchies, the development of centralization and the bureaucratization of government – in other words the creation of formal, male-dominated institutions to which women could not belong. Joann McNamara and Suzanne Wemple have written, ‘However, with the growth of a more structured society, where church and state aimed at centralized control, women of the high and late middle ages (1100–1500) found their rights and role increasingly curtailed and their ambitions frustrated. Women who held the most influential positions were the first to suffer from these restrictions.’
It was not an easy task in the early eighteenth century to write a complete history of England, and Laurence Echard courageously attempted to be the first to do so. For even if one could pick a way carefully through the Saxon/Norman period (on which most attention had centred up till this time), there still remained immense problems in the interpretation of the seventeenth century and its relationship back to the chosen version of this earlier time. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century Echard wrote or contributed to six volumes on the subject of English history, all of which contained at least some discussion of the English seventeenth century, but the results were confusing. In the very small amount of modern discussion on Echard's politics and historical works, this confusion is evident in a revealing contradiction.
Probably the greatest popular movement in Georgian Britain was that formed around military volunteering during the wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. Often cited is the number of volunteers enrolled in 1803–4, nearly 400,000. These were the most active participants. Outside the ranks there existed an even larger mass of organizers, subscribers and supporters, including sometimes female committees; at this time volunteering was one of several developments which brought Britain recognizably close to ‘total’ war in terms of its population's war-involvement. Yet historians have said little about the movement. We have not progressed very far beyond the gospel according to Victorian and Edwardian nationalism in which Napoleonic volunteering was depicted as the British people's inevitable response to the threat of foreign invasion, proud testimony of their ‘warlike spirit’, ‘love of freedom’ and ‘patriotic unanimity’. The only critical evaluation there has been remains based on an article by J. R. Western, published as long ago as 1956. This refined the established ‘wave of patriotism’ version by linking volunteering with the counter-revolution of the 1790s directed against popular radicals. Volunteers were depicted as armed loyalists, their corps as the successors of the loyalist associations and the movement as a whole as a key component of an extensive and dominant ‘party of order’. The most recent work on the anti-radical reaction barely disturbs this interpretation. While it is not denied that the threat of foreign attack was also instrumental in producing volunteers, the emphasis continues to be on volunteering, at least in its early phase, as an outgrowth of counter-revolutionary loyalism.
On 21 December 1909 the house of lords rendered judgement in the Osborne case. The lords' decision, at a minimum, prohibited trade union contributions to the Labour Party, and therefore threatened with destruction the newly-formed party whose income depended almost entirely upon trade union support. The legal basis upon which a majority of the law lords rested their ruling was that trade union political activity was ultra vires – that is, beyond the unions' lawful authority – because not expressly sanctioned by the 1871–6 Trade Union Acts, which the law lords treated as the functional equivalent of a charter for trade unions. An alternative, possibly more convincing, rationale for the judgement, not mentioned by the law lords but relied upon by two of the lord justices in the court of appeal decision in Osborne and paramount in the public debate surrounding the judgement, was that trade union political fund-raising involved compelling individual trade unionists to support financially their political opponents. The Labour Party, quickly recognizing that the Osborne judgement threatened its very existence, launched an intensive lobbying campaign – both in parliament and in the country – to secure a complete legislative reversal of the lords' decision. Yet the Liberal government's posture towards a legal decision from which it stood to derive immediate political gain was unpredictable; by no means was it clear from the outset that the Liberal Party would acquiesce in any measure curtailing the effect of Osborne, much less indulge Labour's demand for complete rescission of the judgement.
In a major new history of British industrial relations, Alan Fox noted in 1985 that, ‘The Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act 1919 has so far received only the briefest of passing references in the texts, apparently on the supposition that its passage can be taken for granted. This understates its significance’. The Act, to which Fox himself devoted only two pages of his lengthy book, was passed after the cessation of the First World War. It declared as its aim the fulfilment of a wartime pledge made by the government to trade unions to reinstate in British factories those pre-war working practices which had been abandoned by Labour for the duration of the war, in order to expedite the output of munitions. These practices covered such matters as manning arrangements, closed shop agreements, restriction of overtime and apprenticeship rules.