Social Investigation and Rural England, 1870-1914

Social Investigation and Rural England, 1870-1914

Mark Freeman


Boydell Press



An exploration of the theory and practice of social investigation in rural England in the late 19-early 20C.
This book explores the theory and practice of social investigation in rural England in the period 1870-1914. It shows the extent to which a developing 'passion for inquiry' drew to the English countryside a wide range of social investigators concerned with such issues as agricultural trade unionism, rural depopulation, rural poverty, the condition of rural housing and the land question. Adopting a broad definition of social investigation, incorporating reports of royal commissions and special correspondent journalists as well as the popular literary accounts of Richard Jefferies and George Sturt, the study also enhances the literature of social inquiry by examining the rural investigations of men like Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree, best known for their urban social surveys. At the same time Social Investigation and Rural England makes a significant contribution to the rural history of the period, by illustrating how social and political conflicts in the English countryside influenced the processes of information-gathering by social investigators, and how the rural population responded to their activities.

MARK FREEMAN is lecturer in social history, University of Glasgow.


229 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
Paperback, 9781843836445, July 2011
Hardback, 9780861932573, February 2003
Boydell Press
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An accessible, intelligent and useful work.... A competent and comprehensive analysis. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW
Marvelous. [.] The origins of sociology and the social survey lie as much in the English countryside as in the English town. Freeman has written an important and fascinating book. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY (US)
[The book's] eclectic approach is a real delight and historians of late Victorian Britain, and all those interested in the methodology of social investigation will want to read it.... It treats the reader to a great deal of intelligent epistemological discussion. LOCAL POPULATION STUDIES
Successful in its aim to detail the methodological diversity of rural social investigation. It deserves a wide readership. AGRICULTURAL HISTORY REVIEW
This is a work of considerable achievement based on impressively thorough research. By drawing attention to this neglected wealth of material, Freeman has opened the door to fresh research into the social problems of the era. Social historians will surely find Freeman's book an invaluable reference tool. ALBION
[This book's] great contribution is to make us look again at the social investigators and their material. EHR

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