Session 1: Civil Society and Liberalism in Victorian Britain
This session aims to explore the historical dynamism of ‘civil society’ in Victorian Britain. The following two things are to be considered: first, conflict and consensus about the relationship between free market economy, society and the state in the nineteenth century; and then, how those were related to the emergence and transformation of ‘civil society’ during the period.
The way of coordination between the roles of market, the state, and society is thought to be a key to inquiring into how Britain could manage its ‘civil society’ and ‘liberal economy’. Although the size of the state was relatively small, society was thought to play an important role in keeping sustainable social life of the people. It provided with moral frameworks and social infrastructure visible or invisible. But this did not mean an absence of state intervention. The state was interventionist in keeping the frameworks in which market and society functioned to the full. It provided with a proper legal framework for voluntary action or gave subsidies to various social agencies. Thus, market, the state, and society were interwoven in a more complicated way than has previously been thought. The session reconsiders Victorian visions behind such characteristic features of British government and society, by examining free trade campaigns, public health reforms, and friendly societies. It also tries to convey comparative perspective by referring to cases in Meiji Japan.
Session 2: Education and industry in Changing Networks and Power
This session aims to discuss mainly two subjects, politics and the civil society, in our major topics, Changing Networks and Power, focusing especially on education and industry. In economic history, the influence of human capital on the economic development has been vigorously researched recently. Human capital is formed through training and education, which are provided by the society with its historical background. The formation of human capital, such as literacy and numeracy as its most fundamental form, always plays a leading role over the social change. On one hand, it has been widely accepted that the level of human capital plays a pivotal role in the growth of the economy. Especially the level of training and education to ordinary workers is thought to have had a significant impact on the labour market and then on the society. On the other hand, researches have shown that the formation of human capital depends on the characteristics of the society it belongs to. Organizations and institutions in the society, such as the state, schools and many types of voluntary associations, are involved in the process. Therefore, its development has shown various trajectories among industrialized countries.Against these backgrounds, Britain has a unique history of education and training with its civil society. While it enjoyed the world highest level of science and technology achieved through its industrialization, Britain has been suffering from achievement of the education system. From the age of Liberalism in the nineteenth century to the recent reforms of technical education, education in Britain has struggled with her complicated networks and power structure in its society. This session will try to put this onto wider platform to discuss fully as an important case-study for networks and power in transition. For comparative understandings, we will also discuss cases of other countries in many phases, including Japan and its industrialization.
Session 3: Asian trade and the Remaking of Commercial Networks & Consumer Culture in Modern Britain
This session addresses the way in which commercial networks and consumer culture were created and reorganised in Britain along with the development of overseas trade, especially with Asian trade, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in a global context.
Since the publication of The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of Modern World Economy, by Kenneth Pomeranz (Princeton University Press, 2000), many economic historians in the UK, USA as well as in Asian countries, like Japan, China and India, had discussed the validity of ‘Great Divergence’ thesis between Western Europe (England) and East Asia from the late eighteenth century, which lead to the most stimulating current debate in global economic history. Pomeranz simplified the causes of ‘Great Divergence’ as only two things: coal and new (American) continent. However, as Giorgio Riello revealed in his edited books, Asian trade through East Indian Companies (EIC and VOC) and country traders, played very crucial roles for the transformation of British economy, society and consumer culture at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries as well. The beginning of ‘the Industrial Revolution’ might be interpreted as the first ‘import-substitution industrialization’ of Indian cotton textiles, and the formation of ‘free trade nation’ itself received strong influences from the development of overseas trade with Asia (East Indies). We should reconsider a unique feature of British experience of ‘Great Divergence’ (the formation of industrial and commercial society) from the late eighteenth century, paying attention to the transformation of commercial networks, the growing demands for free trade with competition of Indian cotton goods, and the emergence of consumer culture in modern Britain in the context of British imperial and global history.
Changing Networks and Power
Networks and Power in the society are changing today. Worldwide social network ‘system’ covers over the globe, transforming the power structure of the society, on personal and organizational dimensions alike, through its mesh. On the other hands, in the area of market and economy, the newly-created ‘cash nexus’ is destructing existing social networks. The changing world is here the floating one also. While once built-up ‘the Big Society’, with ‘the Big Market’ and ‘the Big State’, in the 20th century, is being rejected, no alternatives are firmly suggested by the new waves. However, our society has witnessed drastic transition of the social structure in many times, and therefore we suggest re-examining it with wider historical and international perspectives in this conference.
Historical viewpoint seems to be significant in considering the solution. Britain struggled to modernise financial and commercial systems politically throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and transformed itself into a trading and industrial empire. Britain continued to commit to a liberal economy since the 1840s, and the British people has been called as a ‘free trade nation’. Since then it accumulated useful historic lessons for surviving free market economy, facing the experience partly similar with today. The Conference consists of three related sessions of political, economic and socio-cultural aspects, and final concluding session in two days.