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Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse

(1864—1929) social philosopher and journalist


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(b. 8 Sept. 1864, d. 21 June 1929).

British Liberal theorist Born at St Ive, near Liskeard, Cornwall, he was educated at Marlborough and Oxford. He taught philosophy at Oxford (1890–7), publishing his first book, The Labour Movement, in 1893. This contained the first statement of his views on collectivism, which made an impact on the Liberal Party in the 1890s through ‘New Liberalism’. Its proponents argued that the state should take a more active role in combating poverty through the collective provision of welfare schemes, in order to enable each individual to reach her/his highest potential. These ideas were best developed in his Liberalism (1911). In 1897–1902, Hobhouse worked on the Manchester Guardian as a leader‐writer, promoting closer links between the Liberal Party and the Labour movement. Apart from his immensely important contribution to British Liberal thought, his other major contribution to British intellectual life concerned his work in the development of sociology as a separate intellectual discipline in Britain. In 1903, he co‐founded the Sociological Society, and in 1907, he became the first professor of sociology at London University. Hobhouse was a consistent advocate of the enfranchisement of women. He campaigned for better relations with Germany, but supported the British war effort once World War I had commenced. As the war went on, he drifted leftwards, urging Britain to modify its war aims, and looking forward to the establishment of a League of Nations. He continued to criticize the class antagonisms of the Labour Party, and the postwar divisions of the Liberals, although throughout the 1920s he advised and consulted with members of both parties.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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