Victorian Social Science: From Singular to Plural*

Lawrence Goldman

in The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263266
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734854 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

Victorian Social Science: From Singular to Plural*

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter provides an overview of the history of social science in Britain and the ways in which it was institutionalised in the nineteenth century. Nineteenth-century social science was the product of three great changes, intellectual, material and spiritual. The European Enlightenment stimulated the development of and institutionalisation of the natural sciences, creating a new model for the study of human societies. The material changes include the expansion of population, growth of industries and manufacturing and development of mass culture and democracy. Rationalism and industrialisation caused the third change, the decline of conventional Christian belief and worship. The chapter also analyses the ‘statistical movement’, a dominant genre of social science up to 1860, and social evolution, which provided the leading paradigm for sociological thinking from the mid-century onwards.

Keywords: social science; European Enlightenment; rationalism; industrialisation; statistical movement; social evolution

Chapter.  12310 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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