New book broadens thinking on liberalism

Associate Professor Jock Macleod's new book explores the rise and impact of liberalism in England at the turn of the 20th Century

A new book by the former Head of Griffith University’s School of Humanities, Associate Professor Jock Macleod, challenges long-held thinking on the influence of liberalism on English literary culture at the turn of the 20th Century.

While many political movements were established and spread during the Victorian Era, most notably socialism and liberalism, investigations of the latter’s place and impact have tended to be limited to classic mid-century liberalism.

However, in Literature, Journalism and the Vocabularies of Liberalism (Politics and Letters 1886-1916), Associate Professor Macleod finds a set of cultural vocabularies that, while clearly related to classic Victorian liberalism, are just as clearly distinct from it.

By exploring ways in which the vocabularies of advanced or ‘new’ liberalism permeated English literary cultural discourse from the late 1880s to World War One, Associate Professor Macleod reveals a closer and more complex relationship to the emerging modernist culture of the 20thCentury.

“Because literary critics and literary historians have tended not to be well-informed in the details of political history, this has affected their understanding of liberalism’s effect on literary culture at the time,” Associate Professor Macleod said.

Drawing on a range of Victorian autobiographical and biographical material, Associate Professor Macleod reconstructs an extensive network of advanced liberal journalists, men of letters and political theorists associated with key organs of the daily and weekly press.

Through careful analysis of essays and book reviews published primarily in the liberal press, Associate Professor Macleod demonstrates for the first time the network’s importance in the literary cultural world at the turn of the 20th Century.

jock cover“This network formed over a decade or so from the mid-1880s. It began through membership of progressive debating societies and radical associations, but ultimately became influential through newspapers, once members took on key editorial roles,” Associate Professor Macleod said.

“The development of a more progressive liberal press was the mechanism by which these advanced and progressive liberal figures conveyed their ideas and theories.”

Now the Dean Learning and Teaching (Arts Education Law) at Griffith, Associate Professor Macleod has written extensively on 19th and early 20th Century literature and cultural history.

Literature, Journalism and the Vocabularies of Liberalism (Politics and Letters 1886-1916), will be officially launched at the Griffith Centre for Cultural Research and School of Humanities Combined Research Day in Brisbane on Friday (October 25).

For more information or to order the book online, go to