Education, opinion and the 1870s
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Education, opinion and the 1870s book
W.E. Forster, and after numerous modifications was passed by both Houses of Parliament.3
In what sense 'the times were ripening fast' is clearly a question of the state of'opinion', of channels of influence and controversy, of social and political pressure points. What was 'ripening', what was 'evident', what could 'never be', what 'were needed', are all clearly matters of the balance of calculations, of rival interpretations, and the question for the historian is how far to look for explanations. It is even possible to challenge the whole process by which the state became involved in educational legislation, and that challenge has been made by E.G. West, arguing that the state need not have been involved at all, and that voluntary effort was adequate and misrepresented by statisticians and analysts prior to the 1870 Act. West's 'refutation' (his word) of 'the hypothesis that the industrial revolution brought educational stagnation'4 is, however, swept along on tides of ideological argument against the state, not on any serious historical analysis, and such an analysis has not been attempted by other historians. We shall see in later chapters how dangerous theory disguised as history can become, whether in this case from the ideological right, or as in later cases, from the ideological left.