The Nation-State, Social Scientization, and Education Legislation in the United Kingdom, 1800–1914

Daniel Scott Smith, Stanford University

In 1833, for the first time in its history, the UK parliament passed an education act that subsidized education for the poor. By 1914, parliament had passed 160 such acts regulating schooling and education throughout the country, which had by then consolidated in a thoroughgoing national education system we contemporaries still recognize today. This paper seeks to explain this remarkable progression. Drawing on the literatures from comparative historical sociology and global/transnational sociology, I build on institutional explanations of educational expansion and the diffusion of the nation-state model. I lay heavy theoretical and empirical emphasis on its fundamentally epistemic character. Specifically, I argue that the emergence and development of the social sciences was a core engine driving the construction, elaboration, reification, and diffusion of theories of the nation-state, particularly the central role of state systems of national education as rationalized means to greater development. A series of primary and auxiliary longitudinal analyses on a uniquely comprehensive dataset comprising over 10,000 parliamentary acts show a consistently large, positive, direct, and independent relationship between the ongoing development of the social sciences across the Western system and the UK state’s heightened intervention in education. These results support the core historical insight of this piece; increasingly routine and aggressive forms of state intervention in education was an exemplarily defining and progressive instantiation of the nineteenth-century nation-state model, inextricably linked to the expansive cultural content of the ascendant social sciences.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 42. Education and the International