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Response to Review no. 1065

I thank Antony Taylor for his generous and knowledgeable review. I agree with almost all that he says about my book, but I would like to comment on a couple of points.

While Dr. Taylor rightly points out that Wedgwood was at times an almost obsessional advocate of Henry George, I have argued that Georgeism was not the only ‘ism’ that drove Wedgwood’s political life. He was also a long-term advocate of libertarian individualism and of a (generally) enlightened form of imperialism. Certainly, these latter two interests were interlinked with Wedgwood’s view of the land, but they also stood alone. Indeed, they outlived his active Georgeite campaigning as he realised from the early 1930s that land values taxation was a non-starter as a matter of practical politics, at least for the foreseeable future.

Wedgwood’s imperial interests were in fact mostly driven by a Seely-esque belief that a ‘Greater Britain’ would provide national security in a world of increasingly threatening rival powers. At various times, this hope took various forms – for a conciliated Boer and English dominion in South Africa; for an Anglo-American alliance in the First World War; for a British-Zionist dominion in the Middle East; and for India to become the greatest British dominion of them all.

As the international situation darkened in the 1930s, it was in fact imperialism combined with libertarianism, rather than Georgeism, that became Wedgwood’s lodestar, as he realised that Hitler and the other dictators threatened not only British national security, but the very liberal and individualist ethos that he saw, in the ‘Whiggish’ fashion only then beginning to be questioned by historians, as Britain’s great contribution to civilisation. Hence the great fight of the last dozen or so years of his life was against the enemies of democracy without and the underminers of it within, as he put his faith in hopes of a more democratic British Empire, of an alliance of liberal democracies against dictatorship and of a History of Parliament project that he somewhat optimistically hoped would educate the British people as to the true value of their own liberal democracy and so motivate them to properly defend it.

Finally, I agree with Dr. Taylor’s point about the fascinating nature of North Staffordshire politics 100 or so years ago, and would love to have had the time (and more importantly, the space) to have explored Wedgwood’s part in it in more depth. I have been tempted to do so separately via an article on the Hanley by-election of 1912. In this work, however, I was attempting to use Wedgwood’s career and political ideas as a way of exploring some of the larger themes of national and international politics in the first 40 years of the 20th century, and so, albeit reluctantly, local politics took second place.