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Introduced by Geoffrey Catchpole on 18 November 1997
Bradley, Green and Bosanquet were sons of Evangelical clergymen who each brought their
interpretation of Hegelian philosophy into mid-Victorian intellectual life, as the core of the English Idealists'.
Their paths diverged, however. Although they studied together in Oxford and wrote books covering
metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy, Bradley turned from the church and did not become a don,
unlike his colleagues.
The Established Church then faced both Nonconformity and the internal schism posed by
Evangelical liberals, but also problems stemming from the developing sciences, particularly what were taken
to be the implications of Darwinism, and what were considered threats of hedonism and materialism arising
The Victorian political scene was radically affected by the Industrial Revolution, which allowed a
rising industry-based middle class enjoying laissez faire policies to challenge the entrenched power of the
landed aristocracy, through an extending suffrage.
These factors conditioned Green's views. His great influence on legislators and civil servants was
in the period 1890 to 1914, well after his death. It arose mainly because many had been students or
colleagues, because he was active in town as well as gown and because he campaigned on both local and
national issues. He sympathised with an impoverished proletariat and sought some direct state
interventions - on education and public health in particular - but mainly he wanted voluntary bodies,
including unions, co-operatives, friendly societies and charitable bodies to be state-aided. Thus although
he was not directly responsible for an eventual welfare state', his influence was arguably fundamental to its
development. One recent writer has commented that he gave a vision of a just and free society".