My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Generalists with Chips on their Shoulders

Historical academics often bemoan the fact their discipline has been fragmented into narrower and narrower specialisms. It was partly in reaction to the cult of the monograph that I wrote my Bourgeois Liberty ... book.

What I hadn't realised was that that the displacement of the generalist had in the nineteenth-century given rise to such potent ideologies of frustration. Here's Kevin Passmore in his excellent Fascism: A Very Short Introduction:

[The late nineteenth-century] saw the emergence of modern disciplines in the universities: history, sociology, political science, physics, biology, literary criticism, and so on. The rise of professional, specialized research led to displacement of old-style scholars, sometimes amateurs, who claimed expertise in several fields. Lawyers and doctors, who had previously dominated university faculties, were especially likely to pretend to wide competence, and were attracted to ... racist, eugenicist, psychological, and historical ideas ...
These polymaths often resented their lack of recognition from specialist professional academics, and compensated by seeking political success. Some favoured the extreme left (the legally trained Lenin was a quintessential generalist); others the new right. [Maurice] Barrès gave the [French] republican establishment's refusal to honour a now forgotten race theorist as a reason for entering politics. It is no accident that doctors and lawyers were prominent in the far right. Their resentment of specialists was coupled with fear that professions were overcrowded with Jews and women, and with dislike of government plans to introduce ‘socialist’ health-care programmes. Doctors and lawyers espoused eugenicist theories, which they thought gave them the right to play god. Specialist academics were often just as influenced by pseudo-scientific knowledge and nationalism. In pre-war ultranationalist movements specialists sometimes held sway, but generalists with chips on their shoulders increasingly set the agenda. [p. 38].
If any reviews of my book complain that it attempts to be too far-ranging, I'll be careful not to take the criticism to heart!


  1. I've always suspected there's no fury like a generalist housewife. My extra wide competence includes mastery of the washing machine and sweeping as well as of all the other stuff, so I obviously have all the answers. Mind my pot shots.

  2. *cough* *cough* *NiallFerguson* *cough*