Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

From “Old Corruption” to the New Corruption? Public Life and Public Service in Britain, c. 1780–1940

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.


Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Day 1: Headington Hill Hall, Day 2: John Henry Brookes Building, JHB207 and JHB208, Headington Campus, Headington Hill site


This is a two day conference: 24–25 January 2019, held at Oxford Brookes University and is supported by Newman University, Birmingham, the History and Policy Unit, King’s College, London and the British Academy.

Keynote speakers: Professor Graham Brooks (University of West London); Professor Angus Hawkins (University of Oxford); Dr Kathryn Rix (History of Parliament).

The aim of the conference is to encourage a more integrated approach to the study and conceptualisation of political and administrative corruption during the period when Britain became a mass democracy and open up new historical perspectives through which we might better grasp the present. 

The two-day programme ranges across the period, c. 1780 to 1940, from the demise of  "Old Corruption" at the turn of the nineteenth century through to debates about capitalism, democracy and internationalism in inter-war Britain.


Table caption
Thursday 24 January 2019 
09:30–10:15Delegates arrival; registration; refreshments 
10:15–11:00Introduction: Angus Hawkins (University of Oxford)  
11:00–12:30Parallel sessions 1 and 2 
1. The ends of “Old Corruption” 
Craig Smith (University of Glasgow): “Public Spirit and Corruption in the Scottish Enlightenment: a reconsideration” 
Mark Knights (University of Warwick) “What is the significance of 1780 for anti-corruption?” 
Jennifer Davey (University of East Anglia): “Female despots”: Aristocratic women and “old corruption” in Victorian Britain. 
2. Public virtues, institutional vices: official corruption 
Francis Dodsworth (Kingston University, London): “From solution to problem: corruption and the police since the eighteenth century” 
Ian Cawood (Newman University, Birmingham):”Was the pre-Victorian Church of England corrupt or merely poorly led?” 
Kim Price (University of Liverpool) “No law so often infamously administered, no law so openly violated, no law habitually so ill supervised’: corrupting health in the English workhouse” 
12.30–13:30 Lunch  
13.30–15.00 Parallel sessions 3 and 4  
3. Empires of corruption  

Ben Gilding (University of Cambridge): “Corruption, ‘Public Service’, and the Regulation of the East India Company, 1765-1784”

Aaron Graham (University College, London): “Public service, corruption and ‘Oeconomical Reform’ in the Jamaica, 1774-91” 
Alex Middleton (University of Oxford), “Corruption, tyranny, and the Colonial Office, 1828–1853” 
4. Finance, democracy and the public good 
Dilwyn Porter (De Montfort University): “Degrees of depravity’: Financial Journalism from the City Office to the Bucket Shop, c. 1880-1914” 
James Parker (University of Exeter): “Democratic finance? Trade unions, candidate sponsorship, and the business of Labour politics, 1918-1940” 
Liam Stowell (University of Manchester): “Republicanism, corruption and public service in British international thought, 1919-39” 
15.00–15.30 Refreshments  
15.30–17.00 Parallel sessions 5 and 6  
5. The disinterested state and the problem of corruption 
Martin Spychal (History of Parliament): “Resisting corruption through science: the ‘spirit of inquiry’ and the establishment of the 1831-2 boundary commission” 
Stuart Jones (University of Manchester): “Gladstonian Liberalism, Public Service and Private Interests: Reforming Endowments” 
Liam Ryan (University of Bristol): “The Perils of Officialism’: Socialism and State Corruption, 1900-1940” 
6. British anti-corruption in comparative perspective 
Bo Rothstein (University of Gothenburg): “The Swedish Way Out of Systemic Corruption: The Indirect “Big Bang” Approach” 
Malcolm Crook (Keele University): “Corrupt practices’? Electoral morality and the reform of voting behaviour in France, Britain and the United States in the long nineteenth century” 
Eckhart Hellmuth (University of Munich) “Morals and Manners - The Prussian Leviathan and its Servants around 1800.” 
Friday 25 January 2019 
9.00–9.30 Refreshments  
9.30–11.00Conference keynote: Kathryn Rix (History of Parliament): “The system that works so well? Corruption at elections in Britain in the 19th century” 
11.00–11.30 Refreshments  
11.30–13.00 Parallel sessions 7 and 8  
7. Political culture and corruption 
Roland Quinault (Institute of Historical Research): “Electoral bribery in Hull in the early Victorian period” 
Gary D. Hutchison (Durham University): “Corruption, Culture, and Custom: Electoral Violence in NineteenthCentury England and Wales” 
Geoffrey Hicks (University of East Anglia): “Politics, Patronage or Public Service? Conservatives at the Foreign Office, 1858-59” 
8. Rotten boroughs: corruption in the provinces 
James Moore (University of Leicester), “Managing the Political Impact of Corruption Scandals in British Local Authorities, c. 1880-1914” 
Peter Jones (University of Leicester): “Corrupt Triangle: Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool c. 1890–1940” 
Helen Rutherford (Northumbria University) and Clare Sandford-Couch (Newcastle University and Northumbria University): “An abuse which demands notice’: politics, power and corruption in Newcastle upon Tyne” 
13.00–14.00 Lunch  
14.00–15.00 Plenary Discussion  
15.00–16.00Concluding Address: Graham Brooks (University of West London): “Looking Back - Going Forward” 
Conference ends 

Queries about the conference organisation can be directed to Dr Tom Crook (tcrook@brookes.ac.uk)

Newman British Academy history and policy