Abstract: Knowledge Is Power? Victorian and Edwardian Employers and the Rhetoric of Expertise

Lydia Redman


This essay explores the place of knowledge in the relationship between British employers and the government, analyzing employers' role in the policymaking process and their decline in influence alongside the rise of the Civil Service. I argue that the government accepted the need for industrial and trade-related expertise during the empire building of the Victorian era when the Civil Service was still relatively weak, but contend that during the Edwardian period, the ownership of industrial knowledge was disputed between employers and civil servants who sought to use it to influence the government's policymaking. I examine the importance attached to the idea of "expertise" by employers, at a time when intellectual ability (represented by the university-educated Civil Service) came to be valued more highly than practical experience. I set this conflict in the context of the decline of the "neutral state" and the increase in intervention in industry by the Liberal party, which alienated the entrepreneurial community and contributed to hardened industrial conflict.

BEH On-Line Paper