Edited collection on the culture of integrity
We are seeking submissions for a proposed edited collection of essays that examines the meaning and uses of ‘integrity’ in British, American, and transatlantic societies in the period from the American Revolution to the mid-nineteenth century. Inspired by papers in the strand ‘Integrity and the Reform of Public Life in the Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic World’ at the international and interdisciplinary conference ‘Integrity Lost, Integrity Gained: social conditions and institutional pressures’ (April 2014), Cultures of Integrity: c.1775 – c.1851 is proposed as a contribution to our understanding of a topic with enduring public significance, but one which has lacked a historical perspective.
‘Integrity’ was a keyword of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century public, and to a lesser extent, private discourse. It was a frequently-invoked value and character attribute within wider transatlantic culture and it reoccurred throughout popular debates regarding public life, political economy, business and masculinity. In Britain, politicians wanted to define the voter of integrity before they extended the right to vote, and churchmen looked to preserve the integrity of the Church from a secularised state. In the United States integrity was viewed as an important component of republican virtue and political manhood, and many believed the dangers of excess democracy could be avoided if citizens adopted lives of integrity. Yet, by mid-nineteenth century, concerned citizens felt the lack of integrity among politicians and businessmen was one of the great evils of the times.
Integrity may be understood in institutional contexts, interpersonal relationships, and reform movements. We might also consider integrity through lives of integrity and biographical (and fictional) exemplars (whether these are religious figures or individuals who were seen as models of integrity in more secular concerns). Also relevant are the discourses of integrity that were articulated through novels, political debates, essays and editorials. We are particularly keen to consider the gendered, classed, and representational (e.g., via sculpture, cartoons and caricatures) dimensions to integrity. We might also explore the links between integrity and the other categories that historians have used to explore this period – categories such as ‘respectability’, ‘character’, ‘sensibility’ and ‘honour’. Other considerations include:
- What did it mean to be a person of integrity? How was integrity constructed in nineteenth-century texts, images and material culture? Was integrity strictly preoccupied with public behaviour? Was it tied to a specific ethos – perhaps a blending of anti-aristocratic or anti-bureaucratic themes?
- Was integrity the preserve of nineteenth-century males and elites? To what degree was integrity – rather than wealth and distinction – a measure of manhood? Did working class radicals, women and subaltern groups make appeals to integrity?
- How were understandings of integrity influenced by a growing personal and financial culture of credit and debt-credit relationships? Could the failed entrepreneur claim to be a person of integrity?
- We might also ask whether this period was unique: did, for example, the dramatic political, reform, and market changes of this period focus attention on the integrity of individuals and institutions in ways that were new? Did America’s ‘market revolution’ call attention to a perceived crisis in integrity in the United States? Did changes in communication across the Atlantic world bring with them an emphasis on the integrity of interpersonal relationships?
- If we see integrity as a moral obligation, to what extent was it appealed to within nineteenth-century reform movements? We might also consider the ways in which integrity was co-opted by the scientific and business communities and used to rationalize bureaucratic and reform measures.
In addition to charting transatlantic usages, we will also consider whether the discourse of integrity was taken up in cultures and societies beyond the English-speaking world.
If you are interested in contributing a chapter to the collection, then please send an abstract and a brief curriculum vitae as email attachments to either Dr Joe Hardwick (firstname.lastname@example.org), Dr James Gregory (email@example.com) or Dr Heath Bowen (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would appreciate abstracts no later than December 15, 2014.
Publishers will be approached once we have finalised the initial set of chapters. In early 2015 we will organise a workshop where the contributors will be invited to deliver presentations and circulate papers based on their submissions. This workshop – we envisage that it will be held in the United Kingdom in April 2015 – will give the project form and enable the contributors to develop their work in collaboration with others.
Current chapter contributors and provisional titles
Aashish Velkar (University of Manchester, England): ‘Integrity or caveat emptor? Reforming public measurements in the London Coal Trade’
James Gregory (Plymouth University, England): ‘Statesmanship and integrity in Britain in the Age of Reform, c. 1829 – c.1850’
Heath Bowen (St Thomas Aquinas College, New York): ‘Government Labor, Political Reform, and the Limits of Integrity in the United States, c. 1828 – c.1860’