Timeline of the Philosophical Radicals
This is a timeline of the Philosophical Radicals, a nineteenth century British reform movement inspired by the utilitarian ideas of Jeremy Bentham, also advocating legal, economic, and social reforms including free trade and reform of Parliament and the judiciary. The goal of this movement was to build a society based on rationalistic principles.
- 1 Sample questions
- 2 Big picture
- 3 Numerical and visual data
- 4 Full timeline
- 5 Meta information on the timeline
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:
- What enduring contributions did the Philosophical Radicals made?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Notable death".
|Time period||Development summary||More details|
|Late 18th to Early 19th Century||Early Formation and Influence||The core ideas and influences of the Philosophical Radicals begin to take shape. Figures like Jeremy Bentham and James Mill emerge as key thinkers during this period. They advocate for utilitarianism, individual liberty, and political reform based on rational principles. Their ideas emphasize the importance of reason, evidence, and the pursuit of happiness as the foundation for social and political progress. Bentham's works, such as An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation and The Principles of Political Economy, lay the groundwork for the movement. In the 1820, the philosophical radicals, as a group, come to prominence.|
|Mid-19th Century||Political Activism and Reform||This period witnesses the rise of the Philosophical Radicals as a political force. Led by figures like John Stuart Mill and his associates, they actively engage in political activism and push for various reforms. This includes campaigns for universal suffrage, women's rights, free trade, workers' rights, and the separation of church and state. John Stuart Mill's influential works, such as On Liberty and Utilitarianism, further popularize the ideas of the Philosophical Radicals and advocate for individual freedom, toleration, and the maximization of happiness for the greatest number of people. By the second half of the 19thC, much of the philosophical radicals’ program has been realised.|
|Late 19th to Early 20th Century||Evolution and Impact||The influence of the Philosophical Radicals continues to evolve and impact society. Their ideas find resonance in various social and political movements, including the labor movement, feminism, and the fight for social justice. The utilitarian principles and emphasis on evidence-based policymaking championed by the Philosophical Radicals also contributes to the development of modern welfare states and progressive reforms in areas such as education, healthcare, and social welfare.|
Numerical and visual data
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The chart shows Google Ngram Viewer data for "philosophical radical", from 1800 to 2019.
|1715||Claude Adrien Helvétius||Notable birth||Claude Adrien Helvétius is born.|
|1748||Jeremy Bentham||Notable birth||Jeremy Bentham is born. He would grow to be an early defender of economic liberalization, freedom of expression, the separation of church and state, women's rights, the right to divorce, the abolition of slavery, the abolition of capital punishment, the abolition of corporal punishment, prison reform, and decriminalization of homosexuality.|
|1755||Jeremy Bentham||Jeremy Bentham attends Westminster School.:18|
|1760||Jeremy Bentham||Twelve years old Jeremy Bentham attends Oxford University and is exempted from taking the oath on account of his youth.:18|
|1769||Newspaper||The Morning Chronicle is founded in London. It would become a supporter of the philosophical radicals.|
|1771 (November 3)||Francis Place||Notable birth||Francis Place is born in London. He would become a social reformer described as "a ubiquitous figure in the machinery of radical London." A tailor by profession and a self-taught individual, he would play a prominent role as a radical activist. He would strongly believe in the necessity of voting rights for working-class men and would serve as the Chairman of the London Corresponding Society, an organization advocating for parliamentary reform.|
|1772||David Ricardo||Notable birth||David Ricardo is born in London. As an economist, he would give systematized, classical form to the rising science of economics in the 19th century. He would apply the deductive logic of the philosopher James Mill to the analysis of monetary principles.|
|1773 (April 6)||James Mill||Notable birth||James Mill is born in Northwater Bridge, Angus, Scotland. A notable philosopher, historian, economist, and political theorist, and a close friend and collaborator of Jeremy Bentham, he would be considered a prominent figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.|
|1776||Background||The American Revolution begins, preparing the way for the European revolutions.:16|
|1776||Adam Smith||Literature||Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith publishes The Wealth of Nations, which tries to solve the economic problem by taking his stand on the principle of utility.:88 The future philosophical radicals would borrow from Smith certain of his claims. Jeremy Bentham would discover in Smith the principle of the natural identity of interests which would his proclivity for despotism and prepare his conversion (and that of his disciples) to representative democracy and universal suffrage.|
|1776||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes A fragment on government. In this text, which was inspired by David Hume, Bentham founds a criticism of current constitutional doctrines on the principle of utility. Some consider A Fragment on Government to be the starting point of philosophical radicalism.|
|1780||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, which attempts to assess the moral content of human action by focusing on its results or consequences. The book concludes with an analysis of punishment: its purpose and the proper role that law and jurisprudence should play in its determination and implementation.|
|1785||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Offences Against One's Self, in which he argues that sexual pleasure is inherently valid. Bentham challenges the notion that same-sex relations should be condemned because they do not lead to procreation, suggesting that if this were the case, celibate priests should also face punishment since they, too, abstain from procreation. Furthermore, Bentham questions the idea that sodomy is "unnatural," asserting that it is no more unnatural than having a preference for music, emphasizing that personal tastes and inclinations should not be grounds for condemnation.|
|1787||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Defence of Usury. This is his first attempt at political economy, in which Bentham adopts the fundamental ideas of Adam Smith. It contains Bentham’s most dramatic defense of laissez-faire capitalism. According to Bentham, whether we consider the plight of the poorest or the ambitions of the most creative, laissez-faire capitalism achieves the best possible outcome, without exception.|
|1790 (March 3)||John Austin||Notable birth||John Austin is born in Creeting Mill, Suffolk, England. A jurist and legal philosopher, he would be considered to be one of the founders of analytical jurisprudence, a school of thought that emphasizes the importance of clarity and precision in the study of law.|
|1791||Samuel Bailey||Notable birth||Samuel Bailey is born. He would be called the "Bentham of Hallamshire".|
|1791||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham writes Essay on Political Tactics. It would be published in 1843 by John Bowring, whose version combines two works: Bentham's 1791 essay, intended for a series on the same subject, and translations from Etienne Dumont's Tactique des assemblees politiques deliberantes from 1816. Political Tactics serves as a general guide to parliamentary procedure, addressing the need for rules of procedure in assemblies. It is inspired by the summoning of the French Estates-General in 1789, lacking established procedural rules.|
|1791||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Panopticon or the Inspection-House. The panopticon, derived from the Greek words meaning "all-seeing," is an architectural concept developed by Jeremy Bentham's brother, Samuel. It aims to facilitate the supervision and training of workers by incorporating a central inspection principle. Jeremy adapts this idea for his proposed prison, envisioning a circular building with prisoner cells along the outer wall and an inspection tower at the center. The inspector could observe the prisoners at all times, but the inmates couldn't see the inspector. Bentham believes that constant surveillance would modify prisoner behavior and encourage productivity. While no panopticon prisons would be precisely built according to Bentham's plans, some existing prisons reflect his principles to varying degrees. Today, the Tate Britain art gallery is situated on land originally acquired by Bentham for his panopticon project.|
|1792 (October 17)||John Bowring||Notable birth||John Bowring is born in Exeter, England. An author and diplomat, he would become prominent in many spheres of mid-Victorian public life, helping to found the Westminster Review in 1823 to spread the principles of philosophical radicalism.|
|1792 (November 13)||Edward John Trelawny||Notable birth||Edward John Trelawny is born. He would become a biographer, novelist and adventurer, politically active with the Philosophical Radicals.|
|1793||Albany Fonblanque||Notable birth||Albany Fonblanque is born.|
|1794||George Grote||Notable birth||English historian George Grote is born. He would become a political radical and classical historian, noted for his works on ancient Greece. He would also become a member of the Philosophical Radicals. In politics he would become an ultrademocrat, in religion, an unbeliever, and in philosophy, a utilitarian.|
|c.1795||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Anarchical Fallacies; Being an examination of the Declaration of Rights issued during the French Revolution.|
|1796||Joseph Parkes||Notable birth||Joseph Parkes is born. He would become a political reformer, developing an association with the Philosophical Radicals.|
|1802||John Arthur Roebuck||Notable birth||John Arthur Roebuck is born in Madras.|
|1802||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Traités de législation civile et pénale.|
|1804||James Mill||Literature||James Mill writes a pamphlet on the corn trade, arguing against a bounty on the exportation of grain. This is the first publication under his name.|
|1806 (August 6)||Charles Buller||Notable birth||Charles Buller is born in Calcutta, British India. He would become a barrister, politician and reformer.:p531|
|1806||John Stuart Mill||Notable birth||John Stuart Mill is born. He would be dubbed "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century" by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He would conceive of liberty as justifying the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control.|
|1808||James Mill, Jeremy Bentham||James Mill becomes acquainted with Jeremy Bentham. As Bentham’s chief companion and ally for many years, Mill would adopt Bentham’s principles in their entirety and do more to propagate them and to oppose the beginnings of Romanticism than anyone else.|
|1810||David Ricardo||Literature||David Ricardo publishes The High Price of Bullion, a Proof of the Depreciation of Bank Notes which originates from letters he previously published in the Morning Chronicle a year earlier. The book reignites the ongoing debate concerning the Bank of England and leads to it being no longer bound by the requirement of cash.|
|1810||William Molesworth||Notable birth||Sir William Molesworth, 8th Baronet is born.|
|1811||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Punishments and Rewards.|
|1812||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Panopticon versus New South Wales: or, the Panopticon Penitentiary System, Compared.|
|1815||David Ricardo||Literature||David Ricardo publishes Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock.|
|1817||David Ricardo||Literature||David Ricardo publishes On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, which would have a profound impact and remains one of the groundworks of modern economics.|
|1817||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes A Table of the Springs of Action.|
|1817||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Swear Not At All. It was written to expose the mischief arising from the laws relating to the administration of oaths.|
|1817||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes Plan of Parliamentary Reform, in the form of Catechism with Reasons for Each Article, with An Introduction shewing the Necessity and the Inadequacy of Moderate Reform.|
|1819||Sir Walter Scott||Literature||Sir Walter Scott writes that "Radical is a word in very bad odour...a set of blackguards", a quote reflecting the negative connotation that the word "radical" has at the time.|
|c.1819||George Grote||George Grote is introduced to James Mill by David Ricardo.:p1|
|1819||Jeremy Bentham publishes his Defense, which prefigures his argument that private property and the investment process inherent in the emerging capitalist system result in the most favorable outcomes for the working class. This viewpoint represents a straightforward liberal triumphalist perspective. According to this standpoint, even the most impoverished workers within a fully laissez-faire capitalist society are significantly better off than the wealthy individuals of earlier times.:p53|
|1821||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes The Elements of the Art of Packing, as applied to special juries particularly in cases of libel law.|
|1821||George Grote||Literature||George Grote publishes Statement of the Question of Parliamentary Reform.|
|1821||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham publishes On the Liberty of the Press, and Public Discussion, which attempts to influence the direction of political and constitutional change taking place in Spain and Portugal in the early 1820s.|
|1822||Jeremy Bentham||Literature||Jeremy Bentham and George Grote publish The Influence of Natural Religion upon the Temporal Happiness of Mankind.. Considered so controversial upon publication, Bentham uses the pseudonym of "Philip Beauchamp." This critical treatise focuses on "natural religion," a school of thought that maintains one could use human reason alone, unaided by faith, to deduce the will of God from the natural order.|
|1822||John Arthur Roebuck||Literature||John Arthur Roebuck publishes Remarks on the Proposed Union of the Canadas.|
|1822||Joseph Parkes||Joseph Parkes establishes a solicitor's practice in Birmingham that focuses on election law. A proponent of legal reform and actively participating in local initiatives for parliamentary reform, Parkes collaborates with the Birmingham Political Union (BPU) during the period of unrest leading up to the Reform Act. He would play a crucial role as a mediator between radical individuals and the Whig Party, effectively bridging the gap between the two factions.|
|1823||Newspaper||The Westminster Review is established in London. Grounded originally in Benthamite radicalism, it becomes the official organ of the Philosophical Radicals.|
|1824||John Arthur Roebuck||John Arthur Roebuck moves to England, and becomes intimate with the leading radical and utilitarian reformers.|
|1826||Organization||University College London is founded. In is set up by George Grote, John Stuart Mill and Henry Brougham, among others|
|1826||Albany Fonblanque||Albany Fonblanque becomes political commentator for The Examiner, a weekly newspaper founded by Leigh and John Hunt.|
|1827||James Mill, Henry Brougham||Organization||The Society for The Diffusion of Useful Knowledge is established, with Henry Brougham as president, and the committee including James Mill.|
|1828||Joseph Parkes||Literature||Joseph Parkes publishes History of the Court of Chancery, which explores the English courts of equity and their administration of justice. Parkes emphasizes the need for improvements in the system and provides practical insights on the recent commission, report, and evidence related to the court. He compares the study of municipal law to navigating a complex river system, highlighting the importance of understanding the origins and development of the law to comprehend its current state. The book aims to uncover the hidden sources of English law and sheds light on the history and jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery.|
|1831||George Grote||Literature||George Grote publishes Essentials of Parliamentary Reform. It is published on the eve of the passage of the Reform Act 1832 which would largely achieve the goals of the Philosophical Radicals around James Mill.|
|1832||John Austin||Literature||John Austin publishes The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, with the purpose to establish a clear distinction between law and morality. Austin believes that the concept of Natural Law was blurring this distinction. In the book, Austin defines law as a type of command, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of the nature of law.|
|1832||Policy||The Reform Act 1832 is introduced. After this, Philosophical Radicals' efforts to construct a radical party in Parliament would not succeed. John Stuart Mill would write ‘they did very little to promote any opinions,’ ‘they had little enterprise, little activity.’|
|1832 (June 6)||Jeremy Bentham||Notable death||Jeremy Bentham dies, leaving a major contribution to International Law as legacy, providing the legal foundation for the League of Nations, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, offering the framework by which nations today can go to court not to war.|
|1832||George Grote||George Grote is elected to the Reformed Parliament in the election.|
|1833||Joseph Parkes||Joseph Parkes is appointed by Henry Brougham as secretary to the Parliamentary Municipal Corporation Commission on municipal corporations. Parkes would combine this work with a successful Westminster practice as a parliamentary solicitor.|
|1834||John Bowring||Literature||John Bowring publishes Bentham's Deontology.|
|1835||Newspaper||The London Review is founded by John Stuart Mill and other philosophical radicals. It would merge into The Westminster Review the following year.|
|1836||Organization||The Reform Club is founded for promoting social intercourse between the whigs and the radicals.|
|1836||James Mill||James Mill dies.|
|1837||John Stuart Mill||John Stuart Mill writes an article explaining that Philosophic Radicals approach politics from a philosophical perspective, considering the end goal before discussing the means to achieve it. This mindset, which prioritizes cause and effect, would be not well-received by society, despite its potential alignment with a society focused on feasibility and utility. Instead of garnering approval, Mill's definition would face public ridicule and would fail to unite the existing radicals in Parliament under a common cause.|
|1843||John Arthur Roebuck||John Arthur Roebuck is appointed queen's counsel, and is elected a bencher of his inn.|
|1844||John Stuart Mill||Literature||John Stuart Mill releases the Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, a collection of essays that he composed several years prior. Within this collection, four out of five essays tackle complex technical dilemmas, including topics such as the allocation of benefits in international trade, the impact of consumption on production, the distinction between productive and unproductive labor, and the specific connections between profits and wages. Throughout these essays, Mill predominantly exhibits his adherence to the teachings of David Ricardo, aiming to provide more accurate explanations and extend the implications of Ricardo's theories.|
|1847||George Grote||Literature||George Grote publishes Seven Letters on the Recent Politics of Switzerland.|
|1848 (November 29)||Charles Buller||Notable death||Charles Buller dies, leaving a legacy of political activism and reform. As a barrister, politician, and friend of John Stuart Mill, Buller actively supported progressive measures and played a role in various committees and inquiries. He was an advocate for the Great Reform Bill and served as a Member of Parliament for West Looe and later Liskeard. Buller's involvement in Canadian affairs, particularly his role as Lord Durham's private secretary and his contributions to the report on British North America, demonstrated his commitment to colonial governance and reform. He also played a part in Edward Gibbon Wakefield's colonization schemes. Buller held positions such as Secretary to the Board of Control and Judge Advocate General, and he became the first President of the Poor Law Board.|
|1848||John Stuart Mill||Literature||John Stuart Mill publishes Principles of Political Economy, which theoretically discusses his deep commitment to egalitarianism and his observation of the material progress launched by the industrial revolution, he built up claims for the greatest happiness of the greatest number.:p21 At about the same time, Mill advocates the creation of peasant proprietorships as a remedy for the distresses and disorder in Ireland. In his central discussion of profit, he radically declares, “The cause of profit is, that labour produces more than is required for its support”.:p76|
|1849||John Arthur Roebuck||Literature||John Arthur Roebuck publishes The Colonies of England : A Plan for the Government of Portion of Our Colonial Possessions.|
|1855 (October 22)||William Molesworth||Notable death||Sir William Molesworth, 8th Baronet dies, leaving a significant legacy as a Radical British politician known for his progressive views. Molesworth championed self-governance for colonies and played a key role in constructing Westminster Bridge and opening Kew Gardens on Sundays.|
|1858 (January 1)||Francis Place||Francis Place dies, leaving a legacy of reform. Place's most significant accomplishment would occured in 1824 when he successfully campaigned for the repeal of the Combination Acts, which prohibits trade unions and strikes. This achievement marked a significant step forward in the advancement of workers' rights.|
|1863||John Austin||Literature||John Austin publishes Lectures on Jurisprudence. Now considered a landmark in the development of modern legal thought, its most important contributions are the strict delimitation of law and its distinction from morality, the elaboration of the idea of law as a kind of command and the close examination of such common legal terms as right, duty, liberty, injury and punishment.|
|1865 (August 11)||Joseph Parkes||Notable death||Joseph Parkes dies, leaving a legacy of reform. He was a leading figure in the Chartist movement, and he fought for universal suffrage and other reforms. His work helped to pave the way for the reforms that were eventually granted to the British people.|
|1865||John Stuart Mill||Literature||John Stuart Mill publishes Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy.|
|1865||John Stuart Mill||Literature||John Stuart Mill publishes Auguste Comte and Positivism.|
|1866||Literature||Mrs. Harriet (Lewin) Grote publishes Philosophical Radicals of 1832: Comprising the Life of Sir William Molesworth, and Some Incidents Connected with the Reform Movement from 1832 to 1842.|
|1867||John Stuart Mill||The Reform Act 1867 is passed, increasing the number of men who could vote in elections. John Stuart Mill, among others, took an active part in the debates preceding the passage of this legislation, and helped to extract from the government several useful modifications of the bill, for the prevention of corrupt practices.|
|1870||Élie Halévy||Notable birth||Élie Halévy is born. A French philosopher and historian, he would write studies of the British utilitarians.|
|1871 (June 18)||George Grote||Notable death||George Grote dies leaving a significant legacy in both political and historical spheres. As a political radical, he was deeply involved in advocating for electoral reform and democratic principles. His work played a crucial role in the development of liberal political thought in 19th-century Britain, promoting ideas of universal suffrage and individual freedoms.|
|1872 (November 23)||John Bowring||Notable death||John Bowring dies at the age of 80, leaving a legacy of liberal ideas. His impact would be spread over many fields.|
|1873||John Stuart Mill||Concept development||John Stuart Mill popularizes the term philosophical radicals in his Autobiography.|
|1873 (May 7)||John Stuart Mill||Notable death||John Stuart Mill dies leaving a legacy of profound influence on nineteenth-century British thought and political discourse. His extensive body of work encompassed various fields, including logic, economics, social and political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, religion, and current affairs.|
|1874||John Stuart Mill||Literature||John Stuart Mill Autobiography and Three Essays on Religion are published posthumously.|
|1879 (November 30)||John Arthur Roebuck||Notable death||John Arthur Roebuck dies. leaving a lasting legacy as an outspoken and combative parliamentarian. His radical and utilitarian beliefs fueled a lifelong hostility toward the government of the day, earning him the moniker "Tear 'em." He vigorously advocated for causes such as secular education, Irish independence, and a strong foreign policy. Despite evolving political views, his passionate advocacy and sharp criticisms marked his enduring impact on British politics until his death.|
|1901||Élie Halévy||Élie Halévy, after studying at the École Normale Supérieure, receives his doctorate in philosophy with the theses The Platonic Theory of Knowledge and The Origins of Philosophical Radicalism.|
|1904||Élie Halévy||Concept development||French historian Élie Halévy introduces the term philosophical radicals into history in his book The Growth of Philosophical Radicalism.|
|1965||Literature||Joseph Hamburger publishes Intellectuals in Politics: John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals.|
|1975||Literature||Harold Silver publishes English Education and the Radicals.|
|1979||Literature||William Thomas publishes The Philosophic Radicals: Nine Studies in Theory and Practice, 1817-1841. According to it, “the young utilitarians around John Mill did utter their opinions with a dogmatism which aroused a good deal of hostility” (Thomas 1f) did little to weaken that belief.|
|1993||Literature||Roger S. Gottlieb publishes Radical Philosophy: Tradition, Counter-Tradition, Politics, an anthology presenting new essays by prominent figures in contemporary philosophy, known not only in academic philosophy but also in related fields like sociology, women's studies, literary theory, and political science. The collection defines and explores a critical body of work that challenges both philosophical and social dimensions of domination, drawing from diverse traditions and social movements, such as feminism, critical theory, Marxism, and deep ecology, etc.|
|2013||John Stuart Mill||Literature||David Brink publishes his Mill’s Progressive Principles, which attempts to provide a cogent argument for the consistency of Mill’s liberalism.|
|2015||Literature||Chad Kautzer publishes Radical Philosophy: An Introduction, which explores the common emancipatory aims and approaches of various radical philosophies, including Marxism, feminism, critical race theory, and queer theory. The book delves into the connections between theory and practice, knowledge and power, and the role of law in establishing forms of domination outside legal frameworks. By engaging with the history of philosophy, Kautzer highlights counter-traditions of historical, dialectical, and reflexive critique that are applicable to present-day social movements.|
|2019||Literature||Seth Pringle-Pattison publishes The Philosophical Radicals and Other Essays, with Chapters Reprinted on the Philosophy.|
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