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Gentrification and the Enterprise CultureBritain 1780-1980$
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F. M. L. Thompson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243303

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243303.001.0001

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Gentlemanly Values, Education, and the Industrial Spirit

Gentlemanly Values, Education, and the Industrial Spirit

(p.122) 6 Gentlemanly Values, Education, and the Industrial Spirit
Gentrification and the Enterprise Culture


Oxford University Press

It has been strongly maintained, most influentially by Corelli Barnett and Martin Wiener, that public schools and the older universities carry a heavy responsibility for the disappointing performance of the British economy since the 1850s. The argument is that the sons of businessmen were ‘emasculated into gentlemen’ at public schools, extinguishing their industrial spirit, a form of cultural gentrification confirmed at Oxford and Cambridge if they chanced to go there. This chapter tests this contention against the evidence of the occupations of the fathers of public school and Oxbridge entrants, the careers of their students, and the education of leading, entrepreneurial, businessmen. The conclusions are that before the 1880s only a very small minority of public school boys were the sons of businessmen, those being chiefly younger sons for whom there could be no future in the family business; that public school boys were mainly the sons of professional men and that the great majority followed careers in the law, army, church, medicine, civil service, Indian civil service, and the colonial service; and that businessmen formed an even smaller contingent of Oxbridge entrants or alumni, the majority having no secondary education of any kind. The business element increased somewhat before 1914, probably more as a consequence of the declining importance of family firms with the rise of large corporate companies than as a response to modernisation of public school and university courses. It was not until after 1945 that the majority of leading businessmen were public school and university educated. Hence only since 1945 have public school and university graduates been in a position to exercise decisive influence on the performance of the economy.

Keywords:   gentrification, public schools, Oxbridge, businessmen, professional men, Corelli Barnett, Martin Wiener, family firms

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