Sydney Checkland

Sydney Checkland is a former President of the Economic History Society, and author of British Public Policy 1776-1939, which will be reviewed here shortly.

Economic Performance

Sydney Checkland, 19 April 1984

Thirty years ago or less, students of Britain’s economic performance were offered as their centrepiece question one that was highly flattering to their own country: how did Britain achieve the miracle of the Industrial Revolution and provide the world with leadership and a deeply-envied model. Even in the Fifties and Sixties there continued to be a veiled self-satisfaction in economic history courses. Today the self-congratulation has gone. The question that has dramatised and well-nigh traumatised our approach over the past decade is the negative one: how have we come undone?

Urban Humanist

Sydney Checkland, 15 September 1983

The young Wordsworth, standing on Westminster Bridge, felt the wonder of the city. He did not try to comprehend it as a scientific phenomenon, for it was not his job to provide a systematic explanation of the integrated operation of its ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples. And yet there is a sense of marvel that such an organism, with its mighty heart, could come into being and function in its baffling complexity, heaving with activity as so many people went about their separate occasions by day, and lying in a deep calm by night.


Sydney Checkland, 16 September 1982

The novelist, the dramatist and the poet have largely passed the accountant by. How could his dry bones be made to live? Perhaps authors have been right in the past, leaving the service professions, as we now call them, to minor figures like Bob Cratchit and Mr Wemmick, in whom the dullness and servility of their daily works is redeemed by warmth and eccentricity at home. The senior lawyers, in the manner of Bottom the weaver, have taken the best parts, reading the dramatically perverse will, appearing as guileful advocates in the courts, laying down the principles of business in cases with mysterious names such as the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company, handing down judgments that unconsciously reflect their social ethos. The accountants, by contrast, have provided no drama. In Dickens’s time they had hardly asserted themselves as a profession, being subsumed, as far as they were noticed at all, among the clerks and bookkeepers.

Stewarts on the dole

Rosalind Mitchison, 10 November 1988

Recent anniversaries for Scotland have been encouraging the simplified version of its history that obtains in most English minds. Two topics are sufficiently dramatic to break through cultural...

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Fire and Water

Rosalind Mitchison, 17 October 1985

The first three of these books combine to remind us of the role of economic development in our history, and force home the fact that there can be no true separation of economic history from other...

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