The mechanisms through which a cultural and institutional identity for English studies was established were forged within a wider social movement which developed between the 1 880s and the 1920S. This movement, for which the English Association provides our focal point, was in turn directly dependent upon wider contemporary cultural and institutional initiatives and experiments having as their target greater social efficiency. During this period of arrested imperial expansion and international competition many influential figures and associations took the view that the achievement of such social efficiency required a renewal of cultural leadership at a national level. 1 This new cultural leadership was articulated in terms of a spiritual character or aura which would elicit consent on the part ofthe governed, and was of immense influence for the early development of the institutionalized discipline of English studies. Indeed, the whole period is marked by a series of attempts to define what specific kinds of leadership qualities would be needed to maintain the overseas empire as well as ensuring secure government at home. It involved spasmodic attempts at boosting advanced teaching and research in science and other fields of 'modern' study, especially as applied to industrial organization and technological development. More

On the whole these efforts carried a national emphasis, as a number of educationalists, politicians, philosophers, and political theorists searched for new and more efficient ways of building and disseminating a national sense of ancestry, tradition, and universal 'free' citizenship. However, the cultural negotiations involved were problematic since they generated tensions between individualism and the investment of cultural authority in the state. Furthermore, while a revitalized ruling and administering class might be seen to require infusions of men of wealth and leadership from slightly lower social layers, this could prove acceptable only under conditions in which new procedures for educational cultivation had been established. Although it had become easier for some middle-class men (or their sons) to earn membership of the national ruling culture by Edwardian times, their status as true 'gentlemen' remained equivocal in an atmosphere of continued mistrust of the business community, albeit tempered by outbreaks of anxiety over the volatility of the lower orders which it was felt the task of their middle-class superiors to defuse.2