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Who or what is ‘progressive’?

On 3 July 2012, I am hosting a one-day conference, exploring the contradictory and shifting meanings of the word ‘progressive’ in modern British history.

Over the past few years, this has become a ubiquitous political word, with all three main parties vying to present themselves as the most progressive. All three have also drawn upon the idea of a Lib-Lab progressive tradition, stretching back to the late nineteenth century. However, the roots of that tradition are by no means as stable as they sometimes seem, and have lent themselves to a variety of interpretations. Moreover, ‘progressive’ has also been applied to a diverse range of causes: from eugenics to gay rights and from theosophy to evolution.

I am looking for papers which explore contemporary and historical uses of the word ‘progressive’. Can anything be described as ‘progressive’? How has progressivism been promoted and resisted? What does this tell us about attitudes towards progress and modernity?

As well as historians and political scientists, I’d also like to hear from politicians, journalists, policy-makers and pollsters. If you would like to contribute please go here or contact me at my Nottingham email address.

Emily Robinson

Published inBritish Politics

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