Ben W. Ansell: Inward Conquest: The Modern State and the Revolution in Government that Shook the World


Monday, December 5, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:45pm


Harvard Kennedy School: Allison Dining Room

Ben W. AnsellProfessor of Comparative Democratic Institutions, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

Co-authored by Johannes LindvallProfessor of Political Science, Lund University, Sweden, and Visiting Scholar (2016-2017), Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University.

This book investigates political conflicts over the provision and control of public order, education, and health care in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century – the period when states first began to provide many of the public services that we now take for granted.

Drawing on new data on the historical development of public order, education, and health care and novel measures on the ideological orientation of governments, we examine this missing link in the history of the modern state. Liberals, Catholics, conservatives, socialists, and fascists fought bitterly over the political control of public services in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We show how those political struggles unfolded. We also demonstrate how conflicts among parties and religious groups – channeled by political regimes and institutions – shaped the structure of public services, with profound consequences for political developments ever since.

This book builds on our recent article in the American Political Science Review (Ansell and Lindvall 2013), which examined the political origins of primary education systems in nineteen states in Western Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region. The book extends our earlier analysis of the politics of education, incorporating new, original research on public order and health care.

The seminar presentation will draw from the following readings and related work:

About the speaker

Ben W. Ansell is Professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. His work focuses on a variety of issues in political economy, including both comparative politics and international relations. His interests currently focus on the politics of education policy, the relationship between inequality and democracy, and on the effects of asset price inflation on political preferences. 

He is the author of From the Ballot to the Blackboard, published by Cambridge University Press in 2010,  and Inequality and Democratization: An Elite-Competition Approach (co-authored by David Samuels), published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. Inequality and Democratization was the winner of the 2015 Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book on government, politics or international affairs and the 2015 William Riker prize for the best book in political economy. He is also co-editor (with David Samuels) of Comparative Political Studies.

Ansell was born in Palo Alto, California, but grew up in Kent in the United Kingdom. He studied history at Manchester University and earned his Ph.D. in Political Science at Harvard University.

Ansell  also worked as an academic consultant to HM Treasury in the UK and for the Leitch Review of Skills, which advised the UK government on long-term education policy.

See also: Fall 2016