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Macmillan Higher Education Palgrave Higher Education

The Information State in England

The Central Collection of Information on Citizens since 1500

ISBN 9780333920695
Publication Date March 2004
Formats Hardcover Paperback 
Publisher Palgrave

Is the official collection of information on individuals inevitably leading to the creation of a 'Big Brother State'? In this innovative interdisciplinary study, Edward Higgs takes issue with writers such as Michel Foucault and Anthony Giddens who argue that state information gathering can be seen in terms of an expansion towards modernity, and as social control. Using ground-breaking historical research, Higgs reveals that, since 1500, the English state has always been an Information State although the nature of that state has changed markedly over the last 500 years. In its modern form, the Information State is as much about winning consent via the provision of benefits as repression in the interests of elites.

The Information State in England
- draws upon a wide range of sociological theory and historical research, as well as evidence gathered from archival sources
- challenges many assumptions about state formation and the role of information
- views the development of the state in terms of the changing balance between decentralized and centralized forms of governance
provides a critique of sociological and postmodernist concepts of modernity.

EDWARD HIGGS is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Essex.

List of Tables
Some Models of State Information Gathering
State Information Gathering in Early Modern England
State Information Gathering in the Classic Liberal State
The New Liberal State and Information Gathering
The Information State in Total War and Total Welfare
The Information State in the Age of Information Technology
Conclusion: Social Control or a Hegemony of Citizenship?


In a short review it is hard to do justice to Higgs' arguments and to the range of issues he addresses, but this is both a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. It should be read, and perhaps re-read by anyone with an interest in information sources in this period.' - Chriss Galley, Local Population Studies
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