The publication of Alfred Marshall’s Lectures to Women was a project originally conceived in 1983 by Giacomo Becattini, who has written the foreword to this volume, which finally appeared in 1995. As Becattini notes, those researchers who had the privilege of reading this material in the 1970s were excited by the apparent radicalism of the young Marshall, who at the age of thirty (not thirty-one as Becattini writes) delivered these lectures to a group of “middle-class” women debarred from formal university studies. No doubt these lectures revealed a younger Marshall still tending to moralize and proselytize, but they also presented an image of a scholar with a questioning attitude to the capitalist system and even some “tendencies to socialism.” Rita McWilliams Tullberg has subsequently laid most of this to rest. In addition, the plethora of Marshall-related publications stimulated by the centenary celebrations of the publication of the Principles, followed by Peter Groenewegen’s 1995 biography, has to some extent reduced the immediacy of the lectures.
The text of the lectures covers only forty-seven pages of this book, including editorial notes and references. Another twenty-two pages are occupied by Marshall’s lecture outlines. Marshall’s well-known summary of the lectures, which he titled “The Future of the Working Classes,” is also reprinted together with the equally well-known Bee-Hive articles and the previously unpublished pieces by John Holmes that elicited Marshall’s responses. Ostensibly, the Bee-Hive debate [End Page 592] has been reproduced in order to illustrate the different approach adopted by Marshall on both methodological and social issues according to the audience he was addressing.
The remaining text consists of a very brief editorial note, the rather didactic foreword by Becattini, and a commentary by each of the editors on one aspect of the lectures. Tiziano Raffaelli’s commentary is focused on Marshall’s methodology, which, it is argued, he adapted to the social issue at hand, the objective of the analysis, and the nature of the audience. Eugenio Biagini’s commentary stresses Marshall’s Anglican roots as a major formative force, so that despite his loss of faith, a residual Protestantism always guided his ethical views. Both Raffaelli and Biagini argue that even in this early period Marshall was a moderate product of his time. This is a view that creates a slight tension with McWilliams Tullberg’s commentary on Marshall’s contribution to the women’s higher education movement. She argues that in 1873 Marshall was at the forefront of this liberal movement and suggests reasons why he changed his position soon after.
This book offers Marshall scholars some intriguing material and will stimulate new avenues of research, especially among those who may not have read the lectures before and come to them with an uncluttered perspective. There are still many puzzles about Marshall’s early views and the nature and extent of their evolution. McWilliams Tullberg and Groenewegen have offered the most convincing, yet divergent explanations. Further enlightenment may have to wait on research by psychologists and other social scientists.