Francis, Mark 1944-
Francis, Mark 1944-
Born 1944. Education: Earned Ph.D.
Political scientist, historian, educator, and writer. University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, has served as senior lecturer in political science and associate professor in political science.
Leger Fellowship, 1988.
(Editor) The Viennese Enlightenment, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.
Governors and Settlers: Images of Authority in the British Colonies, 1820-60, Macmillan Academic and Professional (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England), 1992.
(With John Morrow) A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Contributor to professional journals, including Journal of Australian Studies.
Mark Francis is a political scientist and historian whose primary interests include the history of political thought and colonial political theory. In his book Governors and Settlers: Images of Authority in the British Colonies, 1820-60, the author explores the public and private beliefs held over a period of four decades of governors of British settler colonies, including colonies in Upper Canada, New South Wales, and New Zealand. The author primarily focuses on how these governors struggled to survive in colonial cultures that both deified and vilified their personal qualities. Writing in the Canadian Journal of History, Neville Thompson called the book "a welcome contribution to the rethinking of shared issues and the reintegration of imperial history." English Historical Review contributor A.H.M. Kirk-Greene commented that the book "represents a masterly amalgam of scholarship and enjoyable reading."
Francis is the author, with John Morrow, of A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century. In their survey of the seminal political ideas in England during the nineteenth century, the authors examine the philosophies of a wide range of thinkers, both within and outside the realm of political theory. In addition to such political theorists as J.S. Mill and Jeremy Bentham, the authors examine the works of people such as the poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold and the essayist William Hazlitt. Within the context of the writings of that century, the authors explore issues such as the British constitution in the early nineteenth century and the languages of political thought.
Referring to A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century as "timely and innovative," English Historical Review contributor Michael Freeden went on to note in the same review: "This book does not cater to the concerns of political philosophers, who may favour specific analyses of notions such as autonomy or political obligation. Rather, its central message is the abandonment of classical political philosophy by a wide range of theorists." Julia Stapleton wrote in Victorian Studies: "The book achieves a high standard of scholarship throughout, and the authors' inclusion of thinkers from other disciplines than formal political theory is commendable."
In his 2007 book Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, the author takes a fresh look at the nineteenth-century English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who is perhaps best known as the father of Social Darwinism as he proposed the justice of "survival of the fittest" in a capitalistic system. "Thanks to Spencer, Victorian capitalists knew that nature was on their side," wrote Steven Shapin in the New Yorker.
In his intellectual biography of Spencer, Francis presents Spencer as a much more subtle and complex thinker than he has been presented as a Social Darwinist. Using archival material and other sources, Francis presents a complex portrait of someone who developed a unique philosophical and scientific system in an attempt to explain the biological, psychological, and sociological forms of modern life by uniting empiricism and metaphysics. New Yorker contributor Shapin commented that the author "thinks that he has discovered the philosophical grounds of Spencer's true coherence, and he hands out academic demerits to the commentators who have missed the underlying unities of Spencer's scientific, philosophical, ethical, psychological, sociological, and political writings."
Francis outlines how coherent and rigorous Spencer's philosophy really was, and also documents his influence not only in England but also in the United States and Asia. Francis also examines Spencer's struggles with the Christian values he had been taught as a child and his relationship with the novelist George Eliot (a pseudonym for the writer Mary Ann Evans), which Francis depicts as revealing Spencer's inability to pursue romantic love.
"It's the best intellectual history I've read since McCraw's Schumpeter book [about Spencer]," wrote Tusar N. Mohapatra in a review on the Savitri Era Open Forum Web site. Mohapatra went on to write in the same review that the book is "elegantly written, provocative, and rich in insight" and that the author "also illuminates the broader cultural and intellectual history of the nineteenth century." Other reviewers also had high praise for the biography. "Although Mr. Francis does full justice to Spencer's ideas … Spencer the man is delightfully present when Mr. Francis provides subtle readings of Spencer's courtship of George Eliot, his love of playing with children, his hypochondria, and his penchant for hydropathy," wrote Carl Rollyson in the New York Sun.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, November, 2007, review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, p. 154.
Canadian Journal of History, December, 1992, Neville Thompson, review of Governors and Settlers: Images of Authority in the British Colonies, 1820-60, p. 557.
English Historical Review, June, 1995, A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, review of Governors and Settlers, p. 779; February, 1997, Michael Freeden, review of A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century, p. 235.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, June, 1987, Robin Lenman, review of The Viennese Enlightenment, p. 390.
International History Review, November, 1993, review of Governors and Settlers, p. 795.
Journal of Historical Geography, January, 1994, Stephen J. Hornsby, review of Governors and Settlers, p. 108.
Journal of the History of Ideas, October, 1994, review of A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century, p. 699.
Library Journal, May 15, 2007, Leon H. Brody, review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, p. 93.
New Yorker, August 13, 2007, Steven Shapin, "Man with a Plan; Herbert Spencer's Theory of Everything."
New York Sun, July 25, 2007, Carl Rollyson, "The Gospel of Relaxation," review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2007, review of Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life.
Victorian Studies, autumn, 1995, Bruce A. Knox, review of Governors and Settlers, p. 83; winter, 1996, Julia Stapleton, review of A History of English Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century, p. 256.
Savitri Era Open Forum,http://seof.blogspot.com/ (September 21, 2007), Tusar N. Mohapatra, "A Major New Study of Herbert Spencer, a Stunning Revelation."
University of Canterbury Web site,http://www.posc.canterbury.ac.nz/ (March 6, 2008), faculty profile of author.