Paul Ward argues that British national identity is a resilient force, and looks at how Britishness has adapted to changing circumstances.
Taking a thematic approach, Britishness since 1870 examines the forces that have contributed to a sense of Britishness, and considers how Britishness has been mediated by other identities such as class, gender, region, ethnicity and the sense of belonging to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
In contrast to traditional characterizations, Haggard argues that progress, individualism, and character continued to resonate within Victorian society throughout the late Victorian period. Private philanthropy grew increasingly active as a remedy to urban poverty. The London Socialist movement, the New Unionism, the Independent Labour Party, and the New Liberalism, each proponents of socialistic reforms, found themselves marginalized politically. The key to the social debates of the day was the concept of the deserving versus the undeserving poor. Although the deserving might expect some private or public aid, the undeserving were to be punished for their lack of character. Until this notion was overturned, the Welfare State would remain outside the realm of practical politics.