Thomas Humphrey Marshall

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Thomas Humphrey Marshall
Professor Thomas Humphrey Marshall, c1950.jpg
Portrait of Professor Marshall in 1950
Born(1893-12-19)19 December 1893.
Died29 November 1981(1981-11-29) (aged 87)
Other namesT.H. Marshall
EducationRugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge
Known forCivil Citizenship, Political Citizenship, and T.H. Marshall's Social Citizenship

Thomas Humphrey Marshall (19 December 1893, London – 29 November 1981, Cambridge) was a British sociologist who was most famously known for his work on Citizenship and Social Class.

He was born in 19 December 1893 and was educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a civilian prisoner in Germany during World War I. He then went onto pursuing a Fellowship program at Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1919, where he entered into academia as a professional historian. This was interrupted when he accepted an invitation to become the Labour Candidate in Surrey.[1] He later became a tutor at the London School of Economics in 1925. He was promoted to reader and went on to become the Head of the Social Science Department at LSE from 1944 to 1949 and Martin White Professorship of Sociology from 1954 to 1956.[2] Then worked for UNESCO as the head of the Social Science Department from 1956 to 1960,[3] possibly contributing to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was drafted in 1954, but not ratified until 1966.

He was the fourth president of the International Sociological Association (1959-1962).[4]


T.H. Marshall was born in London on 19 December 1893 to a wealthy, artistically cultured family (a Bloomsbury family). He was also one of six children. Because of his wealthy background, he attended Rugby School, a preparatory boarding school. And then continued his schooling at Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied History.[1]

Philosophy of social science[edit]

Modern political science pioneer Seymour Martin Lipset argues that Marshall proposed a model of social science based on the Middle Range Theory of social structures and institutions, as opposed to grand theories of the purposes of development and modernisation, which were criticised by modern sociologists such as Robert K. Merton for being too speculative to provide valid results.[5] By using such a middle range approach, Marshall and his mentor L. T. Hobhouse believed that rigid class distinctions could be dissolved and middle class citizenship generalised through a careful understanding of social mechanisms. He also believed this would allow sociology to become an international discipline, helping "to increase mutual understanding between cultures" and further international co-operation.[6] While employing some concepts from Marxist conflict theory, such as social class and revolution, Marshall's analyses are based on functionalist concerns with phenomena such as "consensus, the normal, and anomie; co-operation and conflict; structure and growth," within self-contained systems.[7] Rather than studying "society," which may include non-systemic elements, Marshall argues that the task of sociology is:

the analytical and explanatory study of social systems....a set of interrelated and reciprocal activities having the following characteristics. The activities are repetitive and predictable to the degree necessary, first, to permit of purposeful, peaceful and orderly behaviour of the members of the society, and secondly to enable the pattern of action to continue in being, that is to say to preserve its identity even while gradually changing its shape.[8]

Whereas Marxists point to the internal contradictions of capital accumulation and class inequality (intra-systemic), Marshall sees phenomena that are anti-systemic as partly "alien" to the social system.[9]



T. H. Marshall wrote a seminal essay on citizenship--which became his most famous work--titled "Citizenship and Social Class". This was published in 1950, based on a lecture given the previous year. He analysed the development of citizenship as a development of civil, then political, then social rights. With the civil rights being the first to be established, this included free speech, free religion, property ownership, and equal access to the legal system. Political rights followed by the right to vote and democracy. Lastly, social rights came with positive freedoms such as welfare rights.[10] Social rights happened because the arrival of the modern welfare state. These were broadly assigned to the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively because of the "arrival of comprehensive civil rights" in the eighteenth century and the arrival of political rights in the nineteenth century. [11]

Social Rights are awarded not on the basis of class or need, but rather on the status of citizenship. He claimed that the extension of social rights does not entail the destruction of social classes and inequality. T. H. Marshall was a close friend and admirer of Leonard Hobhouse, and his conception of citizenship emerged from a series of lectures given by Hobhouse at the LSE. Hobhouse is more philosophical, whereas Marshall is under the influence of measures taken by Lord Beveridge after World War II.[1] All of these people were involved in a turn in liberal thought that was called "new liberalism", a liberalism with a social conscience. T. H. Marshall also talks about industrial citizenship and its relationship with citizenship. He said that social rights are a precursor for political and civil rights.


Marshall's analysis of citizenship has been criticised on the basis that it only applies to males in England (Note: England rather than Britain).[12] Marxist critics point out that Marshall's analysis is superficial as it does not discuss the right of the citizen to control economic production, which they argue is necessary for sustained shared prosperity. From a feminist perspective, the work of Marshall is highly constricted in being focused on men and ignoring the social rights of women and impediments to their realisation.[13] There is a debate among scholars about whether Marshall intended his historical analysis to be interpreted as a general theory of citizenship or whether the essay was just a commentary on developments within England.[14] The essay has been used by editors to promote more equality in society, including the "Black" vote in the USA, and against Mrs. Thatcher in a 1992 edition prefaced by Tom Bottomore.[15] It is an Anglo-Saxon interpretation of the evolution of rights in a "peaceful reform" mode, unlike the revolutionary interpretations of Charles Tilly, the other great theoretician of citizenship in the twentieth century, who bases his readings in the developments of the French Revolution.


  1. ^ a b c Marshall, T. H. (1973). "A British Sociological Career". The British Journal of Sociology. 24 (4): 399–408. doi:10.2307/589730. ISSN 0007-1315. JSTOR 589730.
  2. ^ Scott, John (24 January 2007). Fifty Key Sociologists: The Formative Theorists. Routledge. ISBN 9781134262182.
  3. ^ Blyton, P. (1982). T.H. Marshall 1893–1981. International Social Science Journal. Vol. 91(1), pp. 157–8.
  4. ^ "ISA Presidents". International Sociological Association. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
  5. ^ Lipset, S.M. (1965). "Introduction." In T.H. Marshall (Ed.). Class, Citizenship, and Social Development. 2nd ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books. pp. xvii–xviii.
  6. ^ Marshall, T.H. (1959). "International Comprehension in Social Science." In T.H. Marshall (Ed.)(1965). Class, Citizenship, and Social Development. 2nd ed. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books. pp. 47–8.
  7. ^ Marshall, T.H. (1960). "Sociology – The Road Ahead." In T.H. Marshall (Ed.)(1965). Class, Citizenship, and Social Development. 2nd ed. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books. p. 33.
  8. ^ Marshall, 1960, p. 28.
  9. ^ Marshall, 1960, p. 33.
  10. ^ Kivisto, Peter (13 May 2010). Key Ideas in Sociology. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781483343334.
  11. ^ Goldman, Lawrence (24 January 2019). Welfare and Social Policy in Britain Since 1870: Essays in Honour of Jose Harris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192569448.
  12. ^ Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon, "Contract versus Charity: Why is there no social citizenship in the United States?" Socialist Review vol. 23, no. 3 (July/September 1992)
  13. ^ Bryan S. Turner 1993 "Citizenship and Social Theory" p. 3-4
  14. ^ Bulmer, M. and Rees, A. M. (1996) "Conclusion: citizenship in the twenty-first century” in Bulmer, M. and A. M. Rees (eds.) Citizenship today : the contemporary relevance of T.H. Marshall, UCL Press: London. p. 270.
  15. ^ Kivisto, Peter (2018), "Citizenship: T.H. Marshall and Beyond", The SAGE Handbook of Political Sociology: Two Volume Set, SAGE Publications Ltd, pp. 413–428, retrieved 5 October 2019


  • Marshall, T. H. (1950). "Citizenship and social class and other essays." Cambridge: CUP.
  • Bryan S. Turner (1993). "Citizenship and Social Theory." SAGE Publications Ltd.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Barbara Wootton, Baroness Wootton of Abinger
President of the British Sociological Association
Succeeded by
Thomas Bottomore