skip to content

Philomathia Social Sciences Research Programme


Inheritance, families and the market in Britain, 1850–1930

One of the defining features of nineteenth-century Britain was the widening ownership of wealth. Economic transformations, including the rise of industrial economy, increasing real incomes, growing commercial interests in an expanding empire and the development of financial markets at home, offered new opportunities for generating wealth and underpinned the emergence of a new property-owning middle class.

The fortunes and longevity of this group depended on how individuals and families responded to the market, and passed economic opportunities on to the next generation. The transmission of wealth at death in Britain was a key means by which middle-class families were able to reproduce themselves and maintain their economic and social status. Wealth and property ownership underpinned political power, participation in civil society and were integral to individual and family identity. Inheritance developed was the primary way in which social inequality could be reproduced across generations and over time.

This unique and interdisciplinary project investigates broader significance of wealth and inheritance in nineteenth and early-twentieth century Britain. The project team – Professor Martin Daunton (University of Cambridge), Professor David Green (King’s College London), Dr Alastair Owens (Queen Mary, University of London) and Postdoctoral Research Assistants Dr Lesley Hoskins and Dr Samantha Shave (University of Cambridge) – are analysing the social, economic, cultural and political role of inheritance, demonstrating its importance for understanding social inequality and intergenerational well-being and justice.

 Further information can be found on the project’s website:


Programme Logo

History of Wealth Project

This project, co-funded by the Philomathia Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust, investigates the broader significance of wealth an inheritance in 19th and early-20th century Britain.

Masters in Public Policy

This programme was launched by POLIS in October 2013, and aims to train future policy-makers to value and promote evidence-based policies that can most benefit society.