Thomas Humphrey Marshall (19 December 1893, London – 29 November 1981, Cambridge) was a British sociologist, most noted for his essays, such as the essay collection Citizenship and Social Class.

He was born in 1893 and educated at Rugby School, and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was a civilian prisoner in Germany during World War I. From 1914 to 1918 he was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and then joined the London School of Economics, the LSE, as a lecturer between 1919 and 1925. He went on to become the Head of the Social Science Department at LSE from 1939 to 1944, and worked for UNESCO as the head of the Social Science Department from 1956 to 1960,[1] possibly contributing to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was drafted in 1954, but not ratified until 1966.

Philosophy of social science

Modern political science pioneer Seymour Martin Lipset argues that Marshall proposes a model of social science based on the middle range analysis 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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]


T. H. Marshall wrote a seminal essay on citizenship, 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. These were broadly assigned to the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively. His distinctive contribution was to introduce the concept of social rights understood as the welfare rights. 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 L. T. 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. 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).[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[citation needed] 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. ^ Blyton, P. (1982). T.H. Marshall 1893–1981. International Social Science Journal. Vol. 91(1), pp. 157–8.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Marshall, 1960, p. 28.
  6. ^ Marshall, 1960, p. 33.
  7. ^ 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)
  8. ^ Bryan S. Turner 1993 "Citizenship and Social Theory" p. 3-4
  9. ^ 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.


  • 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

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