English Conservatism since the Restoration: An Introduction and Anthology

English Conservatism since the Restoration: An Introduction and Anthology

English Conservatism since the Restoration: An Introduction and Anthology

English Conservatism since the Restoration: An Introduction and Anthology

Synopsis

English conservatism since the Restoration provides both the most incisive short account of the doctrine of conservatism available, and a selection of extracts from key writings to elucidate its argument. Robert Eccleshall traces the history of the doctrine from its origins in divine-right monarchy to the current preoccupation with the enterprise culture. Challenging the accepted view of conservatives as pragmatists who eschew philosophical abstractions, he argues that they have been consistent in selectively using principles to construct a distinctive image of the social order. They have emphasisized, on the one hand, the military virtues of duty, obedience, loyalty and submission to the authority of the state, and, on the other, the need for political leadership by a ''natural aristocracy'' or entrepeneurial elite. Also highlighted is the persistent and continuing tension within the Conservative Party between, on the one hand free-marketeers, and on the other patrician Tories, who favour government intervention in the economy and the ''One Nation'' approach to the social order. The conservative writers from whose works extracts are provided include Bolingbroke, Burke, Peel, Shaftesbury, Chamberlain, Macmillan, Butler, Tebbit and Thatcher,but also lesser known figures often ignored by other scholars.The breadth of coverage of the book and its accessibility will make it invaluable for students of politics and history and indeed anyone interested in political ideas.

Excerpt

This book is an introduction to a style of political thinking rather than a history of a political party. It begins therefore with the emergence of a recognisable Tory creed during the seventeenth-century Restoration, and not at around 1832 when the modern Conservative Party came into existence. There is little mention, either in the chapters or in the extracts which conclude them, of party leaders (Winston Churchill, for instance) unless their speeches and writings happen to convey, in a cogent and illuminating manner, aspects of conservative thinking (as is the case with Peel, Disraeli, Macmillan and Thatcher). Too many historians, I argue in the introductory chapter, have written a retrospective account of the doctrine from the standpoint of how people of a sensible conservative disposition ought to think. the effect has been to produce a laundered version of the doctrine that includes writers who cannot properly be regarded as conservatives (David Hume, for instance), while excluding others who do not fit the argument—even though they were associated with the party and typified a pattern of thinking. But the task of the historian of political ideas, in my view, is to tell a coherent story by re-creating the beliefs, intentions and methods of argument of writers, minor as well as major, who represented a tradition of political discourse. the story should not include thinkers merely because they are judged to be sound from the ideological perspective of the historian, or ignore a host of figures simply because they made little impact on the practice of politics. in this particular story the number of obscure but interesting characters—Offspring Blackall, John Reeves, Michael Sadler, Lord Henry Bentinck, Sir Ernest Benn, to mention a few—is larger than the great names of the Tory party who usually capture the historian’s attention. When reading the writings of some of these neglected characters, I must confess, I found myself in less uncongenial company than anticipated.

I should like to express my gratitude to Dr Vincent Geoghegan, Professor Cornelius O’Leary and Dr Christopher Shorley for reading an initial draft of the text and suggesting various stylistic and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.