For Party or Country: Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Popular Conservatism in Edwardian England

For Party or Country: Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Popular Conservatism in Edwardian England

For Party or Country: Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Popular Conservatism in Edwardian England

For Party or Country: Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Popular Conservatism in Edwardian England

Synopsis

Lord Hugh Cecil, commenting in 1912 on the British Conservative party's staying power, said that the party's success was largely a matter of temperament, "recruited from...the natural conservatism that is found in almost every human mind." The Conservatives regarded the parties of the left as faddists or federations of pressure groups. In this thorough analysis, Coetzee examines the condition of the Conservative party during the two decades preceding World War I--a transitional period for the party, marked by the foundation of an unprecedented number of conservative pressure groups. Cecil's comment, Coetzee argues, obscures the extent to which conservative pressure groups forced their party to adapt in Edwardian England. The British Navy League, the Tariff Reform League, the Anti-Socialist Union, and a host of other groups changed the face of British conservatism, though not without considerable internal party conflict. In addition to providing a complete account of the pressure groups' origins, organizations, successes, and failures, Coetzee ties their histories to the debates within the Conservative party itself, and to the local elections. In so doing, he demonstrates how the party of the right was ultimately able to convince the electorate that its views were more "national" and "patriotic" than those of the parties of the left.

Excerpt

Unlike much recent work on British Conservatism, this book was not prompted by Mrs. Thatcher. When I began research a Labour government was in power, and although the intervening decade of Conservative rule has stimulated inquiry into the Conservative party's history, the nature of the relationship between the party and its constituency has yet to be entirely resolved. This study seeks to clarify that relationship by exploring the often bitter debates between party stalwarts and a series of associational activists who were animated by the conviction that, in the early twentieth century, temporary party advantage was no longer enough.

My sense of relief at finishing this book is mingled with satisfaction at the opportunity it affords to thank all who contributed to its completion. For while archival work often seems a solitary affair, the preparation of a book is a collective enterprise. I am grateful to the staffs of the various archives and libraries in England and Scotland for their assistance, and to the American Council of Learned Societies and the Fulbright Commission for their financial support. I should like to thank the following institutions and individuals for permission to quote from material in their custody: the Keeper of Manuscripts, British Library; the Archivist of the British Library of Political and Economic Science; the Clerk of the Records, House of Lords Record Office; D. McKenna and the Archivist, Churchill College, Cambridge; the University of Birmingham; the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford; the Bodleian Library; the Secretary, Army Museums Ogilby Trust; the Deputy Librarian, University of Sheffield Main Library; A. J. Maxse, Lord Egremont, and the Archivist, West Sussex Record Office; the Director of the Conservative Political Centre; Mrs. R. M. Stafford and the Scottish Record Office; the Trustees of the Bedford Estates and the National Maritime Museum; the Archivist, Wiltshire Record Office; the Archivist, Northumberland Record Office; and the Guildhall Library, London.

Lutz and Pamela Haber's hospitality made an initial year in London even more enjoyable. Peter Clarke, Emmet Larkin, and Geoffrey Searle have helped in many ways, not least by reading the manuscript and offering many sugges-

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