There will be further postings on the subject of dates and, Tory Historian hopes, further discussions before some kind of an agreed list is produced. The suspicion is that we might have to have a list of 100 or, at least, 75. It is obvious that 50 is an inadequate number.
In the meantime, Tory Historian has been reading various books, including Amanda Vickery's fascinating account of a number of Georgian families and their womenfolk in Lancashire. Her study is based on the ladies' diaries and letters, giving the reader a strong feeling of entering those lives.
"The Gentleman's Daughter" refutes the accepted historical argument that women of the middle class lost various freedoms and occupations in the eighteenth century and shows their lives in their full and active reality.
A couple of quotations from the introductory chapter set the theme:
What follows then is a study in seemliness; a reconstruction of penalties and possibilities of lives lived within the bounds of propriety. Yet, as will emerge, even the bounds of propriety were wider than historians have been apt to admitPresumably that means that Keira Knightley will not be playing any of them in a bad film. Something to be thankful for.
It is hard to imagine them [those gentlemen's daughters, wives, sisters and mothers] ever smiling on the likes of a feminist writer such as Mary Wollstonecraft, a mannish lesbian as Anne Lister or a fashionable adulteress such as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Tory Historian is delighted by the response to the "Dates, dates, dates" posting and is very aware of not having responded to several suggestions. Ça ira, ça ira ... There will be more on dates and other matters. Please keep posting those suggestions.
In the meantime, a happy Christmas to all readers of this blog.
Over on The New Culture Forum Peter Whittle has a posting about the need to learn dates if one is to understand history at all. Readers of this blog know that Tory Historian is very much in favour of dates and marks as many of them as possible. Without knowing when things happened it is impossible to have anything but the most superficial and gooey idea of historical development.
Mr Whittle’s challenge to his readers is to put together a list of 50 dates that would be essential learning for everyone who wants to know anything about history. (And, really, essential learning for school children in their early teens.) There is no indication whether the dates have to do with British or world history but then, as Tory Historian has been told, Britain’s history is world history. Besides certain dates are so important that, no matter where the events happened, we should all know them.
Tory Historian takes up the challenge and passes it on to this blog’s readers. Here are a few ideas: 55BC – Julius Caesar’s invasion, 1066 – Norman Conquest, 1215 – Magna Carta, 1649 – execution of Charles I, 1688 – Glorious Revolution, 1689 – Bill of Rights, 1707 – Act of Union, 1805 – Trafalgar, 1807 – abolition of slave trade, 1815 – final defeat of Napoleon and Britain’s rise to the rank of undisputed world leader, 1832 – First Reform Act, 1867 – Second Reform Act, 1914–1918 – Great War and the start of decline in European hegemony and British power, 1939-1945 – the process completed, 1973 – Britain becomes part of the EEC (later EC and, even later, EU) thus abandoning the idea of sovereign legislation.
Now for some dates in the world that, nevertheless, affected Britain in various ways: 476 – fall of Rome (this is optional), 1453 – fall of Constantinople, 1492 – Columbus reaches America, 1517 – Luther nails 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, 1618-1648 – Thirty Years’ War ending with the Treaty of Westphalia, 1776 – Declaration of Independence, the natural successor event to the signing of Magna Carta and passing of the Bill of Rights, also the end of the first British Empire, 1789 – French Revolution, 1848 – revolutions across Europe, 1861 – Russian serfs freed, 1861-1865 – American Civil War and American slaves freed, 1871 – Unification of Germany, 1917 – Russian revolutions, 1922 – Ireland becomes independent, 1947 – India and Pakistan become independent (these two events herald the end of the British Empire for better or worse), 1989 – fall of the Berlin Wall, 1991 – end of the Soviet Union.
Others will think of other dates and will, perhaps, disagree with Tory Historian’s list. Let’s hear from those to whom historical dates matter.
There is nothing so mortifying for an editor as to be told after an issue of the relevant journal has come out that there is a major mistake in it, particularly as said editor has not yet had her copies. (Ahem, hint.) The mistake is in not crediting a co-author.
In the latest issue of the Conservative History Journal (available from the Conservative History Group) there is an article about the now almost forgotten but in his day very important Conservative politician, Ernest Marples.
Its author is given as Professor David Dutton, author of numerous books on political history. Nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that somewhere in the transference and editing of articles I lost the name of the co-author, Chris Cooper, Professor Dutton's post-graduate student, who, I am reliably informed, did most of the research. I am covered in shame. Ashes and sackcloth are on order.
I hope Mr Cooper will accept my abject apology.
In what might be the last major book-buying spree for some time Tory Historian acquired a review copy of a highly recommended (here and here, for instance, though you have to read a fair way in the second one) book, Kevin Phillips’s “The Cousins’ War”.
The book looks most interesting and is clearly a vital text for all true Anglospherists but what caught Tory Historian’s attention immediately were the maps. Maps, as has been pointed out before, are essential to almost any book that involving different countries, battles, movements of people, explorers' journeys and almost anything that makes history really exciting.
How can one not warm to a book that has such choice items as the distribution of Royalist and Parliamentarian supporters in the American colonies during the English Civil War? Or “Ulster in America – 1775”, a map of Scotch-Irish distribution in the 13 colonies? And many others.
This is going to be a joyful reading experience, to be reported on in due course.
As promised in that editorial, the discussion about conservatism in other countries is about to start. Tory Historian is hoping for many learned contributions. There will be more said about Richard Pipes’s “Russian Conservatism and Its Critics” but this post concentrates on Professor Pipes’s chapter in which he defines and elucidates Russian autocracy and its historic development.
To the frequently asked question “why does it keep going wrong in Russia” there is a partial answer in that chapter.
Russian autocracy grew out of the understanding patrimony or votchina. Under the Tatar rule, the various appanage princes had to plead for the right to rule from the Tatar Khan but, once allowed, owned the realm in the same way as they owned their own private possessions and homes. The idea that even the most absolute ruler had limits to his power and that was private property simply did not exist in Russia. [It did develop subsequently but very slowly and imperfectly.]
There were other factors absent. On pp. 16 – 17 Professor Pipes says:
The Muscovite state administration evolved from the administration of the appanage, the principal task of which had been exploitation. The prikazy, Moscow’s principal executive offices, similarly evolved from the administration of the prince’s household.Out of it grew the idea that all in Russia were slaves (kholopy) of the prince, later the tsar. They owed him everything and he owed them nothing. Indeed, any suggestion that they had the right to ask for anything or suggest certain changes in public policy was met with righteous anger as late as the nineteenth century even from the most liberal and reformist of the tsars, Alexander II.
As indicated above, such a mentality had also existed in the early mediaeval Europe – for instance, among the Merovingian kings of France, who also treated their kingdom as property. But there an evolution occurred which superimposed the public on the private and produced a notion of the state as a partnership between rulers and ruled. In Russia such an evolution did not occur because of the absence of the factors that had moulded European political theory and practice, such as the influence of Roman law and Catholic theology, feudalism and the commercial culture of the cities.
Tory Historian has the temerity to add one more detail to Professor Pipes’s succinct analysis. Not only was the Russian Orthodox Church less helpful in the development of a society that was separate from the state, it was positively harmful in its insistence that nothing good could be done on earth, anyway. Therefore, there could be no such thing as a good commonwealth or such a person as a good ruler and the possibility of referring to theological ideas in support of certain rights and privileges was not there.
One can compare Alexander Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov”, written in conscious imitation of Shakespeare’s histories, and the latter’s two plays about Henry IV. There are many parallels: both rulers came to their thrones by dubious means, having, at the very least, acquiesced in the murder of the rightful king or (in Godunov’s case) heir; both worry about their sons for different reasons; and both find that desired crown heavy to wear.
There the parallels stop. Even, Pushkin, the most westernized of all nineteenth century writer (though he was never allowed to leave Russia), could not encompass the idea of Tsar Boris Godunov attempting to assuage his conscience by good deeds on earth and by ruling well and wisely. Whether Henry IV succeeds in any of these aims is not as important as the fact that he sees the possibility of good deeds on earth and of being a good king (to quote “1066 And All That”).
The absence of religious teaching about earthly goodness and achievements had a doleful influence on Russian history.
Part of Tory Historian's reading matter is Alan Ebenstein's biography of Friedrich Hayek, not a Tory, not even a conservative, strictly speaking but one of the greatest and most inspiring thinkers of the twentieth century, inspiring for the right in general.
Almost immediately, TH found an interesting quotation about Hayek's influence on opponents of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, first published in Time Magazine on April 6, 1972:
Tomas Jezek, who became Czech minister of privatization after the collapse of the communist rule, said that if the "ideologists of socialism would single out the one bookd that ought to be locked up at any price and strictly forbidden, its dissemination and lecture [sic] carrying the most severe punishments, they would surely point to The Road to Serfdom".Clearly, they did not lock the book away securely enough.
And with another report from that wonderful institution, the National Portrait Gallery. TH’s interest was caught by the room that had some of the portraits, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, of the Kit-Cat Club, admittedly a Whig institution. The name is particularly attractive as, in Tory Historian’s opinion, Kit is preferable to Chris as the shortened form and the Club’s name comes from the name Christopher Catling (Kit Catling) the owner of the pie house near Temple Bar where the Club originally met.
Kneller’s portraits are 36 by 24 ins, known as the standard “kit-cat” format.
Among the Club members were Sir Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele, authors of the original Spectator and Tatler essays. In 1712 Steele wrote in the Spectator:
Face-painting is no where so well performed as in England.One cannot but agree as one surveys the astonishing array of portrait painters this country (and despite that Whiggish comment it includes Scotland) has either produced or attracted. Sir Godfrey Kneller was, of course, one of the latter.
Tory Historian is pondering a series of postings about portraits and their importance in English and Scottish history and art history.
As promised, here is the Editorial of the new Conservative History Journal, which is now with the printer so can be considered to be in existence. It outlines plans for the future and our readers might be interested to read it on the blog as well. When the Journal is actually visible in hard copy the table of contents will go up as well.
“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft agley”. So said Robert Burns and, though he was hardly a conservative in the usual sense of the word, one cannot really argue with him. The plan to produce a larger Conservative History Journal than its predecessors has actually come to fruition; the plan to produce it a little earlier in the year did not. On the other hand, this issue will be the perfect Christmas reading for all those who are interested in various aspects of the Conservative Party’s history.
There are articles about such diverse subjects as Conservative suffragists and the possible Jacobite connections of the early Tory leaders; there are studies of the reputations of Neville Chamberlain and Benjamin Disraeli; a new analysis is presented of Enoch Powell’s famous speech and of the now almost forgotten Ernest Marples; above all, there are articles about various aspects of the Thatcher and post-Thatcher years. Something for everyone, is the editorial hope.
A section had to be dropped from the Journal for lack of space. It was my intention to write about recently published books that could be of interest to conservative historians and historians of conservatism as well as people interested in conservative history. These were not going to be full reviews but a paragraph or so about such books as Jean M. Lucas’s book about Conservative Agents, “Between the Thin Blue Lines” or Giles Hunt’s “The Duel” about that infamous encounter between Canning and Castlereagh. My intention was to expand the Journal’s horizon by discussing briefly Richard Pipes’s “Russian Conservatism and Its Critics”. There was no space for this wonderful idea, so it will have to be transferred to the Conservative History Journal blog (http://conservativehistory.blogspot.com/).
The blog has taken up a certain amount of my time and will take up even more as I try to turn it into the pre-eminent site for all those who are interested in conservative history. Admittedly, my definition of conservative history has been rather wide but that has not stopped hits from growing and many interesting comments from being posted on it (as well as some trollish ones that had to be removed). Among other strands in it will be the proposed “Books of interest … to those interested in conservative history. Anyone who has ideas of publications to be included is encouraged to let me know about them.
Let us now turn to future plans. I have said this before in editorials but this time I say it with real feeling: the Journal will improve in its punctuality and, indeed, diversify. The plan for early 2009 is to produce a supplement that concentrates entirely on what is the most exciting recent historical and political idea: the Anglosphere. I am collecting articles of 2,000 – 3,000 words that look at the subject of economic and political developments that are specific to Britain or to the way those ideas have developed in the Anglospheric countries. Of course, if someone wants to write a knowledgeable piece on why the Anglospheric ideas are completely erroneous, they are welcome to do so. I shall be happy to include it.
Later in the year, there will be a Conservative History Journal of the kind we are more used to (though, perhaps, used to is not quite the right expression, given the editor’s shocking dilatoriness) that will once again have articles about the Conservative Party, its politicians, the debates and ideas that could be found in its vicinity. There is no editorial policy on what conservatism means; Tory history and Tory ideas are as welcome as more liberal and libertarian ones. The Conservative Party has been a “broad church” for a long time and conservative history must be equally broad.
Let us not forget that there are conservative ideas and movements in other countries as well. Some of them will be covered in the Anglosphere supplement; others can be written about in the Journal itself. There is a third outlet. Part of the blog, I hope, will be contributions by other people. So far I have received two very different ones, which were posted within hours of being sent to me. One was a review of a play in London, the other an eye-witness account of the recent American elections. Other contributions will be very welcome and I do credit the authors. Longer pieces may then be reprinted in the forthcoming issue of the Journal.
Plenty of ideas for all of us to get going with. The Conservative History Journal in all its manifestations should have a bright future.
I am looking forward to responses and suggestions.