Rethinking what one learned

Posted by Tory Historian Monday, June 21, 2010 ,

Tory Historian has finished reading Earl Stanhope's Conversations with Wellington (mentioned here and here) and, having recently read John Charmley's biography of Princess Lieven (here and here) could not help spending some time in meditation about the Duke of Wellington's role as politician.

TH's history teaching at school was far superior than that given to children these days but was a descendant of the Whig theory of history and assumed that certain events were GOOD THINGS (to quote the immortal 1066 And All That). Therefore all those who opposed those events must have been bad, stupid or reactionary (or any combination of those). The Duke of Wellington, as every schoolchild should know but probably doesn't, opposed the 1832 Reform Act though accepted its inevitably passing and continued to be active in Parliament. His historic punishment was a dismissal to the margins of history books as a politician. Obviously not even the writers of school textbooks could dismiss the Iron Duke to the margins as military commander.

The impression one gained was that after Waterloo, the Duke was the most popular man in Britain and was, therefore, dragged into politics by the wily and desperate Tories (desperate because they knew they were on the wrong side) against his wishes and despite his complete lack of ability and understanding in that field.

Sadly, none of that is true and Tory Historian needs to rethink everything read in those textbooks and heard in the lessons. It would appear that the Duke did have a great deal of political aptitude and a very good understanding of European affairs as well as a great fear (like most military men) of another European war. He was central to British politics for many years after Waterloo and went on serving as a public servant almost until the day of his death. Many of his political judgements were considerably more intelligent and penetrating than those of people on the other side who were the heroes of those long-ago school lessons.


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. Dear Sir,

    This is very much off topic, but I wonder if you can help. I am after locating an archive or other source for newspapers, pamphlets, booklets, leaflets, etc of the Federation of Conservative Students in the early to mid 1980s.

    I have not had any success so far, but if you know of a source can you please contact me at mikeymikeyblog AT goooglemail DOT com.



    (obviously I can give you more information as to my interest and who I am etc, if you are kind enough to contact me.)

  3. Enquiries are being made and there might be some information quite soon.

  4. With reference to the Earl Stanhope: After watching a University of Cambridge video of William Hague giving a brief lecture on William Pitt, I went back to re-read Lord Macaulay’s sprightly Encyclop√¶dia Britannica essay—where can be found Macaulay’s assertion that ‘Parliamentary government is government by speaking.’ Wanting more, I searched the internet—my access to libraries is limited—and found the three volume biography by Stanhope (see here for links, including information on other Tory sources). I’m interested in reading it, but how has it stood the test of time? Many thanks!

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