This may come a little too late for some people but I did put up the information a few days ago. The Conservative History Group will be having a meeting today.

Tuesday, 29th June at 6.30pm
Venue: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

Our speaker will be Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University, whose book The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron was published earlier this year. With Mr Cameron now in Downing Street, it is an opportune moment to consider the recent history of the Party, and we will be joined in doing so by our Chairman, Keith Simpson MP, and by ConservativeHome’s Co-Editor Jonathan Isaby.

We hope to see as many people as possible at the meeting. Don't forget to allow time for that security check.

The forgotten war, as it is known, especially in Britain, began on June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. Astonishingly enough, it was the UN that mobilized forces to support South Korea but then the USSR was temporarily exercising an empty seat policy. Undoubtedly, it would have stopped any UN action, otherwise. According to recent books on the subject of Soviet espionage in the United States, Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project, which allowed Stalin to build an atom bomb considerably faster than anyone had expected also enabled him to give North Korea the go-ahead for its invasion.

The picture is being republished with the full consent of the Department of Defence. Their policy is to allow all reproduction of photographs that is their property. It is of Pfc. Julias Van Den Stock of Company A, 32nd Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division with M1 or M2 Carbine, resting on a Chinese Communist bunker with a Soviet DP light machine gun, along the slope of Hill 902 north of Ip-Tong.

Just to complete the posting here is the beginning of what, in Tory Historian's opinion, is the best film about the Korean War: The Manchurian Candidate.

The death has been announced of Lord Walker who, as Peter Walker, held a number of important ministerial positions in both the Heath and the Thatcher governments. Tory Historian may find the notion of a "one-nation Conservative" a little odd but at times like this, all one can do is remember.

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.

It was not so long ago that I discussed with a regular contributor to the Conservative History Journal the paucity of Robert Peel biographies. Well, sometimes you wait for ages and then several come at once.

In 2007 we had Douglas Hurd's Sir Robert Peel: A Biography and today the postman delivered Richard Gaunt's new book that I have mentioned in a previous posting. More about it as I read it but as a taster, here is a quotation from Richard Gaunt's musings about Peel's reputation:

At the start of the twenty-first century, we remember Peel for breaking down what he built up (notably his 1842 Corn Law and, more controversially, the Conservative Party itself) or amending what he found (for example, in Ireland and at the Home Office) as well as for the unintended consequences of some of his achievements (not least in respect of the Income Tax and Bank Charter Act). from his youth, Peel was offered up on the altar of Pittite pieties to the future service of the nation. To that extent he has become party of the heroic genealogy of politcal leaders stretching thenceforth from the Younger Pitt by way of Canning down to Gladstone and the triumph of a progressive strand of Conservatism, and/or conservative strand of Liberalism. To designate him a false 'Tory', a renegade 'Conservative', a 'Liberal Tory', a 'Liberal Conservative' or a proto-Gladstonian Liberal, is to play, semantically, with the career of a shrewd, ambitious and complex political operator and try and give it helpful characterisation within a sometimes limited politicla vocabulary. Peel's own outlook and views combined a rigid adherence to certain fixed principles - his Protestantism, his executive outlook, his attachment to Bullionist theory and his growing commitment to the tenets of Free Trade - within an overall process of self-education as to the means of furthering them.
As they used to say in examination papers: discuss.

The Battle of Waterloo - the final battle of the long Napoleonic wars that engulfed Europe taking over from the Revolutionary wars before that. It resulted in a comprehensive defeat for Napoleon who left the battle field knowing (whatever he may have dreamed later) that he would now have to go into real exile and stay there.

The Daily Telegraph (prototype of Peter Simple's Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald - those were the days) has published what was undoubtedly the most exciting news of the day: the bones of the female skeleton found in a grave near Magdeburg two years ago do appear to be those of Queen Eadgyth, grand-daughter of Alfred the Great, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and sister of King Athelstan "became the first official King of England after unifying Saxon and Celtic kingdoms after the battle of Brunanburgh in 937 AD".

The Conservative History Group, which has a new Director in the person of Nigel Fletcher, will be holding its first post-election meeting.

Tuesday, 29th June at 6.30pm
Venue: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

Our speaker will be Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University, whose book The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron was published earlier this year. With Mr Cameron now in Downing Street, it is an opportune moment to consider the recent history of the Party, and we will be joined in doing so by our Chairman, Keith Simpson MP, and by ConservativeHome’s Co-Editor Jonathan Isaby.

Something else that might interest readers of this blog is the forthcoming publication (on July 2) of a new book about one of the greatest Conservative politicians and statesmen, Sir Robert Peel.

The author is Richard A. Gaunt, a friend of the Conservative History Group and of the Conservative History Journal and the full title is: Sir Robert Peel - His Life and Legacy. It will be published by I. B. Tauris.

Tory Historian returned to the excellent National Portrait Gallery exhibition, The Indian Portrait. It is free and will not be closing till this coming Sunday. It is thoroughly to be recommended for the wonderful pictures as much as the explanation of various developments - enough to give one some idea of how matter stood in various princedoms, politically and artistically; of the Mughal influence; and of the British one - but not enough to make one's head spin. Of course, those who already know the history in some detail will find the explanations superficial but, Tory Historian hopes, the art superlative.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, once the mainstay of London's social and intellectual life (one wonders whether the quality was better in those days) has opened. Tory Historian ambled along on one of the Members' Days but decided to eschew the Pimm's this time.

The exhibition was not offensive. In fact, some of it is surprisingly good (surprisingly, as one recalls certain past efforts). The gorilla made out of coat hangers is highly entertaining and bears more than a certain resemblance to King-Kong after his defeat of the prehistoric monster. And Gillian Ayres's paintings are as bright and harmoniously colourful as ever. The great lady is now 80 but long may she continue to paint.

However, to see the very best of the Exhibition one does not need to go inside or pay for a ticket. Three of the late Barry Flanagan's Hares: Hare and Bell, Nijinsky Hare and Left-Handed Drummer are in the courtyard and very fine they are, too.

The famous quotation from Henry IV Part II (Act III, Scene 1, since you ask) refers both to the difficulties a ruler faces that his subjects know nothing about and, more specifically, to the difficulties a usurper faces. Both Henry IV and Henry V (particularly on the eve of the battle of Agincourt) are unhappily aware of the fact that the crown was acquired in a somewhat nefarious fashion.

O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord,
O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown!

Let us now move to another country and another century. Tory Historian has been enjoying Earl Stanhope's Conversations with Wellington. Some of the notes refer to little more than day to day chats and gossip. Without knowing the people concerned directly they are of little interest and some of the comments are so mundane that they should have been ignored, except for the fact that Stanhope clearly thought that every word the Duke had uttered and he could recall would be of interest to succeeding generations.

However, among all that trivia, which is, one must admit, often amusing, there are some highly interesting comments and stories from the Duke, about the Peninsular campaign, about Waterloo, about the country as he saw it and about Napoleon of whom he often spoke with great praise.

In October 16 1837 Lord Mahon (as Stanhope then was) met the Duke hunting and immediately plunged into a long conversation, the chief part of which was, apparently, political and was not, therefore, noted down (more's the pity).
Eventually, the conversation turned to Napoleon's Russian campaign and a discussion whether there could have been other decisions the Emperor could have taken and remained victorious in Russia.

The plan I have seen suggested in S├ęgur's history of the campaign, and ascribed I think to Count ------, was to winter in Moscow and intrench himself, allowing his communications with France to be cut off?

'He couldn't have done that. You know that when he heard of Mallet's conspiracy at Paris, he said, 'This would not matter to me if I were a Bourbon, but as it is I must endeavour to return directly. In fact, if you look through his campaigns you will find that his plan was always to try to give a great battle, gain a great victory, patch up a peace, such a peace as might leave an opening for a future war, and then hurry back to Paris. This I should say was the great benefit of what we did in Spain - of what we did and enabled the Spaniards to do. We starved him out. We showed him that we wouldn't let him fight a battle at first, except under disadvantages. If you do fight, we shall destroy you; if you do not fight, we shal intime destroy you still.'
And all because that head lay uneasy. The soldiers and officers may have been devoted to him but he could never be certain of the rest of the country.

Whatever John Constable's political views might have been his vision of the country not only chimes in with conservative (small c) attitudes but is the one that is seen as reality by many outsiders. Constable's England is the England that is known to those who do not know the country. And yet it is not entirely wrong either as a visit to Suffolk or a view down the Thames or a walk in Hampstead Heath can prove. Tory Historian who loves Constable's paintings and drawings is celebrating the great man's birthday today. He was born on June 11, 1776.

Tory Historian spent a good deal of today within the Victorian sphere. First a visit to the newly reopened Leighton House Museum, once home of Frederic, Lord Leighton RA, the only artist to have been ennobled. Sadly, he did not have children so the title died with him.

Leighton is not Tory Historian's favourite artists, being somewhat on the lush side of the Pre-Raphaelite movement but his drawings, watercolours and, even, portraits are well worth looking at. The large historical, mythological and Biblical paintings tend to reduce TH to helpless giggles. The house, however, is something to see.

Its refurbishment has not made any real changes (though one would like to know what happened to the De Morgan tiles that used to be displayed in a cabinet on the stairs, which now houses some very fine Iznik tiles on loan) and the contrasts between the study, the plush dining room and the Arab Hall (see picture) are fabulous to see.

The problem is that the newly reopened house, which has an interesting website (though at least one visitor was complaining about misleading information, so it might be worth telephoning before a projected visit), a wonderful display of paintings, drawings and furnishing, a varied programme of events but, also, a very annoying booklet.

Its condescending tone (both towards the visitors and about Lord Leighton) set one's teeth on edge and there seems little point in starting the information with the words "Frederic Leighton was one of the most famous British artists of the nineteenth century". Do we really need to be told that the fine peacock in the front hall was "a symbol of a Victorian art movement that Leighton is often associated with - the Aesthetic Movement"? This booklet is not for schoolchildren but for all visitors who might be expected to have found out something about Lord Leighton and his circle of friends. This, too, is curious: "The aesthetes were appalled by the ugliness of Victorian Britain and wanted to re-introduce a sense of beauty into the world through their art." It is as if the likes of John Betjeman had never existed.

All Tory Historian can suggest is a visit to Leighton House and a complete lack of interest in the booklet at the entrance desk.

Away from Leighton House Tory Historian investigated the bookshelves of the local charity shops (the only second-hand bookshops that seem to be around these days in most parts of London and the country) and found two treasures. TH's copy of North and South, one of the greatest of the Victorian novels, has long gone AWOL. It was, therefore, pleasant to be able to replace it.

Another book was the 1998 reprint of the fifth Earl of Stanhope's Conversations with the Duke of Wellington. This counts as Victorian history as the conversations took place between 1831 and 1851, the Duke's death.

Reading Elizabeth Longford's Introduction and looking up details about the Earl of Stanhope made Tory Historian realize that he, too, was a fascinating man, one of those exhausting Victorians who seemed to achieve a great deal both in public and personal terms.
Stanhope's chief achievements were in the fields of literature and antiquities. In 1842 took a prominent part in passing the Literary Copyright Act 1842. From the House of Lords he was mainly responsible for proposing and organising the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1856. A sculpted bust of Stanhope holds the central place over the entrance of the building, flanked by fellow historians and supporters Thomas Carlyle and Lord Macaulay. It was mainly due to him that in 1869 the Historical Manuscripts Commission was started. As president of the Society of Antiquaries (from 1846 onwards), he called attention in England to the need of supporting the excavations at Troy. He was also president of the Royal Literary Fund from 1863 until his death, a trustee of the British Museum and founded the Stanhope essay prize at Oxford in 1855. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827.
Apart from all this he managed to write a number of serious historical works as well as his notes on the conversations with the Duke. The question really is why has nobody written a biography of this outstanding politician and historian?

The largest invasion force known in modern history sets out:

June 2, 1953 saw the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a day most people imagine as rather glorious, though, apparently it rained steadily. Well, what do you expect in England in June?

Here is an archival footage in which TV and film coverage are spliced as can be seen by the sudden appearance of colour about a third of the way through.

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