Have not yet read Robin Harris's The Conservatives - A History. In the meantime here is John O'Sullivan's excellent review that makes one want to rush out and get the book immediately.

November 28 is a double anniversary. In 1919 the first woman MP actually to take up her seat in the House of Commons was elected. Nancy Astor contested the seat of Plymouth South after her husband had succeeded to the title and went up to the House of Lords. She beat the Liberal candidate, Isaac Foot and, as the left-wing Spartacus Educational reminds us, her victory annoyed many professed feminists as she was definitely not one of them and a Conservative to boot. Also an American but she had made her home in Britain.

Time went on but left-wing attitudes did not change and similar attacks were directed at the first woman Prime Minister of this country, also a Conservative but in no way American, Margaret Thatcher. November 28, 1990 was the day on which she formally tendered her resignation to the Queen. Many of us can remember the shock of the occasion.

There have been previous postings about Thanksgiving and its significance both for the United States and the Anglosphere in general. (here, here and here)

This time Tory Historian brings to the notice of all the First Thanksgiving Proclamation - June 20. 1676. This was not, as it happens, the first celebration of Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621, to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Interestingly, it was not till 1942 that the exact timing of Thanksgiving - last Thursday in November - was fixed by Federal law.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the Anglosphere.

Another topic that needs to be covered at length on this site (and if any reader wants to pitch in with a few paragraphs, these will be much appreciated). To start with, here are Sir David Cannadine's comments as his new book, The Right Kind of History, is published. It is a history of history teaching in this country and a review copy is on its way to me. So I shall be able to write about the book itself.

In the meantime, what has Sir David to say about the present and the future of history teaching in British schools?

According to the BBC and the Guardian, he is advising the government, who is carrying out a revision of the curriculum to leave the content alone but to make the subject compulsory right until 16.

If we must have a compulsory curriculum then history should most definitely be part of it but is there any point in making it compulsory if the content is so poor. If children learn no dates, no consecutive knowledge of events and acquire no understanding of what happened in this or any other country then making that compulsory will not improve matters. Those of us who are not Princeton professors know that, in this case, Michael Gove happens to be right, when he says that
A generation of children knows virtually nothing about British history and leaves school "woefully under-nourished", Education Secretary Michael Gove warned today.

Even university students studying the subject are failing to recall basic historical facts, he said. Mr Gove said that around half of young people were unaware that Nelson led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, or that the Romans built Hadrian's Wall.
Even if they happen to have heard of those particular facts they rarely have an idea of which of them came first as history is taught, if at all, in bits and unrelated pieces. Time, surely, to take the problem seriously. Perhaps, my idea of setting up a school or college that taught only history to all those who are willing to pay should be thought about more seriously.

As it happens there were two events of some importance on that day, both deaths, though the immediate reporting for many days, weeks, months and, it sometimes feels, even years, has concentrated on one: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This blog refuses to go into any conspiracy theories, especially as most of them have been disproved by recent re-examination of the evidence, and would merely like to point out that the way political attitudes seemed to be one year before the election, Kennedy seemed reasonably certain to lose. Of course, many things could have happened.

However, there is no question that the assassination of the American President in broad daylight while he was being driven in an official motorcade, shocked the country and the world. It is fair to say that it was not Kennedy's presidency, which had its ups and downs, mostly downs, but his assassination that changed American politics though one hopes only temporarily.

The other event of that day was the death of C. S. Lewis, one of the best known children's writers, literary critics and popular Christian philosophers in the English-speaking world. His death was not dramatic but the outcome of a long illness and even longer refusal to look after himself properly.

This blog may have some reservations about Lewis's writings and even greater reservations about the sentimentalization of his life but has no doubts whatsoever that of the two men who died forty-eight years ago, he is the one whose name will continue to be honoured by people of all ages.

ADDENDUM: It has been pointed out to me that another important writer died on that day: Aldous Huxley of laryngeal cancer and, possibly, drug abuse in Los Angeles.

Tory Historian is a great supporter of the London Library, which is described by Wikipedia, probably accurately, as "the world's largest independent lending library, and the UK's leading literary institution".

Founded in 1841 by various people, but most notably Thomas Carlyle who was dissatisfied (as he so frequently was) with the British Library and did not, it is said, have enough books about the French Revolution, it has been at 14 St James's Square since 1845, always changing yet remaining the same. In the last few years a great deal of new space has been added through the purchase of an adjacent building and much construction and reconstruction the problems of which drove many members quite frantic. None of that work had been possible without the unparalleled generosity of Valerie Eliot, the great poet's widow, who donated £2.5 million. The new building, located behind the main St James's Square one, formerly known as Duchess House, is now called the T. S. Eliot House though TH would have preferred Old Possum House. Ah well, can't have everything.

This is what the Library itself has to say:
1841: As The London Library was founded in 1841 we've been taking a look at other significant literary events that took place in the same year and as well as being busy founding The London Library, Thomas Carlyle published On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History. Another early supporter of the Library, Charles Dickens, published The Old Curiosity Shop. In the same year Punch magazine was founded in London and Horace Greeley began publication of the New York Tribune.

All one can add is that the library's history collection is magnificent but nothing can beat the Reading Room and its extraordinarily comfortable armchairs. Warning: do not sink into them if you do not wish to fall asleep.

And why not? Pubs, in their many manifestations (yes, inns and public houses have changed over the centuries), are an intrinsic part of British history, different in different parts of the country.

London Historians are organizing a second History in the Pub event [scroll down to fourth item] on November 29, between 7 and 9 at The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, Spitalfields.

Here is an account of the first, highly successful event.

The Duke of Wellington, one of Tory Historian's heroes was a considerably more important politician (as well as an overwhelmingly important military commander) than TH had been led to believe at school. He was also a man who was admired unstintingly by all except the Radicals (and even they inclined to some admiration).

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.
His funeral on November 18, 1852 "caused as much of a stir in the mass media of 1852 as did Sir Winston Churchill's in the middle of the twentieth century". This link will lead to a list of references and illustrations in contemporary Illustrated London News. Here is a brief account of the funeral - it was the last heraldic state funeral held in Britain.

A massive 10 hour raid by the Luftwaffe left Coventry devastated on November 15, 1940.

Viscount Castlereagh has never been given his full due by his own countrymen, argues Professor Bew in this article. There is, he says, an attempt to make him sound entirely relevant to the modern age but that is wrong, too.

The truth is that Castlereagh can be understood only as a product of the time in which he operated, rather than as a bearer of any timeless insights. Nonetheless, as his descendant, the Marchioness of Londonderry, argued in 1904, he was not ‘the old-fashioned Tory that ignorant opinion supposes’. Often presented as the enemy of Enlightenment, he travelled widely in Europe, read a broad range of literature and eschewed the anti-Catholicism of many of his peers in England and Ireland. He was convinced that the only approach that government could take towards religion was one of toleration and that each man had the right to make his peace with God on his own terms. True, he was an enemy of political reform, but this was because of the dangers of mob politics which he saw first-hand in Paris during the French Revolution and Ireland during the rebellion of 1798.

Thus Castlereagh’s mind was conservative and enlightened at the same time – and no less the one for being the other. ‘I think those people who are acquainted with me,’ he told the House of Commons in 1817, ‘will do me justice to believe that I never had a cruel or unkind heart.’
Professor Bew's own book will undoubtedly put the matter right. Well, we hope so, anyway.

Tory Historian was delighted to read this item in the Daily Telegraph a few days ago.

RJ Balson and Sons, a butchers based in Bridport, Dorset, boasts an astonishing history that is almost 500 years old.

Experts have traced the businesses roots back through 25 generations to when founder John Balson opened a stall in the town's market on South Street in 1535.
Since then dozens of family members have worked as butchers in the market town, passing their skills down the generations.

And 476 years later, the shop remains a thriving business and has been named Britain's oldest family run retailer.
The business has expanded and is thriving.
It has been in its present location since 1880, not far from its orginal location.

According to the Institute for Family Business, this makes it the oldest continuously trading family business in Britain.

The firm sells its produce, including 20 varieties of sausages such as els, boar and ostrich,l all over the world, with a large customer base in America.

It also sells exotic fare such as pheasants and guinea fowl but has remained close to its traditional roots.
One can but hope that the account books have been preserved somewhere for all the centuries. What a mine of fascinating information they would be.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The tanks came back. Budapest, November 4, 1956

I am planning to have a series of articles about detective fiction on this site as it is, in my opinion, the most conservative of all genres, a proposition that I shall argue at a later date. As ever, this is also an appeal to readers: if there is anybody out there who is thinking of writing anything about a detective story or thriller writer or about the genre or any part of it in general, do please send it to me and I shall put it up on this site and publicize it as well as I can.

To start with I should like to quote P. D. James, possibly the best known and most highly regarded writer of detective fiction in Britain and other countries at present. A couple of years ago she wrote a slim volume (unlike her most recent novels, which are not just fat but obese) about the genre as a whole. I intend to write about this book as it is of interest to anyone who is interested in the genre and in conservative ideas. For the moment, however, I should like to quote two paragraphs that appear towards the end and sum up the subject:

And here in the detective story we have a problem at the heart of the novel, and one which is solved, not by luck or divine intervention, but by human ingenuity, human intelligence and human courage. It confirms our hope that, despite some evidence to the contrary, we live in a beneficent and moral universe in which problems can be solved by rational means and peace and order restored from communal or persona disruption and chaos.

And if it is true, as the evidence suggests, that the detective story flourishes best in the most difficult of times, we may well be at the beginning of a new Golden Age.
One can but hope. We are sadly in need of some sort of a Golden Age.

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