Re-reading the second volume of Harold Nicolson's diaries I came across the following for 16th December, 1941, when the author had been pushed out of the government and made one of the BBC's Trustees.

Harry Strauss [Conservative MP for Norwich 1935 - 1945, for Combined English Universities 1946 - 1950 and for Norwich South 1950 - 1955, later 1st Baron Conesford] attacks me on the grounds that the BBC is almost wholly left-wing. The Conservative view is never presented. It is difficult to tell him that most of the right-wing people make bad broadcasters. Let them find their own Priestley. 
To which one could reply that it is the BBC's job to find a right-wing J. B. Priestley, who, one must admit, was outstanding as a broadcaster. However, were there really no possible right-wing broadcasters of talent?

This reminds me of one of the many discussions I took part  in on the bias in the BBC cultural output when somebody said that there was a problem with balance as, after all, there was no right-wing equivalent to David Hare and what can we do about that. Ahem, said a number of participants including me, what of the best living playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard? Collapse of stout party.

And on that note: Happy New Year to all. May 2014 be a year of conservatism.

Not yet time for resolutions so this blog will stick to the traditional greetings: Merry Christmas to one and all.

During an idle and entertaining re-reading of Harold Nicolson's diaries I found the following entry for June 22, 1930:

I talk to Macmillan. He says that the old party machines are worn out and that the modern electorate thinks more of personalities and programmes than of pressure put upon them by electoral agents. He thinks that the economic situation is so serious that it will lead to a breakdown of the whole party system. He foresees that the Tories may return with a majority of 20 and then be swept away on a snap vote. No other single party will form a Government and then there will be a Cabinet of young men. 
Of course, at the moment we cannot envisage the Tories getting a majority of twenty and we already have a Cabinet of young men. We've had one of those for a long time and the talk about the old party system breaking down goes on as before.

As we approach a year that will be full of contentious and paralyzingly dull books, articles, celebrations, analyses and other suchlike events of the First World War (indeed, the process has started already) I feel it appropriate that I have just finished reading Marina Soroka's extraordinarily detailed account of the  last Russian Imperial Ambassador's career in London.

Count Benckendorff was an interesting person and I shall be writing more about him but first some paragraphs about the beginning of the war that was not supposed to happen. This is what Dr Soroka writes (pp. 258 - 259)

No one as yet had blamed the war on "the old diplomacy". In fact, no one had ever blamed diplomats for wars, for it was common knowledge in Europe that governments led nations into wars for various reasons, some honourable and some not, but diplomats patched up the quarrels which governments started and armies fought. Diplomats were the most civilized and pacific representatives of their nations.

In the summer of 1914 they had not done anything different from what they had always done in crises, and their responsibility for what happened was no greater than for the Crimean war or the Franco-Prussian war or the Italo-Turkish war. During the Anglo-Boer war there was a moment, in 1900, when Germany, Russia and France seemed to be on the verge of intervening to make Britain sign peace, But, as a French government official wrote: strategic interests, humanitarian considerations and public opinion sympathetic to the Boers failed to outweigh the three powers' political interests, prudence and expediency. Much as their public opinion sympathized with the Boers, the governments backed away from a confrontation, resigning themselves to the fact that "England will swallow the two poor nations without being disturbed or distracted". [Abel Combareieu] A major conflict was avoided.

In July 1914 the inability to think beyond the status and strategy considerations deprived the European cabinets of real alternatives and diplomacy  was pushed aside while the military advised the heads of governments. When the unforeseen duration and the scope of the war became clear the nations fell on their governments, which sought the most plausible scapegoats and deftly passed the blame on to the diplomats. By 1918 the "old diplomacy", roundly condemned for its undemocratic, secretive and inefficient character, had been demoted to the rank of a handmaiden to the pure-minded monarchs, prime ministers and presidents of the powers whose inherently pacific intentions had been so poorly served by their elitist and hawkish foreign offices.
And another myth was born. I may add that the heavy-handed irony of the last sentence is most uncharacteristic of Dr Soroka.

Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector on December 16, 1653. This was England's only experiment with a republic and a military dictatorship (the two are not necessarily the same). It was not altogether a success though I have always liked Cromwell for two reasons: the well-spoken way in which he got rid of that pesky Rump Parliament in April 1653 ("You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!") and for abolishing Christmas celebrations. That might not be entirely accurate but I think of the Lord Protector with gritted teeth as I fight my way through crowds with large shopping bags, avoid horrible decorations and try to block out tinny versions of whichever Christmas song has taken the version of the shop I have to enter or, at least, pass.

A hefty tome from Oxford University Press: One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper, which should provide hours of entertainment and enlightenment. On a more serious note, the third issue of West Midlands History. The first two were fascinating and I am sure this one will be as well.

What better way to come back after a slight gap (again) than by two tales of possibly the greatest British Prime Minister of the twentieth century, Margaret Thatcher.

One is a very entertaining account by Nigel Farndale, based on reminiscences, of an event that is not quite as unknown as he seems to make out but not very well known either: a dinner organized by Lord Thomas of Swynnerton (the historian Hugh Thomas) for a large group of litterati and academics to meet the Prime Minister who was not then or later considered to be particularly enamoured of the arts.

It would appear from the accounts that she was fairly knowledgeable about poetry and other literary matters but was not particularly fond of the literary self-regard displayed by several of the guests. Also, she disliked the Arts Council and its various denizens, which was always taken as a sign of philistinism by those who benefited handsomely from its tax-funded largesse.

It would appear, also that the male gathering was smitten by her, which seems to have been true in other male gatherings as well. Anyone who doubts that should listen to some reminiscences by those who fought in the Falklands.

The second tale is of greater political significance. It is a letter, written by the Prime Minister to President de Klerk of South Africa, giving him an outline of the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government she had just attended where South Africa was discussed at length as well as her ideas on how to proceed with regards to that country and its international standing. The letter is well worth reading for its exceedingly clear-sighted analysis and proposals.

Here are a few excerpts:

My rebuttal of the case for sanctions rested on two main premises: that sanctions do not work, indeed are likely to be counter-productive and damaging to those they are intended to help: and that it was inappropriate to take punitive action against South Africa at the very moment when you are taking steps to get rid of apartheid and to make major changes in the system of government in South Africa. I received a good deal of abuse in response, being accused of preferring British jobs to African lives, of being concerned with pennies rather than principles, of lack of concern for human rights and much more in the same vein. I in turn reminded them of some of the less satisfactory features of their own societies and pointed to the inconsistency of trading with the Soviet Union, with its appalling human rights record, and putting trade sanctions on South Africa.
She continued a little further on:
My other main purpose was to secure Commonwealth backing for dialogue between the South African Government and representatives of the black community in the context of a suspension of violence by all sides. The concept of course comes from your earlier letter to me: and I hope you will agree that it is no small achievement to have persuaded the Commonwealth to put its name to a suspension of violence, though there are several governments who will not wish to see substance given to this commitment if they can avoid it.
She then makes several proposals, including ideas for what President de Klerk might do. This is the key comment, in view of what has happened just a couple of days ago:
I continue to believe, as I have said to you before, that the release of Nelson Mandela would have more impact than almost any single action you could undertake.
There is evidence that Mrs Thatcher's insistence on Nelson Mandela's release played an important part in de Klerk's decision to do so. The whole letter is very well worth reading.

Alas, pressure of time, tasks and duties has prevented Tory Historian from attending the talk on Disraeli given this evening by Lord Hurd and Edward Young, the biography's co-author. Nothing for it: the book will have to be read and reviewed.

One cannot let this day pass without remembering the great event of November 19, 1863 when the Soldiers' National Cemetery was dedicated at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the battle in which the Union army was victorious.

The star turn was the Hon. Edward Everett, pastor, politician, former Harvard President, former Secretary of State and Massachussetts Senator, who gave, as was normal in those days, a two-hour speech, entitled The Battles of Gettysburg. It was full of oratoric flourishes and historic references to other wars. Nobody can even recall the name of the man without looking it up (guilty as charged).

Then the President, Abraham Lincoln stood up and said a few words that have resonated through the succeeding century and a half:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
There has been some discussion on whether those words "government of the people, by the people, for the people" were Lincoln's own or was he quoting, again as was normal in those days of greater knowledge of the classics and religious writers, someone else, specifically John Wycliffe.

It would appear that the General Prologue to Wycliffe's Bible, the first to be translated fully into English, had the words:
This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
No reason why Lincoln or many of his audience should not know that, though few people nowadays would remember that Wycliffe is the name of a great scholar, religious teacher, precursor of the Reformation and the first translator of the Bible into vernacular English as well as that of a fictional detective.

However, there is a problem with his authorship of those words. That they appeared in the Bible of 1384 was first mentioned and the words quoted by Clark Ezra Carr in 1906 in his book, Lincoln at Gettysburg : An Address. Colonel Carr, as Galesburg postmaster had represented Illionois on the committee that made the arrangements for the event and it was he who insisted that the President should be invited to the Dedication and asked to say a few words though Lincoln was known as not being much of an orator.

One might, therefore, say that Colonel Carr knew whereof he spoke when he made the connection between the Gettysburg Address and John Wycliffe's great translation.

Indeed, the speech, short but carefully crafted, is "laced with religious language and meaning". But did it quote Wycliffe?

That seems a little more doubtful. It seems reasonable to assume that the General Prologue was written after Wycliffe's death by John Purvey who completed and revised the translation. Indeed, it was probably written about ten years after Wycliffe's death. He had died in 1384 and the Prologue was probably written some time in 1394 or 1395.

Does it matter? The words Lincoln spoke have been more powerful and influential than almost any other in modern history; they were also an echo of a far older tradition which, unsurprisingly, was English, full of English history and English thought.

On October 22 I went to a book launch at the very fine Daunt's bookshop in Holland Park Avenue. The book in question was The Daffodil Party, a debut thriller by the author and quondam editor of Debrett's Handbook and Burke's Peerage, the ever charming and gregarious Charles Mosley (and here).

Charles and I had known each other in the past and shared many friends but had lost touch for years. It was the much derided Facebook, whose ability to encourage renewed friendships ought to be welcomed by all true conservatives, that allowed us to renew our friendship. I was delighted to receive an invitation to the book launch, delighted to attend and delighted to manage to exchange a few words with Charles with ideas for future meetings.

Alas, there will be no meetings. This wonderful and talented man, the epitome, surely, of Englishness died not long after that event. It seems that he already knew that he had inoperable cancer when he sat there smiling and joking with his friends, signing books and exchanging gossip. The Daily Telegraph gives a very fine obituary that brings a lump to one's throat.

For various reasons to do with ongoing research I have been reading some of the essays in the volume edited by  T. G. Otte, The Makers of British Foreign Policy. The first chapter, an introductory overview of the period "from Malplaquet to Maastricht" (a proper acknowledgement of the importance of both those treaties) and written by Professor Otte has this to say among many other  interesting matters (p. 12):

The changing political structure of Britain after the extension of the franchise in 1867, moreover, affected the framing and executing of foreign policy. The rising middle class's stringency began to outweigh the aristocracy's traditional appreciation of Europe's significance for British interests, though between Canning and Grey only three Foreign Secretaries sat in the House of Commons. Victorian finance pursued strictly economic ends. Between the Crimean War and the Boer War, Britain's national debt fell steadily. With the reduction in government expenditure, the size and preparedness of Britain's army declined.

The relative insignificance of Britain's armed forces compared with the mass armies of France and Prussia-Germany, and the inapplicability of naval pressure against the dominant Continental powers further restricted Britain's ability to interfere in Europe. The prevailing economizing consensus, indeed, created a mindset that would ultimately contribute to Neville Chamberlain's problems in the late 1930s. The desire of mid-Victorian public opinion for abstention sapped the ability of governments to lead with confidence. 
This raises several interesting points not least that European entanglement was not new to Britain in the twentieth century but it was something that was seen by a growing section of the extended electorate as not being wholly desirable.

Disraeli (later Lord Beaconsfield) was prepared to challenge that opinion and, if needs be to manipulate it both in his readiness to threaten Russia with a naval squadron and to run rings round it in diplomacy (and that, despite the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry managed to intercept and decipher most diplomatic telegrams that came anywhere near them or their agents).

It was Gladstone whose policy was beset by ambiguity that has dogged all liberal interventionists ever since, particularly if they wanted to control expenditure. On the one hand, he saw it as Britain's duty to develop an active European policy, on the other hand he wished to eschew Continental entanglements that were liable to cost the country dear and bring no immediately obvious benefits.

A couple of pages later Professor Otte writes:
The underlying problem for British diplomacy at the close of the nineteenth century was that British governments saw European affairs in light of Britain's imperial interests. Continental governments, by contrast, viewed colonial problems in terms of the general great power constellation in Europe.

As a result, British diplomacy tended to regard agreements on issues arising from the geostrategic periphery as a means to reduce European frictions, which, in turn, could impinge on Britain's overseas interests. The European powers judged the value of any agreement with Britain by its utility in forcing Britain in taking part in Continental affairs. Thus, Anglo-German alliance talks in 1898 and 1900 - 01 came to nothing and the Anglo-French entente after 1904 was plagued by different interpretations as to the nature and extend of the understanding. 
The Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 was fraught with even more difficulties and misunderstandings (not to mention bad faith on both sides) and was fraying badly by the summer of 1914.

For many of the same reasons I have also been reading a somewhat less satisfactory book by Marina Soroka, Britain, Russia and the Road to the First World War, which does, however, have an interesting comment about the ideas behind diplomacy in that period.
In the 1900s European governments tried to implement their foreign policies without losing sight of two guiding principles. One stated that the "man in the street never cares two damns about foreign politics until he finds himself landed in the wary". The other cautioned that if a government went against the "national feeling" too often or too openly, it might  undermined the popular confidence in its foreign policy. How universal these axioms were is obvious from the fact that the first one was expressed by a Foreign Office bureaucrat in  parliamentary Britain and the second by the Russian autocrat Alexander III. 
The two opinions are related though Marina Soroka does not exactly explain how. In general, her book proposes certain theses and then floods the pages with detailed facts and quotations from official and unofficial correspondence, hoping that the theses will find support somewhere in that flood.

While British governments of the late nineteenth century found it difficult to conduct a foreign policy with the electorate more  interested in balanced budgets than doubtful European glory, it it also true that by the time of the early twentieth century many diplomats and officials in various foreign ministries found themselves driven to a more aggressive foreign policy than they would  have preferred by popular opinion, expressed by the newspapers all too often and by politicians who felt they had to react to that opinion.

Technical problems have prevented postings on this site and on Tory Historian's blog. These have now been solved or so we have been led to assume. Postings will resume in a very short time.

The book on Knole and the Sackvilles (mentioned here and here) has now been read. There are many interesting moments in it but one particularly tantalizing question arose on page 134: could John Frederick Sackville, the third Duke of Dorset have prevented the French Revolution.

The Sackville family became great supporters of cricket on their estate and, indeed, played it themselves, putting together teams at various times to play others.

In 1783 the third Duke of Dorset was appointed ambassador to the court of Louis XVI. By all accounts, he was a lazy and not very intelligent though amiable sort of chap, who was fond of cricket, tennis and billiards as well as society gossip. He did manage to be on very good terms with Marie Antoinette but had little appreciation of the storm that was brewing in France during his term as ambassador.

One thing he did try to achieve, with indifferent success, was to introduce cricket to the French society. As Robert Sackville-West says, the historian G. M. Trevelyan claimed that
If the French noblesse had been capable of playing cricket with their peasants [as the English aristocracy and their tenants and labourers did] their chateaux would never have been burnt. 
Which suggests that if the British ambassador had been successful in getting the French aristocracy to play cricket, preferably with their peasants, which begs the odd question, the French Revolution might never have happened. A sobering thought.

October 16, 1834 was the day Parliament burned down to be rebuilt eventually into the grand edifice we know today with Westminster Hall the only remaining mediaeval part. Caroline Shenton, a Parliamentary Archivist and author of  The Day Parliament Burned Downdescribes the events of that traumatic day.

J. M. W. Turner played the role of a disaster photographer by setting up his easel on the other side of the Thames and getting down as many sketches as he could.

And here are a few excerpts from the newspapers of the day.

And talking of Georgians, the British Library's next big exhibition is going to be about them. The full title will be Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain and it promises to be fascinating. One hopes there will not be too much harping on the various clashes between politesse and riotous behaviour, riches and poverty and more emphasis on this:

From beautifully furnished homes to raucous gambling dens, Georgians Revealed explores the revolution in everyday life that took place between 1714 and 1830. Cities and towns were transformed. Taking tea, reading magazines, gardening and shopping for leisure were commonplace, and conspicuous consumption became the pastime of the emerging middle classes.

Popular culture as we know it began, and with it the unstoppable rise of fashion and celebrity. Art galleries, museums and charities were founded. In this time of incredible innovation, ideas were endlessly debated in the new coffee houses and spread via the information highway that was mass print.
It will open on November 8 and this blog will report on it.

In the meantime, there is a smaller and wholly delightful exhibition of illustrations to children's books, tucked away in that odd bit of space to the coffee bar.

The Georgian Gentleman blog came my way because of its highly entertaining posting on coalitions then and now, complete with a Gillray cartoon of Charles James Fox and the 2nd Earl of Guilford, that can be described as "robust" and an updated version that used some version of photoshop. There seems to have been a good deal less snivelling among politicians at the time and they often gave as good as they received.

The blog, by Mike Rendell is based on diaries, letters and miscellaneous papers he inherited from his ancestor, Richard Hall, "a hosier who lived at One London Bridge, who saw and felt the changes with his own eyes, who shared the general thirst for knowledge, and who made and lost a fortune".

Tory Historian continues to find Robert Sackville-West's book on Knole and the Sackvilles fascinating. Edward Sackville, the 4th Earl of Dorset, was described by his highly romantic descendant Vita Sackville-West as "the embodiment of Cavalier romance". As the author points out, he was a far more complicated character with interesting ideas though he did find himself on the Royalist side, despite his exasperation with King Charles I.
Edward believed passionately in monarchy, but in a monarchy limited by the rule of law and by the obligation to work with the Church and with Parliament. So finely tuned was the constitution which he and his allies upheld that any monarch would necessarily, and instinctively, seek to maintain a sense of harmony, generally by asking consent for his actions. Edward's attitude to the Petition of Right hardened to one of outright opposition because he believed there was no need for Parliament to prescribe, and legislate for, this delicate balance; and that any attempt to do so was as an unacceptable limitation on the King's prerogative and instinctive good sense.
As he and his allies found, that delicate balance was very hard to hold. National tragedy resulted in the short term but a stronger constitutional structure in the long.

The Museum of London has brought together for the first time since its discovery the entire Cheapside Hoard for an exhibition this winter. The collection of jewellery from the 16th and early 17th century was discovered more than a century ago (in 1912, to be precise) by by workmen using a pickaxe to excavate in a cellar near Cheapside in the City of London.

The Jewellery Editor writes:
The collection of 500 gems, including loose stones, ancient objects and even tools suggest this was the stock in-trade of a jeweller, one of the many that lined the thoroughfare of Cheapside. Buried, probably for safety, it's owner never reclaimed the hidden treasure. It's diversity of rare stones, from around the world and the opulence of some of its pieces speaks of London's key role in the international gem trade in an age of global conquest and exploration.
Most probably the jewels were buried during the Civil War but, one assumes the exhibition will have notes about the latest research on the subject. Some discussion of this was published in the Independent earlier this year.

Yesterday's anniversary of Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich with that famous piece of paper in his hands requires a longish blog, on which I am working. In the meantime, let me remind readers of another anniversary, one that shows the triumph of humanity over barbarity.

October 1, 1943 was going to be the date on which the SS would round up the 7,800 Jews of Denmark, arguing that as the evening was that of Rosh Hashanah, they would all be at home. Instead, almost all of them had been warned, gone into hiding and were taken out of the country to Sweden, many to continue their journey onwards. Notable among those was the great physicist, Niels Bohr who was taken to the United States immediately.

This short summary on the Yad Vashem website mentions that the Danes were awarded the Righteous Among Nations title and also that large sums of money were paid to the sailors who agreed to take the refugees to Sweden.

For once, I suggest going to Wikipedia, which gives a much more detailed analysis, naming some of the rescuers, explaining the role of the German diplomat, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz and adding

At first, a few "bad apples" among the fishermen assisting in the rescue charged an excessive sum of money to transport Jews to Sweden, but most took just a modest payments from those who could pay for the passage or were helped by funds supplied by the organizers. The Danish underground took an active role in organizing the rescue and providing financing, mostly from wealthy Danes who donated large sums of money to the endeavor.
Not all were rescued. About 450 were arrested by the Gestapo and some perished during the journey. It was, nevertheless a stupendous effort in which large sections of the Danish population were involved directly with the support of others. It is a little sad to hear that the story of King Christian X wearing the yellow star because the Jews were his subjects, too, is a myth but the truth is quite honourable enough.

Denmark marked the anniversary a couple of days ago, on the anniversary of when the Jews were actually warned.

Tory Historian has made a momentous decision to concentrate in future blogs on books and what one can gleam from them. It will be a kind of a reading diary of books that might be considered to be relevant to the blog.

First off, a book picked up in a strange little bookshop near South Kensington station and next to Daquise restaurant (which is still operating, TH is glad to say, and serving excellent Polish food). The books is entitled Inheritance with a subtitle that explains all: The Story of Knole and the Sackvilles, by Robert Sackville-West, the 7th Earl Sackville, a publisher and chairman of Knole Estates, and, with his family, the inhabitant of one part of Knole, most of which is open to the public.

The story starts with that formidable and somewhat piratical Elizabethan, Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, who survived many things, including the enmity of the Earl of Leicester and who built Knole as the great Renaissance palace in the middle of Kent.

Because the various documents to do with the building and decorating have been kept and have survived through the centuries, the names of the many workmen are actually known, something that is rarely true. On pages 14 and 15 of the paperback version there are names of ironmongers, stonemasons, locksmyths, brasiers, plommers, plaisterers and so on.

The Earl supervised the building whenever he managed to get time in his busy life (he died of what must have been a stroke or a sudden heart attack in the middle of a Council meeting) and ideas were taken from books published on the Continent about architecture and decorating. There were, at the time, no architects as such and ideas were handed on from father to son, from employer to apprentice. This is what Sackville-West says after describing some of the paintings and decorations in the Great Chamber and on the Great Staircase:

These matches, and copies, show how the design scheme for Knole was assembled. They are also and example, more generally, of the Renaissance in action in England: of how ideas, or least motifs, spread. Thomas Sackville had been on grand tours of France and Italy in the 1560s, where he must have seen many of the new Renaissance buildings. He and his master craftsmen would also have been familiar with the pattern books, newly printed in France, Italy or the Netherlands, which circulated amongst a small group of builders, like source books or design magazines today, providing inspiration and templates. Patrons swapped ideas, and recommended - and poached craftsmen - to and from each other. Designs were adapted and spread across England, site by site, gradually creating a distinctive national style. This did not mean that the English builders necessarily understood the philosophy and intellectual principles that underlay the Renaissance approach to architecture: merely that they liked some of the devices, which they could then graft, in a pick-and-mix way, on to a more homegrown tradition. 

We have just been informed that copies of the new issue of the Conservative History Journal (our printed but friendly rival) is available at the Conservative Party Conference. More to the point, copies to existing subscribers are in the post and those interested in subscribing can do so on the Group's website: You know it makes sense.

On the website you will also find information about the next event on November 25 in the House of Commons when Lord Hurd and Edward Young will speak about their new biography of Disraeli. There will be more information about the event nearer the time.

It is a daguerrotype really but they are early photographs so that counts. This came my way from Iconic Photos, a site I had not been aware of. It has now been bookmarked. The picture dates back to 1844 and was made by Antoine Claudet, one of the pioneers in the field and a student of Louis Daguerre.
Having acquired a share in L. J. M. Daguerre's invention, he was one of the first to practice daguerreotype portraiture in England, and he improved the sensitizing process by using chlorine (instead of bromine) in addition to iodine, thus gaining greater rapidity of action. He also invented the red (safe) dark-room light, and it was he who suggested the idea of using a series of photographs to create the illusion of movement. The idea of using painted backdrops is also attributed to him.

From 1841 to 1851 he operated a studio on the roof of the Adelaide Gallery (now the Nuffield Centre), behind St. Martin's in the Fields church, London. He opened subsequent studios at the Colosseum in Regent's Park (1847–1851) and at 107 Regent Street (1851–1867).
It looks like the photograph of the Duke of Wellington was taken at the studio behind St Martin's in the Fields. There were several subsequent paintings and etchings of the Duke made from Claudet's photograph but none of them are quite as good as the original. As it says on Iconic Photos:
The photo itself taken in 1844 was a remarkable bridge across centuries. Memories of Elizabeth the First or the English Civil War were as fresh and recent to Wellington (born 1769) as Wellington or Lincoln is to us. The photo was different from latter paintings and engravings based upon it — unlike the kindly old man which smiled down from the paintings, the photo showed a crankier, more determined Wellington — a face you truly expect from the Victor of Waterloo.
I think it might be this portrait by Abraham Solomon, listed as being by an unknown artist here, that is meant here. It is not nearly as good as earlier portraits or the photograph, which is well worth looking at carefully.  The only problem is that while it is easily available on the internet, I have not been able to find out where the original is.

This blog has already mentioned the History West Midlands site and the first issue of its magazine, West Midlands History. The second issue is out; this and the next issue are free, thereafter a subscription will be required. Not a big one and may well be worth it. The website has all the details.

The magazine's second issue is about migration into the West Midlands from other parts of the country and from the world. The three most interesting articles are about Italian immigration, the Polish community and about the presence of black people in the West Midlands before 1807 (abolition of the slave trade).

Other articles are also worth reading, of course, but these were the ones that really appealed to me.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), a complicated affair of many different treaties signed between various countries that brought to an end the War of Spanish Succession. Signed on April 11 (and yes, it ought to have been noted then), its principal provisions included the ceding of Gibraltar to Britain and so it has remained though from time to time the issue is revived by Spanish governments, particularly if there are economic or political problems in the country.

Today is Gibraltar's National Day, established in 1991, to commemorate the 1967 referendum, in which all but 44 voters expressed a desire to stay British. Another referendum in 2002 produce a very similar result.

Economic historians are not usually entertaining but David S. Landes, author of the seminal The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (it even has a Wikipedia entry all of its own) was as well as original. When he was accused of being "eurocentric" in his approach he did not deny it, pointing out that economic development that changed the world started in Europe and was based on European ideas.

There is an excellent obituary in the New York Times. His son, Richard Landes, also an historian has collected obituaries, eulogies and articles that his father had written either alone or with others, including his son. But nothing can be better than reading David S. Landes's own work.

Susan Abernethy describes herself as a free-lance historian, a category of people that is actually quite numerous but about whom less is written than about academics and teledons. She writes a blog called The Freelance Historian, which is TH's envy: there are many entries on various subjects that Ms Abernethy is interested in and they are all detailed and well researched.

There is information about Susan Abernethy herself here and more in this interview.

It is a little difficult to listen to a series that is broadcast at 1.45 pm every day on Radio 4 in fifteen minute chunks but there will be a so-called omnibus edition of all of this week's episodes this evening at 9 pm. The same pattern of broadcasting will apply next week, I believe. The programmes are also available on iPlayer.

The BBC seems to think that a history of British conservatism that does not talk of nasty mill owners sending children up chimneys is obviously going to be "surprising". Anne McElvoy who would not call herself conservative in any way, gives an interesting summary of how she and the programme's producers approached the series and manages to pack every known name of anyone who can be called conservative in the article, though I notice she does not talk about the role of women in the Primrose League or the Conservative Party in general. In fact, there seems no mention of the League at all in the article though a little bit of understanding of its activity, as this blog has pointed out, would make the BBC even more surprised at the number of things it considers to be left-wing developments that were actually not.

Mark Wallace, Executive Editor of ConHome has written a sort of a response to MsMcElvoy's article and series as it is so far. Here are a few paragraphs from it but the whole article is worth reading.
Conservatism is a complex thing. It is either not an ideology at all, or a meld of ideas containing numerous internal contradictions, depending on your preference. What other movement can have absorbed both the driving entrepreneurialism of the industrial revoluion and the romantic opposition to it - simultaneously embracing the progress brought by "dark satanic mills" and the romantic view of the English rural village?
The North - South divide? It did not work against the Conservatives in the past. (As a matter of fact, I am old enough to recall Leeds with four constituencies, two of which were Conservative and two Labour, one MP being Sir Keith Joseph.)
While nowadays Conservatives agonise about how to appeal in the North of England, McElvoy points out that many of the ideas and approaches traditionally associated with small-c conservatism evolved in Northern settings. The broad brush stereotype that the home counties are Thatcherite and everywhere north of Watford is socialist would have horrified 19th century aristocrats who disliked free trade as much as it would have annoyed the skilled, Conservative workers of many a Midlands industrial town.
And here is some more about the contradictory role of Benjamin Disraeli without whom we cannot have a history of conservatism or of the Conservative Party:
For Disraeli, the middle class were greedy profiteers, a slim but powerful layer almost as wealthy as the nobility but lacking the noblesse oblige he longed to see restored. He saw the new form of the world as an unjust, binary monstrosity, writing in his novel Sybil of the dream of there one day being "some resting place between luxury and misery".

He was nostalgic for what he believed was the place of ordinary workers in a feudal village that had in the agrarian Middle Ages, something he feared was being destroyed by industrialisation. We may know today that most feudal peasants experienced short, unpleasant lives, but he believed they had lived in relative comfort, with a true place and part to play in their community. What he described was today's middle class - what he thought he was describing was something altogether different.

Few things could better typify the internal contradictions of conservatism than a Prime Minister who worked to create a ladder into the new middle class while believing he was simply restoring a mythical state of feudal yemoanry. He may not have been an enthusiast for suburban terraces funded by factory smokestacks (it was left to his Liberal rival Gladstone to praise booming Middlesbrough as England's "infant Hercules"), but he bolstered a middle class that was inherently tied to both, regardless of his intentions.
Read the whole thing and try to catch up with the series. One can but hope it will be repeated quite soon but in the meantime there is the iPlayer.

The Guildhall Library is not as well known as it should be, despite its convenient location and astonishing collection. So, this blog is going to do its best by promoting it. (There will be other institutions the blog will take under its wing. This is merely the start.)

Here is a list of forthcoming events this year.

The most memorable one is probably that of the unconditional surrender signed by the Japanese on September 2, 1945 on SS Missouri. (No, it was not the Emperor who signed it on Japan's behalf as President Obama once said, but by the Foreign Minister, Mamoro Shigemitsu and General Umezu. While the Emperor remained in place, there was an unquestionable regime change during a prolonged American occupation. One cannot really argue that Japan is not a better place for that.

Moving backward into history, today is the 170th anniversary of the first issue of that venerable "newspaper", The Economist, founded by businessman and banker, James Wilson, to advance the repeal of the Corn Laws and, in general, dedicated to the notions of free trade. One wonders to what extent those ideas have been kept going by his present-day successors.

Even further back: September 2, 1666, saw the start of the Great Fire of London that lasted for three days, causing a great deal of material destruction though few actual deaths. I have no intention of writing about it as the best possible account is available here. It is, of course, by Samuel Pepys.

One of the first European colonizers of America is alive and well at 383 years. A story on treehugger, not usually included in Tory Historian's reading matter, tells us that a pear tree, planted in 1630 by John Endicott, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, is still alive, having been rescued after hurricanes and even a vandal attack in the sixties, and is bearing fruit, though the pears do not sound particularly appetizing.

Tory Historian apologizes for a long absence and returns with a favourite topic: maps. Maps are the most wonderful things any historian can wish for. New maps, old maps, historic maps and fictional maps (in detective stories) - they are all a joy to scan and to read.

Here, however, is the map to end all maps. It is the 1931 Histomap that distils 4,000 years of world history and it is fully "zoomable". In all probability many readers cannot wait to trawl through it and all TH can say, using the modern idiom, is go for it.

Some time ago I mentioned that I was reading Dick Leonard's double biography (though for some reason he describes it as a "comparative biography") of Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, a book that has turned out to be interesting and annoying in more or less equal measures.

The great rivalry itself, though it appears to dominate nineteenth century politics, took up less of it than we assume, though while it lasted it was vicious, not least because of the added personal animosity: Gladstone and Disraeli, as Dick Leonard shows, were so very different in their background, their thoughts, their attitudes.

There are eleven chapters in The Great Rivalry and it is not till chapter eight that we reach the moment when first Disraeli, then Gladstone, then Disraeli again actually rose to the premiership (in the case of Disraeli, the first government was actually led by Lord Derby with Dizzy at the head of the party in the Commons). By chapter ten it was all over with Gladstone towering above British politics on his own.

Yet there is no doubt that these two dominated the political life for several decades and, separately, laid down parts of the foundation for modern British politics inside and outside Parliament. It is possible to argue that the political structures the two giants created are now coming to a natural end with something new evolving, what with the membership of the European Union, the growth in power of extra-parliamentary bodies and the need to change many of those things. Mr Leonard's view (as that of several commentators) is that the reason matters seem unsatisfactory is that we no longer have politicians of the Disraeli-Gladstone calibre. To some extent his book is aimed at people who want to use it and the material in it to analyze and, perhaps, change modern politics. This seems to me to be unnecessary. Nineteenth century politics was very different and, even so, few politicians were of this calibre.

So much of what we do have (whether we want to preserve it or change it) is the outcome of those years and the political activity of the time, whether it is the spread of the vote through Reform Acts, the birth of mass politics with the Primrose League (a homage to Disraeli), the elevation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to second position after the Prime Minister and of the annual Budget into the most important event of the political calendar (something that causes a good many problems these days), or a number of other developments.

Dick Leonard, though also an historian, was once a Labour MP and for a long time a journalist with The Economist and The Observer, concentrating on matters to do with the EU. (Yes, his son is the egregious Mark Leonard but people cannot be blamed for their offspring.) He has the good journalist's enviable ability to assimilate and digest complicated material and to reproduce it as a clear brief or historical analysis. The book is easy to read and the various complex political manoeuvres as well as the protagonists' private lives easy to follow.

The disadvantages of a journalistic text are also there. The style is really poor with strange neologisms popping up here and there. I really do not thing "heroisation" is a word. Nor do we need to be given a brief history of income tax in Britain three or four times or informed at least four times that Derby's first Ministry suffered from a paucity of talent in the House of Commons. Then there are the forced parallels with modern life and politics that jar so much. The expression "metropolitan elite" used about the politica classes of the mid-nineteenth century is celarly wrong. The elite's basis of power was outside London and a good many politicians understood life as it was lived by landowners, small or large. I suppose, one can describe various Victorian politicians as "big hitters" and, it is possible, that Mr Leonard does so with a knowing smirk but I doubt if that many readers would be impressed. One can go on enumerating infelicities of this kind for a long time and they do detract from one's enjoyment of the tale he tells, which simply cannot be made boring, however hard one might try.

The book is over-hyped by the publisher: this is hardly the first time that the two personalities have been studied together and in parallel. But they and the author were probably right in thinking that, probably, it was time to produce another account, based on previous biographies, histories and, of course, Gladstone's astonishing diaries, now available to all. The Great Rivalry may well encourage interest in two great political personalities, in all others around them and in the period that saw the invention of our modern political system.

Dick Leonard: The Great Rivalry
Gladstone and Disraeli - A Dual Biography

2013 I. B. Tauris, London

This is surely unmissable: an article on tells us that the week-end of September 21 - 22 (which will be Open House Weekend in London but more of that anon) will be very special in Chartwell.

The origins of Sir Winston Churchill’s writing, painting and entertaining will be explored in a special weekend at his former Chartwell home.

Part of a National Trust programme, Uncovered: The Story of British Landscape is a series of events and activities taking place across seven Trust places around the country aiming to give an insider look at the many uses of our landscapes over the centuries.

Taking place at Chartwell over the weekend of Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September, visitors will have the chance to see how the landscape was a source of mental and spiritual refreshment during and after the war, as well as explore how Chartwell served as a backdrop to the wide ranging interests of Churchill himself.

Visitors will have exclusive access to a team of National Trust specialists, as well as property and volunteer experts, leading activities on butterflies, painting, architecture and the changing landscape.
For more information call 01732 868381 or email

When I wrote about the Labour landslide victory in 1945 it was pointed out to me, inter alia, that the Golden Age Detective (GAD) writers did not like the victory or the country it created. They certainly did not. Let me just mention a few.

Cyril Hare's post-war novels are full of sad nostalgia and his non-series book, An English Murder, published in 1951 is not just nostalgic and unhappy but shows real anger towards socialist politicians and their destructive actions. Agatha Christie largely took the changes in her stride and carefully adjusted her description of middle class life (unlike Margery Allingham or Ngaio Marsh, for example, who still produced examples of country houses with grandes dames in them) but even she made disdainful comments.

In Mrs McGinty's Dead (1952) there is a sad acceptance that the government is always sending your forms that you need to fill in, a theme that is repeated in other novels. In A Murder Is Announced (1950), one of Christie's best, there is a clear indication that everybody is involved in the black market because it is the only way to survive. When Inspector Craddock chides the vicar's wife with it being against the law, she spiritedly replies that there should not be such silly laws.

The dislike for the controls, the shortages and, especially, the bureaucracy that seems to have flourished in the war and continued to do so afterwards runs through many novels of the period, such as Michael Gilbert's Smallbone Deceased (1950).

In Duplicate Death (1951) Georgette Heyer makes cutting remarks about the destructively high taxation that makes life difficult for people who want to lead a middle class life.

One could go on listing novels and, perhaps, quoting from letters for a while but, undoubtedly, the situation was most devastatingly summed up by John Dickson Carr in a letter to Frederic Dannay (one half of Ellery Queen) in mid-1946, as quoted in Douglas G. Greene's biography:

The regulations in this country grow more and more damnable. One more war for liberty and we shall all be slaves. 
I suspect very many people felt the same way though they might not have been able to express their feelings quite so pithily.

With all the various court cases going on and complaints about nasty things being said on twitter, it might be worth looking at certain aspects of censorship as practised in 1703. On July 31 of that year Daniel Defoe, the writer, journalist, merchant, probable royal spy and political muckraker was placed in the stocks as punishment for writing a curious pamphlet entitled The Shortest Way With Dissenters.

It is written in the style of existing attacks on Dissenters, attacks that became more frequent and more hostile as Queen Anne succeeded to the throne in 1702. Defoe took those attacks further and ended his pamphlet:

Alas, the Church of England! What with Popery on one hand, and Schismatics on the other, how has She been crucified between two thieves. NOW, LET US CRUCIFY THE THIEVES!

Let her foundations be established upon the destruction of her enemies! The doors of Mercy being always open to the returning part of the deluded people, let the obstinate be ruled with the rod of iron!

Let all true sons of so holy and oppressed a Mother, exasperated by her afflictions, harden their hearts against those who have oppressed her!

And may God Almighty put it into the hearts of all the friends of Truth, to lift up a Standard against Pride and ANTICHRIST! that the Posterity of the Sons of Error may be rooted out from the face of this land, for ever!
The pamphlet caused a great deal of excitement and was eventually decided to be ironic and generally seditious.
This resulted in the issuing of a warrant by the High Tory Secretary of State, the Earl of Nottingham, for the arrest of Defoe on the charge of seditious libel, the order being given to "… make Strict and diligent Search for Daniel Fooe and him having found you are to apprehend and seize together with his Papers for high Crime and misdemeanours and to bring him before me …"

Defoe was finally imprisoned on 21 May 1703 after avoiding his summons and evading capture. He was fined, made to stand in the pillory on three occasions and remained in prison till November; in the meantime, his business affairs sank into ruin. The whole affair left a lasting impression on him, which can be felt in his subsequent writings.

In the years following his arrest and release, Defoe made several attempts to explain The Shortest Way and his own viewpoint. Amongst the series of explanatory pamphlets doing this are An Explanation of a Late Pamphlet, Entituled, The Shortest Way… (1703) and A Dialogue Between a Dissenter and the Observator (1703). In addition, the suspected involvement of the Tory Speaker of the House, Robert Harley, in obtaining the release of Defoe is credited as the beginning of their professional relationship, in which Defoe worked as a propagandist for Harley after he succeeded Nottingham as Secretary of State in 1704.
The pillorying of July 31 did not have the desired effect as the populace threw flowers at him rather than the conventional rotten vegetables and dead cats.

In addition there was a broadsheet published by Thomas Brown in Edinburgh in 1706, entitled A Dialogue Between the Pillory and Daniel Defoe.

The results of the 1945 General Election, in which votes took a long time to count because of the numbers that were still overseas, were declared on July 26: an astonishing though not altogether surprising (if I may use such a paradox) landslide victory for the Labour Party, led by Clement Attlee who, as Deputy Prime Minister during the war, managed to spread many of the party's ideas and create the necessary structures even before he withdrew from the Coalition and demanded and election. This blog has referred to this in a posting on Robert Crowcroft's Attlee's War.

The reasons for that victory were many. Debates about it have gone on since that day and will go on for a long time. These debates and discussions are of importance because they have shaped and will continue to shape Conservative Party politics.

Was it the memory of the "heroes" coming back after the Great War to broken promises? Was it the desire never to repeat the Depression of the early thirties? Was it Churchill's undoubted lack of popularity but how popular was Attlee? Was it the dishonesty of Labour accusing the Conservatives in not seeing the dangers in Hitler's Germany while they and the unions had tried to prevent rearmament as long as they could? Was it the lack of Conservative Party structures as so many active members were still serving one way or another? Was it the lack of Conservative ideology to withstand that of the Labour Party? Or was it simply the regular exhaustion the electorate feels with one party, too long in power? As the saying goes: discuss.

The Conservative History Journal blog is very pleased to be publishing this article about an unjustly neglected Conservative politician and personality. The first Lord Hailsham played an important part in the Conservative Party in the twenties and thirties but has suffered the fate of so many politicians of that period in that attention has been concentrated on the Second World War and the events leading up to it with too many important issues set aside to be dealt with only by a small group of experts. Dr Chris Cooper's article seeks to restore the first Lord Hailsham's place.

The First but Forgotten Lord Hailsham 

Chris Cooper 

Dr Chris Cooper was recently awarded a PhD at the University of Liverpool. He has taught at a variety of higher education institutions and has published a number of articles on different aspects of modern British political history. 

 In the course of the twentieth century only one family succeeded in occupying cabinet posts in Conservative governments over three successive generations. Douglas Hogg served as Minister of Agriculture under John Major from 1995 to 1997 and, as a successful barrister, he must have nurtured hopes of eventually following his father and grandfather by becoming Lord Chancellor. But he did not prosper under subsequent Tory leaders and his career ended in controversy when his claim for cleaning the moat at his country manor-house epitomised the ‘expenses scandal’ of 2009. Douglas’s father, Quintin, was one of the century’s longest serving cabinet ministers. Becoming Harold Macmillan’s Minister of Education in 1957, he finally stepped down as Margaret Thatcher’s Lord Chancellor thirty years later. He came tantalisingly close to the party leadership and premiership when Macmillan resigned in 1963. Though Quintin Hogg, second Viscount Hailsham and, in a later incarnation, Baron Hailsham, died in 2001, he is well remembered for his formidable intellect, passionate oratory and ebullient personality. By contrast, Quintin’s father, also called Douglas, the doyen of this remarkable political family, is a largely forgotten figure. He wrote no memoirs and has yet to be the subject of a full-scale biography.

The rest of this article about the first Lord Hailsham can be read on the second Conservative History Journal blogsite that is reserved for longer pieces.

Last autumn I attended a conference (as I do from time to time) on Dickens and Russia, parts of which were fascinating. Others, mostly profound academic analyses of Dostoyevsky's debt to Dickens considerably less so.

However, one astonishing account to emerge was the story of Dickens's supposed meeting with Dostoyevsky in 1862, first written about by Stephanie Harvey in the The Dickensian in 2002. The story was picked up by the two most recent biographers of Dickens, Michael Slater in 2009 and Claire Tomalin in 2011. However, when American reviews of the biographies started appearing and the meeting between two giants of nineteenth century literature was mentioned, the Dostoyevsky scholars bestirred themselves, asking the obvious question as to why nobody had ever heard of such a momentous event. They also asked what language the two spoke to each other and what on earth was the supposed Kazakh academic journal whence Stephanie Harvey culled her information. At least two of those questions should have been asked by the Dickens biographers but was not.

Anyway, the story became quite farcical with Stephanie Harvey's sister writing a letter to the editor of The Dickensian to tell him that the lady had suffered a near-fatal car crash and could no longer communicate with anyone and lots of egg on everybody's face.

Last week the Guardian published an interview with the perpetrator of the hoax, one A. D. Harvey, whom I actually know or knew in his short stint as the editor of the Salisbury Review. He would hover round the place and propound all sorts of historical facts that he had gleaned in various libraries and archives. I am ashamed to say that I did not appreciate his writings as they tended to be of the "look what I found in this archive" variety with no particular conclusions or analyses.

It now transpires that in all that time Arnold Harvey was engaged in the creation of a number of mythical personalities: writers, poets, historians who would produce articles promoting and and praising each other's work. The Dickens-Dostoyevsky meeting can be described as the most successful of these hoaxes and as Mr Harvey says, if it had not been for American Dostoyevsky students, he would have got away with it. In fact, for many years he did.

Here is the whole story of the uncovering of Arnold Harvey, the latter day James Macpherson who merely "translated" Ossian in some detail in the venerable pages of the TLS. I am afraid I found the story too exquisitely funny to be able to sympathize with Professor Naiman's apparent distaste for A. D. Harvey's behaviour or to accept his pity for the man. In my view Arnold Harvey definitely has the last laugh on all those editors and scholars who blithely published and quoted his spurious writers and historians. Who can be so heartless as not to laugh at the sight of egg on the face of pompous Dickens biographers?

Tory Historian finds on Londonist's excellent blog that the British Library will be celebrating the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in excellent style next year:

the four surviving copies of Magna Carta will be united for the first time, marking the 800th anniversary of the landmark legal document’s signing. During a three-day event at the British Library, visitors and scholars will get to see the quartet in one room. Currently, the Library holds two copies, while the others are at Salisbury and Lincoln Cathedrals.
Sadly, it is not clear who and how will be able to view this astonishing exhibition apart from scholars.

A new double biography of those two nineteenth century giants, Gladstone and Disraeli. The Great Rivalry by Dick Leonard is published by I. B. Tauris and concentrates on the rivalry that shaped British politics for several decades. It is not, by any means, the first time the rivalry has been written about and the two men's differing personalities and backgrounds have been covered before. To be fair to the author, Dick Leonard, he says this in the Introduction; why the publisher needs to produce such inaccurate hype is unclear.

My first reaction was that Dick Leonard was an unlikely man to write about these two politicians, he being a Fabian, a former Labour MP and a man who is responsible for the unduly favourable light in which the European Union is viewed by some of this country's media. However, I note that he has written a number of books about British Premiers, most of whom were not and could not be socialists.

And here, just to make a change and have a break from all the rejoicing is the text of Dr Johnson's response to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress, entitled Taxation is No Tyranny. The great sage, incidentally, was unimpressed by the yearning for liberty by a group of slave owners.

Legislation that gave women the right to vote on the same terms as men received its Royal Assent on July 2, 1928. Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 is sometimes referred to as the Fifth Reform Act or the Equal Suffrage Act but that is its proper title.

Or so I was reminded by Mike Paterson of London Historians. Two of them died on this day, Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington in 1743 and Sir Robert Peel in 1850 as well as the man who, according to some, should have been Prime Minister, Joseph Chamberlain in 1914 (a good time to go). As against that, one, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Lord Home of the Hirsel, was born on this day in 1903. You win some and you lose some.

Each man's death diminishes me. John Donne's words echo in my mind as I think of the death, first heard of late last night, of Professor Ken Minogue (whoever called him Kenneth except as a joke?), a towering intellectual and writer, a man who thought deeply about our society, our basic ideas and our political structures, and expressed his ideas lucidly and entertainingly. He was also a friend of whom I was very fond and with whom I spent many hours, eating, drinking, talking, laughing and joking. His death definitely diminishes me.

With his permission I shall quote Ed Feulner's account of Ken's last hours:
Last night Ken Minogue and I shared the duties of the chair. I did the thanks, and Ken the introduction of Allan Meltzer, who spoke to us via teleconference. Over dinner, Ken was in great humour, telling us about the next book he was working on, etc. Earlier in the week he had given a fine paper, and yesterday afternoon he chaired a session with that fine, delicate and yet steady hand that made him so beloved to all.

This morning 8 of us were on a bus tour looking at iguanas, sea lions, birds, etc, and enjoying ourselves immensely. Then we went back to the town of San Cristobal, had sandwiches and an hour later left for the airport. Westholms, Lals, Feulners, Fr. Sirico and Ken Minogue.

After our lunch, we went to the Galapagos airport, where the group was split between two flights to Guayaquil, an easy hour-long flight back to the mainland (on an Airbus, not a small plane.) Ken and many of the others were on the other flight.

Our flight landed first at Guayaquil. The other plane ten minutes later. We were collecting our luggage when we heard the horrible news that Ken had been stricken on the plane (a heart attack, we assume). There were four MD s on the plane, including two from the MPS meeting. They tried everything, but to no avail.
Sad though it is to think of the book that will not be finished, there is some pleasure in the description of Ken working, talking, being on top of the world to the last. And there is pleasure in knowing that his other books and articles, essays and recordings are with us. RIP Ken.

Sir Harold Nicolson, diplomat, writer, diarist, politician and gardener, belonged to several parties but never the Conservative one. In fact, he thought of himself as something of a radical and was, though not in domestic matters. There, he and his Conservative supporting wife, Vita Sackville-West (poet, writer and gardener) inhabited an area of confluence between high Toryism and socialism. Also he was, briefly, a junior member of Churchill's war-time cabinet and managed to annoy his leader by producing a document that discussed peace aims as well as war aims. Up with that the Prime Minister would not put.

It is not, therefore, entirely wrong to write a blog about Nicolson, especially as I have just finished reading Derek Drinkwater's Sir Harold Nicolson and International Relations - the Practitioner as Theorist, a book that has doctoral thesis written all over it. It is, nevertheless interesting though convincing only intermittently about the importance of Nicolson's contribution to the theory of international relations. A good deal of the time Nicolson, lucid, knowledgeable and passionate, still wavered as to what he really believed in, thus annoying and frustrating friends and allies (as well as opponents).

Nevertheless, the book is a useful study and analysis of all Nicolson's pronouncements in print, in manuscript (the unpublished parts of his diary) and on the radio and many interesting conclusions can be drawn from it. (Let us not forget that the Marginal Comments that he wrote for many years in the Spectator are all available on line now.)

In an early chapter of the book there is discussion of Nicolson's view of "old" (pre-First World War) and "new" (post-First World War) diplomacy and he found both wanting as we have all done ever since. Indeed, this discussion raises the issue whether diplomacy and democracy, particularly in the age of mass communication that can whip up emotions very quickly, are compatible.

Expanding Nicolson's ideas about the two kinds of traditional diplomacy, Drinkwater writes:
He [Nicolson] identified two contrasting conceptions of diplomacy and argued that a compromise between them constituted the soundest approach to diplomatic intercourse. The first was the German "warrior or heroic" theory, whose exponents perceived diplomacy as war by other means. The second was the British "mercantile or shop-keeper" theory, whereby diplomacy is seen as an aid to peaceful commerce based on the assumption that there exists a middle point at which the negotiators can reconcile their conflicting interests.
Of course, it could be argued that this is just a long-winded way of saying "speak softly and carry a big stick".

In his book Diplomacy, which remains a classic on the subject, Nicolson compiled a list of sixteen qualities of both the ideal diplomat and the ideal diplomacy. It is, apparently, known in diplomatic theory as the "Nicolson test". Here is the list:
truth, accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty, loyalty, intelligence, knowledge, discernment, prudence, hospitality, charm, industry, courage, and tact.
Hmm. Those of us who have met diplomats and have studied the outcome of some of their activity would be hard put to acknowledge that few of them have even half of those qualities. It remains a very useful list.

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