Conservatism and All Souls Lecture Series

Is the Conservative Party now inimical to conservatism? Conservatism is a frame of mind that resists disruptive change, that tries to abate the anxieties of loss caused by change, that recognizes that progress leaves many people bereft of meaning and purpose in their lives. The ‘conservatory’ spirit in the Conservative party was cut to shreds some decades ago: the last tatters were discarded in the purge of party dissidents in 2019.

Since the French Revolution of 1789 the conservative mind has sought to conserve national institutions, to uphold constituted authority and to discourage risky experiments. Its great enemy was human presumption: any movement that presumed the possibility of human perfectibility, or gave priority to the individual over the group, was seen by conservatives as unsound and destabilising. The truest conservative instincts are for continuity and permanence. Mass democracy was seen as unstable, conducive to impermanence and therefore requiring containment and close management. For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, European conservative parties generally acted as bulwarks not only against populism but individualism. Conservatives recognized individualism as the enemy of tradition, and the cause of insolence and indiscipline.

My six lectures will consider these ideas in the light of key texts written by twentieth-century historians and lawyers who were Fellows of All Souls. The lectures will address nineteenth-century European conservatism; the role of conservatory spirit in twentieth-century Conservatism; conservatory thinking in the twentieth-century Church of England; the influence of militarism and two total wars on Conservative thinking and party management; progressive conservatism of the 1940s and the promise of consumer affluence; and the problems of exercising power in a period of increasingly confident populism.

The sextet of Fellows will comprise:

Llewellyn Woodward (Fellow 1919-44, 1962-71), Montague Burton Professor of International Relations. Author of Three Studies in European Conservatism: Metternich, Guizot and the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century (1929).

Keith Feiling (Fellow 1906-11, 1946-50), Chichele Professor of Modern History.
Author of Toryism (1913) and What is Conservatism? (1930).

Herbert Hensley Henson (Fellow 1884-91, 1896-1903, 1918-47), Bishop of Durham.
Author of Cross-Bench Views (1902) and The Bishoprick Papers (1946).

Cyril Falls (Fellow 1946-53), Chichele Professor of the History of War. Author of
Rudyard Kipling (1915), War Books (1930) and A Hundred Years of War (1953).

Quintin Hailsham (Fellow 1931-38, 1961-2001), MP for the City of Oxford 1938-50, cabinet minister 1957-64, Lord Chancellor 1970-74 and 1979-87. Author of The Times We Live In (1944) and The Case for Conservatism (1947).

Cyril Radcliffe (Fellow 1922-37), Director-General of the Ministry of Information
1941-45 and Lord of Appeal 1949-64. Author of The Problem of Power (1952) and Not in Feather Beds (1968).

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