British Conservatism - The Grand Tour

Episodes

EpisodeFirst
Broadcast
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0120130902

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 1: How the French Revolution shocked progressive MP Edmund Burke into defending British traditions and privileges - sowing the seeds of British conservatism.

Bourke was no reactionary - he was a supporter of the American Revolution of the 1770s. Many of his fellow progressives saw in the French Revolution a similar push for liberation.

But to their consternation, Burke predicted that the French Revolution would descend into bloodshed.

He questioned abstract French ideas of Liberty and instead championed British tradition, from the right to own property, through the role of the Church, to the stabilizing effect of the House of Lords.

Among the radicals aghast at Burke's heresy was a young Cumbrian poet and student, William Wordsworth.

But having witnessed the impact of the Terror in Paris for himself, he - like other radical champions of the Revolution - began to turn away from it.

Finally, with Burke dead but his influence on conservatism spreading through nineteenth century Britain, Wordsworth hailed the long-dead MP as a genius.

With: Professor Richard Bourke, Professor Dinah Birch

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0220130903

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 2: By the 1830s and 1840s, the Industrial Revolution had brought vast changes to British life. It delivered innovation and prosperity, but chaos and disconnection too.

In the industrial north of England in particular, unrest was growing.

In this episode, Anne visits the Chelsea home of the great Scottish writer and thinker Thomas Carlyle, to find out how he fought back against the Industrial Revolution and the revolutionary idea it brought in its wake.

Carlyle argued that the concept of Utilitarianism, with its New Poor Law and its attack on older forms of charity, was forging a cold new world of atomized individuals. The only things that now connected people, he contended, were cash and disease.

In response, he called for strong leadership and a return to medieval Christian values.

And Anne visits Newcastle to see how Carlyle's ideas found a profound echo in architecture, through the buildings of Augustus Pugin, still visible across the country today.

With: Professor Dinah Birch, Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Producer: Phil Tinline.

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 2: By the 1830s and 1840s, the Industrial Revolution had brought vast changes to British life. It delivered innovation and prosperity, but chaos and disconnection too.

In the industrial north of England in particular, unrest was growing.

In this episode, Anne visits the Chelsea home of the great Scottish writer and thinker Thomas Carlyle, to find out how he fought back against the Industrial Revolution and the revolutionary idea it brought in its wake.

Carlyle argued that the concept of Utilitarianism, with its New Poor Law and its attack on older forms of charity, was forging a cold new world of atomized individuals. The only things that now connected people, he contended, were cash and disease.

In response, he called for strong leadership and a return to medieval Christian values.

And Anne visits Newcastle to see how Carlyle's ideas found a profound echo in architecture, through the buildings of Augustus Pugin, still visible across the country today.

With: Professor Dinah Birch, Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0320130904

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 3: In the 1840s, industry, commerce and voting reform gave new power to the cities and the middle classes. But then the feudal aristocracy found an unlikely new champion.

Benjamin Disraeli was a dandy Jewish London novelist, who dressed in peacock waistcoats.

But along with a clutch of youthful aristocrats, he formed a group called Young England.

They tried to revive the romantic idea of rural landowners looking after the poor, and to translate this to the new era.

Disraeli toured the cities of the industrial north, and drew on the suffering he saw in novels that venerated the old ways.

This was not a huge success. But Disraeli found his great cause in the battle over Free Trade.

When Prime Minister Robert Peel decided to abolish the tariffs that protected British farmers from foreign corn imports, Disraeli spied betrayal.

And so did Lord George Bentinck, a true rural aristocrat and a man who was really just interested in horse-racing - until the threat of Free Trade spurred him into action.

Together, 'the Jockey and the Jew', as they were dubbed, led the charge against Peel, arguing that Free Trade would destroy a whole social system.

But they lost - and it was Peel's championing of Free Trade which proved the more effective conservative move.

Instead of Disraeli and Bentinck's diehard defence of the old ways, Peel's more open approach welcomed the new urban middle classes into politics, showing that you didn't have to be a landed gentleman to support the Church and the Constitution.

With: Professor Jon Lawrence, Professor Richard Aldous, Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0420130905

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 4: In 1864, as the British economy boomed, the great Victorian critic John Ruskin was invited to Bradford to advise the prosperous merchants of the town on the style of their new Wool Exchange.

But instead Ruskin lambasted them for ditching traditional values of taste and craft. They had become worshippers, he told them, of 'the Goddess of Getting-On, or Britannia of the Market.'

Anne follows Ruskin to Bradford and discovers how, for this child of south London, the north of England came to represent both the crass prosperity of the time - and a very different vision of life.

Ruskin was deeply influenced by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who ditched his youthful radicalism for a conservatism that embraced the communal memory embodied in tradition.

And as Anne discovers, Ruskin moved to Wordsworth's native Lake District and set up guilds to foster an alternative to the factories and mills. He encouraged a return to small communal groups working the land and pursuing traditional crafts.

Yet Ruskin described himself as both 'a violent Tory of the old school' and 'the reddest of the red'. He had a great influence on the emerging socialist movement.

Anne suggests that John Ruskin is an example of how some nineteenth century conservatives had a surprising amount in common with socialism, because of their shared hostility to the costs of capitalism.

With: Professor Dinah Birch, Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Producer: Phil Tinline.

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 4: In 1864, as the British economy boomed, the great Victorian critic John Ruskin was invited to Bradford to advise the prosperous merchants of the town on the style of their new Wool Exchange.

But instead Ruskin lambasted them for ditching traditional values of taste and craft. They had become worshippers, he told them, of 'the Goddess of Getting-On, or Britannia of the Market.'

Anne follows Ruskin to Bradford and discovers how, for this child of south London, the north of England came to represent both the crass prosperity of the time - and a very different vision of life.

Ruskin was deeply influenced by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, who ditched his youthful radicalism for a conservatism that embraced the communal memory embodied in tradition.

And as Anne discovers, Ruskin moved to Wordsworth's native Lake District and set up guilds to foster an alternative to the factories and mills. He encouraged a return to small communal groups working the land and pursuing traditional crafts.

Yet Ruskin described himself as both 'a violent Tory of the old school' and 'the reddest of the red'. He had a great influence on the emerging socialist movement.

Anne suggests that John Ruskin is an example of how some nineteenth century conservatives had a surprising amount in common with socialism, because of their shared hostility to the costs of capitalism.

With: Professor Dinah Birch, Dr Tristram Hunt MP

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0520130906

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 5: In 1867, a new Reform Act was passed which gave urban working men the vote.

Conservatives of both parties were deeply concerned about what this meant for the future.

The leading conservative thinker and future Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury damned the new Act as surrender. He opposed mass democracy, fearing the tyranny of the majority.

But in a Sheffield pub, Anne learns how other, less exalted conservatives responded to the threat of urban mass democracy more creatively.

They drew on an old Tory tradition, and found the answer in a pint of beer.

They adapted the old idea that each class in society should respect the others' pleasures, even if they were very different.

In opposition to new licensing laws, they began to champion the working man's right to a quiet pint.

Meanwhile, the music halls of the 1860s championed a rough, rumbustious patriotism for the ordinary people - rather than fostering revolution.

And a group of 'Tory Democrats' set up the Primrose League - an organization designed to bolster conservatism in ordinary people.

It offered a mix of loyalty to Queen and Country, medieval nostalgia, and invitations to picnics and summer balls.

At its height, the League amassed a membership of two million, many of them women.

All this showed that conservatism and democracy need not be opposites. In the end, even Lord Salisbury was reluctantly reconciled to the new order.

With: Professor Jon Lawrence, Dr Matthew Roberts, Fern Riddell, Professor Krista Cowman

Producer: Phil Tinline.

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 5: In 1867, a new Reform Act was passed which gave urban working men the vote.

Conservatives of both parties were deeply concerned about what this meant for the future.

The leading conservative thinker and future Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury damned the new Act as surrender. He opposed mass democracy, fearing the tyranny of the majority.

But in a Sheffield pub, Anne learns how other, less exalted conservatives responded to the threat of urban mass democracy more creatively.

They drew on an old Tory tradition, and found the answer in a pint of beer.

They adapted the old idea that each class in society should respect the others' pleasures, even if they were very different.

In opposition to new licensing laws, they began to champion the working man's right to a quiet pint.

Meanwhile, the music halls of the 1860s championed a rough, rumbustious patriotism for the ordinary people - rather than fostering revolution.

And a group of 'Tory Democrats' set up the Primrose League - an organization designed to bolster conservatism in ordinary people.

It offered a mix of loyalty to Queen and Country, medieval nostalgia, and invitations to picnics and summer balls.

At its height, the League amassed a membership of two million, many of them women.

All this showed that conservatism and democracy need not be opposites. In the end, even Lord Salisbury was reluctantly reconciled to the new order.

With: Professor Jon Lawrence, Dr Matthew Roberts, Fern Riddell, Professor Krista Cowman

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0620130909

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 6: At the dawn of the twentieth century, far more men now had the vote than in a few decades earlier. And now, in the Edwardian era, politics was becoming a more aggressive, antagonistic business.

In 1901, the radical politician David Lloyd George opposed the Boer War. But when he tried to say so in Birmingham, he only narrowly escaped a huge mob, which attacked the Town Hall to stop him speaking.

Conservative politicians were worried about keeping mass support. But in working-class support for the War, the Empire and the Union, they detected a popular form of conservatism to which they thought they could appeal.

So Anne goes to Tyneside to rediscover the 'conserving crowds' of the years before the First World War: mass working-class conservative protests against Home Rule for Ireland.

She hears about one such march - a torchlit procession of 15000 Tyneside workers, who gathered to demonstrate their support for the Scottish politician Andrew Bonar Law and his hardline opposition to Home Rule.

This was just one expression of the way that a stern Protestant conservatism had a powerful appeal among the workers of cities like Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow.

And Anne finds out how, while all this was going on, female conservatives were fighting back against the 'Votes for Women' movement with their Anti-Suffrage League.

With: Professor Krista Cowman, Dr Dan Jackson, Professor Jon Lawrence, Professor Martin Pugh

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0720130910

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 7: Anne traces how, after 1918, mass democracy and the spectre of red revolution split conservatism.

The moderates embraced the new situation. They countered the rising socialist movement by drawing on conservative values of family and property-ownership, aiming to appeal not least to the millions of new women voters.

A young Tory MP, Noel Skelton, invented the idea of the 'property-owning democracy' to encapsulate this new, inclusive, gentle approach.

In 1926, when the much-dreaded General Strike finally came, but ended peacefully, this seemed to bear out the moderates' ideas.

But there were those for whom all this was appalling. Militant conservatives disapproved of mass democracy, along with big business and much else in modern Britain.

And as mass unemployment and agricultural crisis spread in the 1930s, they banged the drum for a return to traditional social hierarchies, headed by a powerful King.

When a full-blown confrontation between politicians and monarchy threatened to break out in 1936, all this came to a head.

With: Professor Simon Ball, Professor Krista Cowman, Professor Jon Lawrence, Professor Martin Pugh

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0820130911

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 8: Anne explores how conservatives of left and right responded to the advent of the welfare state and the 'affluent society' after the Second World War. As old patterns of paternalism and hierarchy began to broke down, conservatism had to reinvent itself once again.

With: Dominic Sandbrook, Professor Simon Ball, Professor Jon Lawrence, Dr Eliza Filby

Producer: Phil Tinline.

0920130912

Anne McElvoy explores how the 'permissive society' provoked a new populist conservatism.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a series of apparently different issues emerged, from Mary Whitehouse's opposition to 'dirty' television, launched in Birmingham, through objections to immigration, education reform and changes in the Church of England, to anxiety about rising inflation.

Anne traces how these coalesced into a conservative moral critique of modern society as shaped by a 'liberal elite'. This was not a conservatism that defended Britain's rulers - it was one that attacked them.

With: Dominic Sandbrook, Professor Jon Lawrence, Dr Eliza Filby

Producer: Phil Tinline.

1020130913

Anne McElvoy tells the stories of big challenges that have spurred leading British conservative thinkers into action, from the French Revolution to the Permissive Society.

Episode 10: In this final episode, Anne visits the chapel in Grantham where Mrs Thatcher's father preached, to explore how his story encapsulates how conservatism has changed across the last two centuries.

In the pew where his daughter Margaret sat listening to his sermons, Anne hears how Alderman Roberts, a Wesleyan Methodist, was a Victorian liberal who came, in the twentieth century, to see himself as a conservative.

She explores how his story captures something of the changing role of religion and class in conservatism, and the ways that, over the last century, conservatism has absorbed key elements of Victorian liberalism.

And how, in the process, it has transformed itself from an ideology that was focused on the land, paternalist benevolence, traditional social hierarchies and the Church of England, into something rather different.

With: Dr Eliza Filby, Dominic Sandbrook, Professor Jon Lawrence

Producer: Phil Tinline.