Tory Phylogeny

John Brewer

  • In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-1760 by Linda Colley
    Cambridge, 383 pp, £25.00, February 1982, ISBN 0 521 23982 6
  • Dynamics of Change: The Crisis of the 1750s and English Party Systems by J.C.D. Clark
    Cambridge, 640 pp, £37.50, May 1982, ISBN 0 521 23830 7

Edmund Burke, who spent most of his life either in the wilderness of Parliamentary opposition or as a champion of lost causes, knew how uncharitably we treat political failure. ‘The conduct of a losing party,’ he wrote, ‘never appears right: at least it never can possess the only infallible criterion of wisdom to vulgar judgments – success.’ Burke might have been speaking of his old enemies, the Hanoverian Tories, who have now been rescued from ignominy by Linda Colley. Her book brilliantly rehabilitates the 18th-century Tory Party and lambastes the ‘vulgar judgments’ of those historians who have dismissed it as an insignificant political presence.

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