Honest Graft

Michael Brock

  • Corruption in British Politics, 1895-1930 by G.R. Searle
    Oxford, 448 pp, £19.50, November 1987, ISBN 0 19 822915 1

Dr Searle began by investigating the radical right in Edwardian Britain. He soon decided that the accusations of corruption constantly made by its members deserved serious historical attention: they could not all be attributed to anti-semitism and ‘political paranoia’. This led him to widen the scope of his work until it comprehended the whole ‘plutocratic era’ from the 1890s ‘to about 1930’. It became his aim ‘to show the essential unity of a 35-year period ... and to trace the connections between episodes ... which combined to form ... an intricate pattern of paranoia and suspicion’. He had to accept Walter Lippmann’s dictum. All that the historian ‘can really do’, this states, ‘is to write the history of the exposure of political corruption, in other words to describe and analyse political scandal’.

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