Tory Historian has maintained for some time that there is a good deal of similarity between present-day Americans and Victorian British though their ideas of international influence are somewhat different in that Americans dislike the idea of an empire.
British secularism is a 20th-century innovation, produced by the psychological shocks of war and social change. The Victorians would be bemused by the secularism of muscular liberalism and scandalised by the vague ‘births, deaths and marriages’ Anglicanism of much of the present government. Yet they were capable of a surprising degree of multiculturalism. Albeit with much debate, Unitarianism and Islam were legalised in 1812 and Catholics were given the vote in 1829. Muscular liberalism is a project rooted in false historical consciousness that seeks to drive religion out of the public sphere. In contrast, Victorian society revelled in difference and debate. Its unifying principle was not the absence of belief but its permeation. Given the part that faith has played in shaping the British constitution and state – from the right of Parliament to dismiss a heretical monarch, to the abolition of slavery – it is ahistorical to try to proscribe or eliminate its role today.Some interesting points in a short article.
Just made it, though it has gone in those parts of the world where it is remembered. But it is still worth recalling. Nothing annoys Tory Historian more than self-righteous comments about Britain "standing alone" when the country was supported by millions of Australians, New Zealanders as well as South Africans, Canadians, Indians and many many others from the Empire and Commonwealth. So let us honour the ANZACs for their courage in both world wars.
It would be wrong of Tory Historian to ignore Her Majesty the Queen's 85th birthday today. As ever she is working, handing out Maundy money at Westminster Abbey.
Here is another, much earlier picture of the Princess Elizabeth and the Princess Margaret broadcasting to the children of Britain and the Commonwealth from Windsor in 1940 at the height of the Blitz.
This comes from Andrew Roberts's magisterial biography of Lord Salisbury. In 1877 Salisbury, then Secretary of State for India became embroiled in the usual row between Viceroy and Secretary of State and as it was all too often the case, it was about Russian expansion in Central Asia and how Britain should respond. Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, was in favour of some action; Salisbury was considerably more cautious and less certain that Russia, despite the speed of her expansion, which he underestimated, was a real threat to India.
I think you listen too much to the soldiers. No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Tory Historian has just finished the highly entertaining Shooting Leave by Sir John Ure, a collection of tales of derring-do, espionage and scientific exploration as well as lots of shooting of birds and animals in the Great Game. It is thoroughly to be recommended to anyone who is interested in that subject.
Nor had the fascination of Central Asia, and Afghanistan in particular, evaporated for the British. The early years of the twenty-first century found us fighting there again, bravely and at times frustratingly, as so often in the past. Newsreels, novels and films about Kabul and Afghans filled television screens, bookstalls and cinemas. The charm of the Afghans, so mistakenly relied on by 'Bokhara' Burnes and others, remains as sharply etched as ever, and is still perhaps best described by General John Nicholson (who had served there in the 1840s and was to be killed in the Indian Mutiny): 'the most experienced and astute of our political officers in Afghanistan were deceived by that winning and imposing frankness of manner which it has pleased Providence to give the Afghans, as it did to the first serpent'.
On the secondary Conservative History Journal blog there is now a review of a book published by Biteback and edited by Francis Beckett, called The Prime Ministers Who Never Were. The verdict is so-so. Entertaining essays but counter-factual history, which has its uses, is not the same as total fantasy.
London Historians are organizing what is potentially the first of monthly meetings for those interested in a drink (or two) and a chat at the famous off-Fleet Street tavern, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. As a matter of fact, it is a very pleasant hostelry despite the irritating name. Tory Historian is not sure that Dr Johnson and Boswell actually idled away their hours - Boswell certainly thought that listening to the great sage was worth all the time in the world.
As editor of the Conservative History Journal in all its versions and a tediously tireless promoter of the study of history in Britain, I like the look of this website. Set up by various academic organizations it attempts to bring together as many of the digital resources for the study of British history between 1500 and 1900 as possible. I have to admit I have not yet tried using it for research but shall do so very soon.