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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 November 2014

Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Department of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim,


Conservatives usually play down their intellectual credentials because it provides them with an effective means of distancing themselves from the ‘doctrinaire’ or the intellectualized politics of the left. But this approach was challenged by a significant group of Conservative MPs and intellectuals during the interwar period. Conservatives wrote articles for a range of periodicals, which were still important channels of communication for the sharing of political ideas between the wars. Stanley Baldwin banned government ministers from publishing independent journalism, which meant that it was mainly young, ambitious, or marginalized Conservative MPs who wrote for periodicals. When left-wing sentiment started to swell up during the Second World War, some Conservative supporters started to question the interwar leadership's neglect of the party's intellectual and publishing culture. It was now thought that the Conservative party lacked a convincing media-based popular ideology to compete with the left. But if Baldwin prioritized other aspects of the interwar party's appeal, the intellectual culture of Conservatism still acted as an important barrier to communist and fascist thought in elite political circles. This culture also had important resonances for the party in the post-war period because it contributed to its self-evaluation and policy restatements after 1945.

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I thank the Syndics of Cambridge University Library, the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the estate of Harold Nicolson for allowing me to cite the Stanley Baldwin papers, the R. A. Butler papers, and Harold Nicolson's diary, respectively. I would also like to express my gratitude to John Drinkwater, Mark Hailwood, Jon Lawrence, Peter Mandler, Richard Toye, and the journal's two anonymous referees for their invaluable comments on various drafts of this article. Finally, I am very appreciative of the advice given to me by Stefan Collini, Jon Parry, and Philip Williamson on particular aspects of my work during its preparation.


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90 Ibid., F74(94).

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94 Ibid., F74(114–15).

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149 Earl of Iddesleigh to marquess of Salisbury, 8 Dec. 1931, fourth marquess of Salisbury papers, 142/59. Iddesleigh highlighted D. H. Lawrence's The man who died, which was published by Martin Secker in 1931. The book had already been published by The Black Sun Press as The escaped cock in 1929.

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169 Crisp, A life for England, p. 55.

170 For a different interpretation, see Villis, T., British Catholics and fascism: religious identity and political extremism between the wars (Basingstoke, 2013), p. 172CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

171 On the relationship between Conservatives, the periodical press, and Ashridge College, see Jerrold, Georgian adventure, p. 334. Jerrold's book was re-published by the Right Book Club in 1938. The standard work on Ashridge College is now Berthezène, C., Les conservateurs britanniques dans la bataille des idées, 1929–1954: Ashridge College, premier think tank conservateur (Paris, 2011)Google Scholar.

172 Berthezène, ‘Creating Conservative Fabians’, pp. 211–40; and Green, Ideologies of Conservatism, pp. 135–56.

173 Hoffman, J. D., The Conservative party in opposition, 1945–1951 (London, 1964), pp. 136–7Google Scholar.

174 Torrance, Noel Skelton, pp. 207–19.

175 Green, Ideologies of Conservatism, p. 168.

176 John Stuart Mill famously referred to the Conservatives as the ‘the stupidest party’ in his Considerations on representative government (London 1861). See Capaldi, N., John Stuart Mill: a biography (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 324–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Mill's words were discussed and rejected in the pages of Conservative-leaning periodicals in the interwar period. See Anon., ‘Conservatism and youth’, Saturday Review, 18 Jan. 1930, pp. 64–5Google Scholar.