There are several very good histories of the Conservative Party which describe in some detail how it grew and developed. The best-known is Robert Blake’s classic work, The Conservative Party from Peel to Major.
The results of a huge amount of research are incorporated in John Ramsden’s very readable, An Appetite for Power: A History of the Conservative Party since 1830. Anyone who wants a very full account should turn to what is known as the Longman history of the Party which consists of six volumes written by leading experts. The most recent and attractively presented survey is The Conservative Party: An Illustrated History by Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowden published in 2005.
But it seemed to me that something else was needed. Not everyone will want to read a lengthy book. So two years ago I published a brief history of under forty pages with plentiful illustrations. I have just updated it to cover the first six months of David Cameron’s government.
The theme of my brief history is change. Over the centuries the Party has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, looking forward not back.
Emerging towards the end of the seventeenth century as the Tory Party, it was put on a new basis in the 1830s when the word Conservative first started to be used.
Disraeli reminded the Party in 1867 that it operated ‘in a progressive country’ where ‘change was constant’. To succeed it had to combine its Conservatism with a readiness to carry forward big changes in political and social life. Modern progressive Conservatism was born.
In his foreword to my brief history, David Cameron refers to the way in which successful Conservative leaders’ applied the distinctive British Conservative tradition of progressive change in their time – and I am doing so again today’. He continues: ‘Conservatives take pride in their history. This useful publication will help us understand our history better’.
The new updated edition of Alistair Cooke’s A Party of Change: A Brief History of the Conservatives with a foreword by David Cameron is a Party publication and costs £5. To order a copy, go to our shop email Louisa.Watts@conservatives.com