Thursday, 8 July 2010

Forthcoming LSHG Conference: Making the Tories History

One Day Conference: Making the Tories History

Saturday 26th February 2011
Institute of Historical Research
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1


The decision of the neo-liberal ‘Con-Dem’ coalition
government to appoint Niall Ferguson, an arch-Tory champion
of Western imperial power, to advise them on re-designing the
national curriculum for history in British schools reveals
something of the viciousness of the new administration.
Ferguson wants to introduce an openly Eurocentric ‘grand
narrative’ of history celebrating the ‘rise of the West to world
domination over the past 500 years’. The Tories seem to want
a return to the kind of ‘traditional history’ taught in schools
decades ago, designed primarily to inspire loyalty to the
British Empire. This kind of ‘history’ was effectively satirised
in W.C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman’s anti-imperialist classic,
1066 and All That, which began by stressing that the only
‘memorable history’ was the “self-sacrificing
determination…of the…Great British People…to become Top
Nation” and concluded by noting that now “America was thus
clearly Top Nation and history came to a .” The only
difference is that while traditionally, the British elite saw the
rise of the American Empire as a ‘Bad Thing’, Ferguson today
wants us to celebrate it as a ‘Good Thing’.

Yet the weakness of this new Conservative-led government is
epitomised by the fact that the Tories also have a quite
‘memorable history’ of their own as the political party of
choice of not only many notorious reactionaries but of the
British ruling class as a whole–while there is also a
‘memorable history’ of working class resistance to them. The
Tories have subsequently long been detested and distrusted
by the organised British working class movement but also
wider swathes of society.

At the same time there are other sides to Toryism. George
Orwell said that when you meet a clever Conservative it is
time to count your change and check your wallet. The Tory
Party has not survived for two hundred years simply by being
vicious; it has shown a remarkable capacity for adaptation.
Disraeli is the archetypal Tory thinker, but the Conference
will also look at ‘left Tories’ like Harold Macmillan in the
1930s and the way the Tory Party adapted to the post-World
War II world (as studied in Nigel Harris’s Competition and the
Corporate Society: British Conservatives, the State and
Industry, 1945-1964, Methuen, London, 1971 and
1973.). Finally the question of ‘compassionate
conservatism’/ Red Toryism will be reviewed. Is it
hypocritical froth or does it have a more serious ideological
role?

This conference, ‘Making the Tories History’, organised by
the London Socialist Historians Group aims to discuss some
of the parts of the Tories’ own history as a political party
that they would prefer people either forgot or knew
nothing at all about. Developing ‘a socialist history of the
Tories’ can help act as a weapon in the wider struggle
against the Con-Dem cuts and their relentless attacks on
working class people, as well as rally the resistance of
those concerned in defending history from pro-imperialist
propagandists like Niall Ferguson.

If you interested in participating in the conference
please call Keith Flett on 07803 167266 or send a précis
of your proposed paper to keith1917@btinternet.com

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