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Politics and Culture in Victorian BritainEssays in Memory of Colin Matthew$
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Peter Ghosh and Lawrence Goldman

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199253456

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199253456.001.0001

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Gladstone and Peel

Gladstone and Peel

(p.45) 5 Gladstone and Peel
Politics and Culture in Victorian Britain

Peter Ghosh

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Sir Robert Peel, the founder of modern Conservatism, and his role in nineteenth-century politics as the pioneer of ‘Gladstonian Liberalism’. One of the most fundamental assumptions underlying our understanding of nineteenth-century politics, although it has never been explicitly worked out, is that Peel remained a central presence in later Victorian England; in particular, that he was a decisive influence on W. E. Gladstone and on the Liberal Party he led between 1867 and 1894. Instead of being represented as a bilateral constitutional and party contest, nineteenth-century politics is more conveniently construed along the single axis supplied by ‘Peel-Gladstone’. But if Peel had become an anomaly in his own day, it is unlikely that he should have had any more relevance to succeeding generations, since they, like their predecessors, also believed in a party system as the best means of organizing public opinion in the country and of representing it in Parliament.

Keywords:   Sir Robert Peel, Gladstonian Liberalism, Gladstone, Liberal Party, party system

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