Alex Illingworth: A study of British conservatism

Freedom and conservatism go hand in hand. Britain has considered itself a nation of liberty for centuries, with the origins of its current constitution reaching back to the middle ages. I have long believed that conservatism is about preserving a set of common values, including personal liberty, and in my new book “The Conservation of Liberty”, I present this argument by looking back at the history of Britain’s constitution, its most notable conservative thinkers, and key events across its history which have challenged those values.

Allow me to present an extract from the preface of the book:

“Conservatism is one of the most influential political forces the world has ever known. In the United Kingdom, it is arguably an integral part of the national social attitude: ‘small-c conservatism’ pervades the opinions of nearly every committed citizen, and an innate disliking of change appears to be commonplace among the citizens of this ancient isle… 

This little book is a study of British conservatism. It is an examination of its history, its philosophy and the author hopes, a standing point from which to look at conservatism’s future… Whilst politics must always be forward-looking, it is often prudent to look at the past, and to consider what was beneficial and what was destructive to the political system, and thereby choose the best course of action for similar events in the future. If anything can be achieved by this book, at the very least it is hoped that the myth of conservatism being an out-dated ideology might be dispelled, and to explain how conservatism is useful to everyone, not just the privileged few.” 

If Benjamin Disraeli was right when he remarked that he was “a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution; a Radical to remove all that is bad” then it could even be said that conservatism is one of the most revolutionary ideologies ever to sweep Britain – just in a very different way to most others; conservatism is a silent revolution, rising up to protect certain values and liberties wherever and whenever they are threatened. The Conservative Party and its political predecessors have been an integral part of this, but it cannot claim the mantle of conservatism solely for itself.

I will be donating all profits made from sales of this book to Mind, the mental health charity. I often talk about pragmatism, and how it is important for the Conservatives to help the vulnerable as best they can, not just limiting themselves to “compassionate” rhetoric. Two issues in our society which we neglect too much in my opinion are mental health and homelessness, which, in some cases, are related to one another.

Mind’s work has been so helpful to thousands of people who have suffered from mental health conditions, some of whom I know, but many of whom I have never met and probably will never meet; but if some small amount of good can come to even a few suffering people from my work – I will consider it to be a success.

Whether you hate conservatism or whether you love it – I hope you enjoy reading, and can learn something more about this varied and interesting philosophy.

If you wish to purchase and read the whole book, you can find it here in print, and here as an ebook.

Alex blogs at Burkeanthinker. Follow him on Twitter: @burkeanthinker

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty