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4. Developments in the 19th Century

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In this module, we think about how conservatism changes over the nineteenth century, up to the eve of the First World War (1914-18), focusing in particular on: (i) conservatism’s willingness to adapt to new circumstances; (ii) the attempts to extend the appeal of conservatism to the working class, e.g. Disraeli’s ‘One-Nation Conservatism’, Christian democracy; (iii) the willingness of conservatives to look beyond the traditional landed aristocracy and embrace the new capitalist/industrial aristocracy; (iv) conservatives’ support for empire; (v) the support from some conservatives for the scientific racism of writers such as Arthur de Gobineau; (vi) the rise in antisemitism; (vii) the belief in a strong leader who could stand as a bulwark against the corruption and venality of parliamentary democracy; and (viii) the extent to which different forms of conservatism existed in Britain and on the continent at this point.


In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College, London) explores the history of conservatism as a political philosophy, from its beginnings in the 18th century to election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in December 2019. In the two modules, we think about what caused conservatism to emerge in the 18th century, focusing first on general trends and then on one particular triggering event. In the third module, we outline some of the core doctrines of conservatism – the first of which is its ability to adapt to changing circumstances – before moving on in the fourth, fifth and sixth modules to think about the development of conservatism through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, up to the election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in December 2019.


Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at King's College, London. His research focuses upon the history of political thought in France. He is presently finishing a book provisionally entitled Travels with Tocqueville and is acting as co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of French Thought. A larger, long-term project is to write a history of the concept of liberty.

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APA style

Jennings, J. (2020, December 24). Conservatism - Developments in the 19th Century [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Conservatism – Developments in the 19th Century." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Dec 2020,