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5. Developments in the 20th Century

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In this module, we think about the developments in conservatism between the First World War and the 1970s, focusing in particular on: (i) the impact of the First World War on conservative thinking, in particular the creation of the extreme right-wing conservative forces that we associate with Hitler and Mussolini; (ii) the dominance of conservative radicalism in the middle of the 20th century, and the tension between the ‘conservative’ and ‘radical’ elements of the philosophy; (iii) the popularity of fascism in Britain in this period; (iv) the different kind of conservatism thought that also emerges from the experience of the First World War and the Great Depression, epitomised by Harold Macmillan’s The Middle Way (1938); (v) the extent to which this more centrist form of conservatism becomes the dominant form of conservatism in the decades following the Second World War; (vi) the emergence of Christian democracy in Europe; and (vii) the importance of Christian conservatives in the creation of what is now called the European Union.


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 20th Century [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Conservatism – Developments in the 20th Century." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 24 Dec 2020,