Maurice Cowling


Maurice John Cowling (6 September 192625 August 2005) was a British historian and a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.


  • Between 1920 and 1924 the Conservative party made three longterm decisions. The first was to remove Lloyd George from office. The second was to take up the rôle of 'defender of the social order'. The third was to make Labour the chief party of opposition.
    • The Impact of Labour 1920-1924. The Beginning of Modern British Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 1.
  • To history, until yesterday, Halifax was the arch-appeaser. This, it is now recognised, was a mistake. His rôle, however, was complicated. In these pages he is not the man who stopped the rot, but the embodiment of Conservative wisdom who decided that Hitler must be obstructed because Labour could not otherwise be resisted.
    • The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy, 1933-1940 (University of Chicago, 1977), p. 9.
  • If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill. ... it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones.
    • "The Present Position," Conservative Essays (Cassell, 1978), p. 1, p. 9.
  • From Britain's point of view the 1939 war had been a liberal war which had been entered into in a condition of moral indignation without the resources to fight it, that it had been providential good fortune which had placed the burden of fighting on the Russians and the Americans.
    • Mill and Liberalism: Second Edition (CUP, 1990), p. xv.
  • I'm an intellectual Thatcherite, just as I was an intellectual Powellite, and I think it important that the Conservative party should be in good hands and that it should win elections.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (Quartet Books, 1990), p. 134.
  • Liberalism is essentially the belief that there can be a reconciliation of all difficulties and differences, and since there can't, it is a misleading way to approach politics.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (Quartet Books, 1990), p. 136.
  • I've read The Satanic Verses and I thought it a nasty, sneering, free-thinking book... I can understand why the book is offensive and it didn't seem to me to be anything but offensive when I read it.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (Quartet Books, 1990), p. 142.
  • It seemed to me singularly ill-contrived for the British government to be going to war with Hitler when Hitler might have been about to attack the Russians, and even more ill-contrived that, when Hitler did attack the Russians, he had already defeated the French army. What I'm saying is that the war shouldn't have been started in September 1939...from the point of view of Britain, the war was really not a good thing and I would regard it as, in effect, a defeat.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (Quartet Books, 1990), p. 144.

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