Maurice Cowling


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




  • This country is overtaxed and over-governed, and will be more so if the Prime Minister leads, or allows, the Labour Party to have its way. Taxation has got to be reduced, not as a bribe, but as a national necessity.
    Serious damage will be done to the whole structure of British life from new, vexatious and unnecessary extensions of governmental power at the hands of a party which believes that government alone can make the decisions on which the national life depends.
    Admire Mr. Wilson's manner as we may, these are things that need to be said. If the Conservative party will not say them, Mr. Wilson will be there (and there rightfully) with a large majority for a long time yet.
    • Letter to The Times (21 March 1966), p. 11
  • The Conservative party has a serious social purpose which cannot be satisfied by the mere expression of opinion. Its task – in opposition as well as in office – is to do what it can to prevent governmentally controlled changes in the existing social structure. This objective is fundamental. In relation to it everything else is tactical... [T]he Conservative party has a particular commitment to private property – and to inequalities in ownership – as the linchpin of the social and economic order and one of the buttresses of the moral order that is under attack, and this has been so ever since the Labour party became the chief party of opposition.
    • 'Intellectuals and the Tory Party', The Spectator (8 March 1968), quoted in 'Skeletons from Mr Cowling's cupboard', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), pp. 336-337
  • What I mean by "liberal" a moral rectitude and intellectual certainty claimed by a small but powerful sect of publicists and politicians on behalf of an arbitrary collection of policies, some of which are sensible and some bogus, but which in bulk are made offensive by the way in which they are presented.
    • 'There's been a revolution here, too', The Spectator (24 May 1968), quoted in 'Skeletons from Mr Cowling's cupboard', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 340
  • I mean a liberal doctrine and condescending manner which is particularly strong amongst undergraduate politicians and higher journalists, which is to be found in parts of all political parties and which, having its heroes in each generation, in this generation favours Messrs Jenkins, Crosland, Grimond and certain Conservatives whose names can easily be guessed.
    • 'There's been a revolution here, too', The Spectator (24 May 1968), quoted in 'Skeletons from Mr Cowling's cupboard', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 340
  • I mean the liberalism which parades conscience more often than conscience ought to be paraded and which assumes that anyone who feels unable to use its language, or support its policies, is an idiot, a knave or a reactionary. I mean the liberalism to be found in the Guardian, the Observer and the new Times whose topics are race relations, crime, Africa, under-developed peoples, the indiscriminate expansion of university education and the maintenance of the illusory influence of a liberal Britain though the multiracial Commonwealth and the United Nations.
    • 'There's been a revolution here, too', The Spectator (24 May 1968), quoted in 'Skeletons from Mr Cowling's cupboard', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 340
  • I mean the permissive, metropolitan liberalism which uses the language of protest, progress and the open mind but which has by now become orthodox, predictable and is in many cases the mindless slogan of empty minds. Above all I mean the liberalism which over the last twenty years has encountered virtually no opposition and for which the events of the last six weeks have come as a particularly nasty revelation of the state of public thinking.
    • 'There's been a revolution here, too', The Spectator (24 May 1968), quoted in 'Skeletons from Mr Cowling's cupboard', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 340


  • 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 (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 (1975), p. 9

"The Present Position" (1978)

"The Present Position" in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays (1978)
  • As to Solzhenitsyn it is necessary to remark that there is every reason to avoid involvement. He is a Russian, bearing on himself the marks of the Russian experience. There is no common ground between him and us or between his experience and ours. We know well enough without him that the Soviet Union may be dangerous, but we ought also to know that the reason why we should fear her is not the illiberality of her regime but any danger that may arise from her expansion. We know, too, that the Labour party is not Bolshevism, that at its worst it is East German socialism.
    • p. 1
  • If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill.
    • p. 1
  • [It is] rational pessimism that provides the strongest justification for a conservative politics.
    • p. 2
  • [L]ow-keyed the real religion of the English people.
    • p. 3
  • [W]hat Mrs Thatcher seems to have sensed—is that that part of the liberal intelligentsia which grew up in the shadow of Hitler, Spain and Unemployment is deeply alienated from the Labour party. It has never liked trades unions even though, in the form of the 'ragged-trouser generation' (as Mr Stuart Hampshire calls it), it was willing, when young, to profess sympathy for the working classes whom it idolized in ignorance and at a distance and, quite wrongly, regarded as its natural ally in the fight against illiberal, reactionary, capitalistic Conservatism.
    • p. 6
  • The real objection to Professor more far-reaching. It is that under the banner of 'liberal values' he consecrates as desirable an anarchy of opinions which ought in no way to be desired. A society ought to have opinions about which there is no fundamental disagreement and in relation to which it is not the business of universities to adopt a liberalising or questioning attitude. If England is a liberal society in Professor Gould's sense, that ought not to be turned, as he turns it, into a matter of self-congratulation. It is a matter rather for gloom and regret that anyone as clever as he is should consecrate the unthought-out pluralism in which we live, and a matter for serious reflection that, so far as Marxists see this, they perform a valuable, destructive function to disclosing the gulf that divides the doctrinaire liberal from nearly the whole of the rest of the human race.
    • p. 8
  • In the Conservative conception of freedom...there is a great deal of double-talk and many layers of concealed consciousness. Conservatives, if they talk about freedom long enough, begin to believe that that is what they want. But it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones, so far as political action can do this. And this is wanted not only by those who benefit from inequalities of wealth, rank and education but also by the enormous numbers who, while not partaking in the benefits, recognize that inequalities exist and, in some obscure sense, assume they ought to. They assume, that is to say, that a nation has to be stratified and that stratification entails privilege; and they assume this not as a matter of principle but because it is something to which they are accustomed. They are accustomed to inequalities; inequalities are things they associate with a properly functioning society.
    • pp. 9-10
  • It is in this context that the freedom rhetoric must be understood. It is a way of speaking which resonates somewhat and seems to have resonated effectively in the last three years. But it is not what Conservatives want, even if it fits in with what they want. Indeed, it is a way of not saying what they want, a way of attracting sympathy and support for, and attributing principle to, a social structure which they wish to conserve or restore.
    • p. 10
  • The objection of substance to this position is that, in the hands of those who actually believe it, as Mr Lane has shown at the Race Relations Board, it becomes an exercise in liberal fascism, dedicating itself to the improvement of the nation's mind whether the nation's mind wishes to be improved or not, and showing itself only too willing to suppress expressions of opinion that conflict with it.
    • p. 13
  • [T]he sense of national identity that existed in Britain until at least twenty years ago, with its mixture of common memories, images and expectations, may in places have been eroded; intelligence and skill will be needed if it is to be restored and, more important, extended to those who have never felt it.
    For this, the Conservative party is no longer as well equipped as it used to be. Europeanism on the one hand has combined with doctrinal antitotalitarianism on the other to create the impression that the object of British policy should be resistance to Marxism. It is not, however, Marxism that it should be the object of British policy to resist. What it should be the object of British policy to resist is any threat to the independence and integrity of the United Kingdom, and in relation to this, EEC, NATO and the Commonwealth are merely instruments with no permanent claim on loyalty or attention. The only permanent claims are those which arise from the national interest defined in terms of sovereignty, historic continuity and national identity, and beyond these no other focus of loyalty is either necessary or desirable.
    • p. 16
  • Mr Powell attaches the highest value to working-class opinion. It is one of his special audiences and one, moreover, that he thinks deserves a better diet than the awful pieties with which Mr Jenkins and his allies had hoped to lead it into a liberal future. Even without the exigencies of his own Irish situation, he would obviously regard it as a sympathetic support both to his stated opinions about Europe and immigration and to the conception of a unity of national sentiment transcending the divisions of the classes.
    As the indication of a political position, this would be admirable if it were propounded from inside the Conservative party. It would, indeed, be a form of 'traditional Conservatism', indicating the duties of the elite, demanding from it a rhetorical commitment and establishing resonances between it and the body of the electorate in a way which no other Conservative has succeeded in doing in the last twenty-five years. If Mr Powell were still, or showed signs of wishing once more to become, a party Conservative, he would be in a position to complete the work he begun before he left—of manufacturing a spiritual glue that would bind down the elite and force it to use a language that would bind it to everyone else.
    • p. 19
  • The object of this volume is to suggest respects in which Mrs Thatcher's stance may be open to improvement. Its message is that a Conservative stance should not only be different from the liberal conservatism of the 1950s but should also avoid the class resentments of the converted socialists of the seventies. It should treat Liberalism and Marxism as similar sorts of doctrine and should approach the former more even that it approaches the latter with satire, ridicule and incredulity. It should feel impelled towards a diffidence, irony or detachment which, whether Christian or cynical, will enable it to avoid ethical earnestness; and it should do this not because ethical earnestness is dangerous but because it is earnest and, as Mr Heath discovered, provides no route to that unity of national sentiment for which Conservatives need to seek.
    • pp. 19-20


  • 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 (1990), p. xv
  • If you ask me whether I was deeply Christian, the answer is that I went to college chapel and had a strong polemical Christianity... It could well be that it was a polemical conviction against liberalism rather than a real conviction of the truth of Christianity.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (1990), pp. 129-130
  • I suppose on a census I would describe myself as a member of the Church of England. If you ask me, do I think I ought to be an Anglican, the answer is that I probably ought to be a Roman Catholic, but I don't see any prospect of that happening... I'm not saying that I couldn't become a Roman Catholic. What I'm saying at the moment is that I feel quite a large part of the time that I ought to be a Roman Catholic.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (1990), p. 131
  • What needs to be explained is not particularly why Roman Catholics go to church, but why Protestants don't. Somehow the gut seems to have gone out of English Protestantism. It's turned into these post-Christian moralistic sentiments.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (1990), p. 133
  • 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 (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 (1990), p. 136
  • I've read The Satanic Verses and I thought it a nasty, sneering, free-thinking book. I'm not in favour of Moslems executing death threats or using violence, and they have to observe the law when they're here, but I can understand why the book is offensive and it didn't seem to me to be anything but offensive when I read it. Some thinking Moslems take a view of the nature of religion, and the incompatibility between Islam and liberalism, which runs parallel to what I'm saying in Mill and Liberalism.
    • Interviewed in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (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... [F]rom 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 (1990), p. 144
  • Moral tolerance has not been a dominant feature of Conservative thinking in the past and, however desirable, is unlikely to become one of its dominant features, or indeed a dominant feature of the thinking of Labour voters so long as the gay and lesbian lobbies remain rancid and militant. Aspiration and choice, on the other hand, are qualities which every Conservative leader since Baldwin has applauded without embarrassment or affectation and the Conservative instinct for "social cohesion" has been as central as the search for a new prosperity and "new opportunities for millions of people" in the last 18 years.
    • 'Finding a role for compassion', The Spectator (6 December 1997)
  • [T]he defence of property, inequality and differentials has been one of the leading motives of historic Conservatism, and that it is doubtful whether the Conservative Party without a strong streak of rural and suburban selfishness would have any reason to exist (any more than the Labour Party would have any reason to exist without its strong streak of working-class selfishness).
    • 'Finding a role for compassion', The Spectator (6 December 1997)
  • The present wind of compassion to some extent blew up, and to some extent was blown up artificially, in the two or three years before the general election and has since been prolonged by Princess Diana's death. It is now being replaced by normal politics which will lead eventually to a resumption of the gnarled, sceptical mistrust of all politicians from which Mr Blair will not be exempt and of which Lord Tebbit is the master. It would be a pity if Conservatives were to mistake a temporary aberration for a permanent obsession and were to addict themselves to a style of thinking derived from a period which is passing.
    • 'Finding a role for compassion', The Spectator (6 December 1997)
  • [U]nlike its "ethical" rivals, the Conservative party does not (in its right mind) pretend to be holier than they are but tends by and large to a decent scepticism, which the public may yet come to admire, about the more obvious forms of political humbug.
    • 'Rushing to judgment', The Spectator (23 May 1998)
  • By descent, upbringing and sensibility, Berlin was Russian, Jewish and English. But he misunderstood Russia, Israel and England almost equally. His England was characterised by "toleration...liberty...pluralism and...untidiness" and by a combination of practicality, eccentricity, fair-mindedness, empiricism and common sense. He did not mention the respectability, prejudice, xenophobia, moral conservatism and the low-keyed mistrust of higher thought which are – or perhaps were – also English characteristics.
    • 'A liberal icon', The Spectator (17 October 1998)
  • A Marxist or Trotskyite interpretation of history raises the question of hegemony or class power in its simplest form, uses the theoretical possibility of revolution to dramatise class-dominance, and promises insights into the unspoken attitudes of the elites and classes which have exercised power in modern England. This promise is unlikely to be fulfilled, however, when there is no attempt to appreciate either the mixture of motives among the "rich swine" or the fact that in most modern societies some of the "rich swine" were once poor swine, and when there is no grasp of the central truth that hegemony and inequality are necessary for cultural and economic development and for social and political stability and freedom, and are in any case the invariable consequence of revolution once revolution has produced new classes or elites to replace the classes and elites which it was designed to overthrow.
    • 'Trotskyism at the bath spa', The Spectator (20 March 1999)
  • A lot has happened to the student generations of the 1960s and 1970s since they discovered that spontaneous revolutions hardly ever happen. Some have become rich or have taken to conservative reaction; some have taken to liberal progress or to the cautious ambiguities of New Labour. Some have adopted the anti-capitalist sentiment of the Green movement while others have abandoned dirigiste Marxism for libertarian Trotskyism. In all too many (except among the conservative reactionaries and some of the millionaires), there is an entrenched secular orthodoxy which, whether liberal or Trotskyite, is represented as strongly in schools, polytechnics, universities, the media and the social services as on the Labour back-benches in the House of Commons.
    • 'Trotskyism at the bath spa', The Spectator (20 March 1999)
  • In the attack on the euro, the Conservative party has discovered what looks like a principle which may well have a snowball effect in shaking the moral invulnerability that has been Mr Blair's strongest card since 1997. Nor is it only the euro which may have this effect. No one any longer believes the government's assurances about hospital waiting-lists; everyone understands that taxation, especially on motorists, is too high; and there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the government's devotion to reverse discrimination and the Macpherson Report.
    • 'The 1980s Tory boys now', The Spectator (26 June 1999)
  • [T]he [Conservative] party has to do two things. It has not only to propose policies which derive from principles, it has also to create a pork-barrel interest which will persuade groups of electors severally and in detail that they would gain financially from a Conservative government. Secondly, as beneficiary of the public's dislike of the euro, it has to avoid giving offence to electors who agree with it on this issue only and at the same time has to respond to the culture of political mistrust which is the most important feature of the present situation – more important, probably, than hostility to the euro, because it strikes at the new era of sincerity and good feelings of which Mr Blair and Mr Ashdown have been the leaders.
    • 'The 1980s Tory boys now', The Spectator (26 June 1999)
  • [T]he most important feelings for Conservatives to be expressing at the moment...are the cynical feelings of disbelief which have been held at bay since May 1997, which are capable of welding middle-class and working-class sentiment together, and which need to be moved out from being Lord Tebbit's speciality into being what, rather vaguely, they are already: the rhetoric with which Mr Redwood, Miss Widdecombe and Mr Hague will expose the higher humbug which emanates from Downing Street.
    • 'The 1980s Tory boys now', The Spectator (26 June 1999)
  • Popper's politics were defective in a number of respects. He was obsessed with ideology, and was not interested in the force, fraud, intolerance, accident, subterranean prejudice and state power which help to create and destroy both historic allegiance and the sentiments of nations. He ignored the relationship between the rise of totalitarianism and the collapse of the German, Russian, Austrian and Chinese states and he mistook the Cold War for an aspect of an ethical foreign policy when in truth it was an incident in the development of diplomacy and military power, both aggressive and defensive, on both sides.
    • 'Piecemeal social engineering', The Spectator (18 September 1999)
  • So far as the Labour party is concerned, The Open Society is almost entirely irrelevant. The Labour party from the Webbs to Attlee, though it believed in state-power as the antidote to inequality and competition and misunderstood Stalin's Russia, was neither intellectually Stalinist nor intellectually totalitarian. Its defects were then and are now more domestic and homely – the minority-mindedness and nonconformist conscience which Keynes discerned in Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman, the conviction of moral impregnability which makes it intolerant, evasive and querulous when policy conflicts with principle or goodwill stubs its toe on interests, and the sympathy for fads and crankcauses which it inherited from the Liberal party and continues to display in the imprisonment of General Pinochet, the campaign against fox hunting and the nonsense involved in Mr Cook's "ethical foreign policy".
    • 'Piecemeal social engineering', The Spectator (18 September 1999)

Quotes about Maurice Cowling

  • [H]e represents a spirit of cantankerous dissent within a profession that always tends to occupy the respectable middle ground. I admire in particular the bracing revisionism of his trilogy of political histories: 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution; The Impact of Labour; and The Impact of Hitler. Many political historians confine themselves to the study of a single political party for which they feel some empathy or enthusiasm. As a result, many admirable and instructive monographs are produced. But they tend to replicate assumptions about the primacy of party, the motives of leading actors, and the representative character of democracy, which are not so much self-evident truths, as the necessary myths of a democratic system. Cowling's purpose was to demythologise democracy by describing the workings of party at the level of high politics. The emphasis he placed upon the autonomy of parliamentary politics, the ambiguous and rhetorical character of leadership, the significance of tensions within and between parties, and the synthetic nature of party conflict, introduced into political history a scepticism that was very much needed, even if it did not represent the whole truth.
    • Paul Addison, 'Destiny, history and providence: the religion of Winston Churchill', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 236
  • Mr Cowling's work is not only difficult, but comfortless. In his recent works, he implicitly wrestles with the paradox of the Tory party's very survival; how could this pre-democratic party, so many of whose intellectual and spiritual roots were antidemocratic, make such an easy accommodation with democracy? Mr Cowling is the antithesis of a facile Disraelian; in this pamphlet, most of the Tory intellectuals he cites are anti-democratic ones: Burke, Salisbury, Mallock, Eliot, Waugh. Mr Cowling himself straddles a thin margin between anti-democratic and ademocratic. He believes that English civilisation cannot long survive the decline of Anglicanism as a moral and political force.
    • Bruce Anderson, 'The Tories are reduced to hoping that something will turn down', The Spectator (2 August 1997)
  • Revisionism may appear to have sprung from nowhere but its roots are deep. Institutionally, they are clustered at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where the recently retired don Maurice Cowling established a formidable coterie of disciples. The names are a roll-call of modern Conservative thought: Edward Norman, Alistair Cooke, John Vincent, Roger Scruton and Jonathan Clark are merely the best known. Not all of the new revisionists, of course, were alumni of Peterhouse; but all owed a debt to Cowling.
    • Matthew d'Ancona, 'History men battle over Britain's future', The Times (9 May 1994), p. 7
  • This is an exemplary piece of political scholarship.
    • Roger Fulford, 'Leap in the dark', The Times (27 July 1967), p. 5
    • A review of 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution: The Passing of the Second Reform Bill
  • [I]t is dangerous, pretentious and unpleasant.
    • Roland Hall, 'Reviewed Work: Mill and Liberalism by Maurice Cowling', The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 58 (January 1965), p. 71
  • Maurice Cowling's work on modern English history and society is remarkable not only for its meticulous attention to neglected personalities, but also for its respect for neglected regions of the human psyche. To the surprise of many historians, and the indignation of others, Cowling writes of modern England as though it were a religious community, and as though its spirit were more vividly apparent in the meditations of some minor Cambridge cleric than in the words and deeds of a trade-union leader. Cowling is fascinated by politics: but he sees politics as a poignant outgrowth of forces which live more fully in rituals and prayers. Although he recognises the existence of outstanding leaders, he is persuaded that a leader is made by his followers, and the followers by history. As for history, this is made in many ways; but no force has been more influential in creating the peculiar stamp of modern society than the force of religion.
    • Roger Scruton, 'Epilogue: notes towards a natural philosophy of religion', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 251
  • I share Maurice Cowling's sense of religion as a primary social force. I also believe that it is no less strong a force in our secular age than it was in the age of faith, even if it is now less predictable and less coherent. Like Cowling, I believe that you can understand a national culture only as an outgrowth of the religious impulse that first set it in motion. And this will be the theme of my essay, which I hope will be a fitting expression of the respect I feel for an eccentric historian, whose eccentricity (like Chesterton's) is also a form of common sense.
    • Roger Scruton, 'Epilogue: notes towards a natural philosophy of religion', in Michael Bentley (ed.), Public and Private Doctrine: Essays in British History presented to Maurice Cowling (1993), p. 251
  • Cowling's project was almost ludicrously reactionary: to roll back the advances of the Enlightenment, to substitute orthodoxy and doctrine for openness and debate. In the fight against "liberal pieties", he considered rudeness ("reactionary bloodiness") to be a virtue, indeed a duty. "Vile" was a term of commendation in Cowling's looking-glass lexicon. "You are evil," he told a young historian with obvious approval. "We must have him," he declared of a candidate for a Fellowship: "he is horrible!" This kind of talk made Cowling an effective teacher: undergraduates found his cynicism both shocking and exhilarating. No doubt his startling inversion of conventional morality stimulated young minds to fresh thought. But his ideas were essentially destructive. As a result of Cowling's influence Peterhouse gained an unenviable reputation for "ill-mannered xenophobic exclusiveness". Discourtesy was not only tolerated, but encouraged. Guest nights frequently degenerated into protracted private parties, at which the bottle circulated until late into the night and the tone deteriorated accordingly. Such an atmosphere made it difficult to bring guests. The lucky ones were ignored; others insulted. A Fellow who brought in a black South African clergyman was embarrassed when some of his colleagues refused to share the table with him. Distinguished Jewish visitors endured anti-Semitic sneers. On the first time she dined in college, the wife of a newly-arrived Fellow found herself seated next to a drunken don, who proceeded to regale her with a detailed description of the sexual tastes of all those around her. A visitor from Merton attending a Peterhouse feast was placed beside Cowling, who said nothing for a long while, then broke his silence with the words, "From the moment you sat down, I knew you were a shit".
    • Adam Sisman, Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography (2010), pp. 458-459
  • Maurice Cowling, the Diogenes of the Tory cynical school, reduces the high politics of the 1920s and 1930s to "primarily a matter of rhetoric and manoeuvre...a struggle to decide which rhetoric to use and which group was to use it". Yet in the end he finds in both Chamberlain and Halifax "a recognition that the fundamental governing duties...were to exercise power responsibility, subordinate words to their practical purpose and ensure that careless, exuberant, heart-felt rhetoric was subordinated to the primary task of reconciling all classes and all bodies of potential alienation to the politico-social structure from which they derived their authority".
    • E. T. Stokes, 'Bureaucracy and Ideology: Britain and India in the Nineteenth Century', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 30 (1980), p. 136
  • It [Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England] is a very odd book indeed – written with all the thoroughness of a first-class technical historian; but no one would recognise it as, in the ordinary meaning of the phrase, a "history of opinion". In large part, it is simply an account of the extraordinary effect which certain brilliant men in the Cambridge of the 1930s and 1940s (Kenneth Pickthorn, Charles Smyth, Edward Welbourne and Herbert Butterfield for instance) had on the mind of an unusually intelligent undergraduate. As I was exposed to precisely the same influence at much the same time the book has for me the appeal of what the BBC would call "a trip down memory lane".
    For the general reader, however, its importance is greater; for these men (whom Mr. Cowling still looks on, as I do, with the awe of youth) were all unconsciously engaged in giving intellectual expression to a brand of English Conservatism which now seems almost extinct among the articulate but, in those days, represented the unstated assumptions of many generations.
    The dominant characteristic of that brand was that it was Christian. We were encouraged to believe that the State could not be indifferent to the moral assumptions of its subjects. Society rested on Christian foundations, and it was the positive duty of government to protect these foundations, largely through the agency of an educational system which could not be based on the illusion of ethical objectivity. Beyond that, we learned that the nation-state was probably the best means which human ingenuity had discovered of reconciling freedom with public order, that a government's principal task was to maintain the nation against the seldom distant threat of foreign aggression and the never absent danger of social disintegration.
    • T. E. Utley, 'For God and the Right', The Daily Telegraph (9 February 1981), quoted in Charles Moore and Simon Heffer (eds.), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T. E. Utley (1989), pp. 65-66
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