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Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-1945 Hardcover – 25 Apr 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199667985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199667987
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.8 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 747,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

After studying at the University of St. Andrews, I was appointed to a lectureship in History at the University of Leicester in 1979, where I am currently Professor of Modern British History. I have been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1990, and am a member of the editorial committee and a Trustee of the academic journal 'Parliamentary History'.

I have always been interested in modern British political history, and within that I have concentrated on the Conservative Party during the twentieth century. Despite its long record of electoral success and dominance in government since 1918, when I began research in the late 1970s this was a very neglected area. My doctoral thesis examined the internal party crisis of 1929-31, when rebellion within the party and attacks from the 'Press Lords' nearly forced Stanley Baldwin out of the leadership, and this resulted in my first book: 'Baldwin and the Conservative Party: The Crisis of 1929-1931' (Yale University Press, 1988).

In the course of this research, I became particularly interested in the records of the local constituency Conservative Associations, which shed significant new light on the internal politics of the party. My interest in the organisation and ethos of the Conservative Party led to further projects which dealt also with the period after 1945, particularly in the first of the three books which I have co-edited with Anthony Seldon: 'Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900' (Oxford University Press, 1994). We subsequently co-edited a book on 'The Heath Government 1970-1974' (Longman, 1996), and more recently a volume of essays by leading historians which examined each of the periods in which the Conservative Party has been in opposition since the days of Disraeli: 'Recovering Power: The Conservatives in Opposition since 1867' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

My main area of interest remains the inter-war period, and this has culminated in my most recent book: 'Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-1945'. This examines the nature and working of every level of the Party from the leader to the grass-roots, and integrates this with Conservative ideas, attitudes and electoral support. The aim is to examine the party as a organism, uncovering the roles and relationships of the various elements, and the attitudes and assumptions which shaped them. A particular interest is the relationship between leaders and followers, at all levels: between frontbench leadership and backbench MPs; between both of these elements and the party grass-roots, and the network of relationships at local constituency level.

My other books include a short illustrated biography of Winston Churchill (British Library, 2003), and a book which contains full colour reproductions of nearly 200 Conservative posters from the Edwardian era to the 2010 general election: 'Dole Queues and Demons: British Election Posters from the Conservative Party Archive' (Bodleian Library, 2011). I have also written a number of articles for academic journals, and contributed the essay on Stanley Baldwin to the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'.

In the early 1980s, I first encountered the private diary of Sir Cuthbert Headlam, who was a Conservative MP for most of the period from 1924 to 1951 (and a junior minister in the late 1920s and early 1930s), and a leading figure in the north-east of England - a region where the Conservatives were often struggling, despite their national success. Headlam's extensive and detailed diary is a fascinating source for British political history, and I have published this in a two-volume edition: 'Parliament and Politics in the Age of Baldwin and MacDonald: The Headlam Diaries 1923-1935' (The Historians' Press, 1992), and 'Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee: the Headlam Diaries 1935-1951' (Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Product Description


This book should be essential reading for any modern politician, from the humblest constituency envelope-stuffer to the present Prime Minister. (Ian Cawood, The Times Literary Supplement)

the fundamental importance of Ball's work ... is to demonstrate beyond all doubt that there is sufficient source material to encourage further and deeper research on the interwar Conservative Party. In fact, the book should inspire historians to do more research on the Partys political culture, identity, and language. (Gary Love, 20th Century British History)

the most thorough history thus far of any 20th-century British political party. ... a portrait in the truest sense. It is as much a major contribution to historical method as it is to the history of 20th-century Britain. (Dr Andrew Thorpe, Reviews in History)

This is a big and important book. Stuart Ball weaves together a narrative and a thematic approach in order not just to tell the story of the Conservative Party between the wars but to provide a guide to its anatomy and its ecology ... Ball's book can be dipped into with delight or read from start to finish (Averil Cameron, English Historical Review)

Book Description

Winner of the Political Studies Association's Conservatives and Conservatism Specialist Group's prize for the Best Publication of 2013

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Wrigley on 31 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A thoroughly researched study, drawing on the author's lifetime expertise in the area of the book. It will be the standard work for many years.
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