Recent scholarship, in particular Angus Hawkins’ magisterial study of Derby, and Geoff Hicks’ revisionist account of Conservative thinking on foreign policy in the 1850s, helps pave the way to a more balanced view of the Conservative Party during its wilderness years; this, of necessity, involves a recalibration of the role played by Disraeli.1 Interesting as he is, and fascinating as he remains, and significant as his leadership was, Disraeli does not take centre stage before the 1860s, and to write as though his (sometimes rather odd) views were Conservative policy before that date betrays the paucity of historical accounts that would enable him to be placed into his proper context.
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