• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent was Disraeli personally committed to social reform

Extracts from this document...


To what extent was Disraeli personally committed to social reform? Disraeli's government which succeeded Gladstone's in 1874 implemented a series of reforms which were seen at the time to be successful and helpful to the lower classes. However, historians have often debated over whether the policies that the Conservatives followed were precise and devoted to their cause and if they were coherent with the objectives composed by Disraeli. After having heavily criticised the Liberals for their social reform programme through the famous Manchester and Crystal Palace speeches, there comes the belief supported by John Walton that "the social reforms were not a Disraelian programme but a series of responses to problems caused by the Liberals"1 thus discrediting Disraeli's commitment. Also, though the reforms can be deemed as successful, many historians claim that Disraeli was in fact merely the helmsman of the social reforms programme; it was left up to his extremely able Home Secretary, R.A. Cross and others in the cabinet to draft the legislation. These claims suggest the view that Disraeli was not an avid social reformer. However, despite these allegations, there is evidence to suggest that Disraeli was in fact committed to social reform. Through his novels he invented the "one nation" ideology that was created to resolve the "Condition of England". As for his lack of personal input towards social reforms Paul Smith excuses Disraeli by "Such administrative details bored him and he preferred to delegate, leaving ministers free to manage measures relating to their own department"2. To understand whether Disraeli was committed to social reform, it is first required that we understand his background. ...read more.


Also the government produced a lot of permissive legislation, such as the Artisan's dwelling Act which by 1881 only ten of the eighty seven towns to which it applied to had taken it up. Brasher points out that "The way in which Plimsoll had to struggle so hard in order to obtain the passage of the Merchant Shipping act of 1876, securing better safety for seamen, is equally significant in revealing the governments lack of independence on social issues" evaluates the efficiency of the government12. Despite Bruce Coleman's claims that the government also had to please the Conservative backbenchers who did not take kindly to higher taxes or responsibility, if Disraeli was truly committed to social reform, he would have made the legislation more effective. Further proof of Disraeli's uncommitted position on the topic of social reform has come from the legislation itself. Disraeli's commitment, or lack of it, is shown in how much personal exertion he put into the drafting of the Bills. Whilst he undoubtedly supported his cabinet ministers in the drafting of legislation, he himself took a rather 'back seat' attitude. In fact, much of it was due to the hard work of R.A. Cross. The fact that his cabinet ministers did much of the work, shows that Disraeli was not committed to social reform. Jenkins agrees that Disraeli was not very active in social reform and even fell asleep during cabinet discussions. Indeed in his acclaimed biography R.N.W Blake comments "it would be wrong to suggest that he played any great personal part in them (the social reforms), as he detested details, and his own interest was mainly in foreign affairs"13. ...read more.


Lord Blake identifies Disraeli's social philosophy as the "ability to counter-attack the real policy maker, Gladstone"25. This confirms Disraeli's showmanship as an aid for his ambitious opportunistic side, as it is clear he had no personal urge to "elevate the condition of the people", as the programme he used, involved no new principle and owed its origin chiefly to the ideas of his opponents. A point worth considering prior to concluding the verdict given to Disraeli's stance on social reform, is whether it is acceptable to allow the possibility that the "showman Disraeli" was committed to social reform, not on the basis of an ideological belief but because it was in his best interests to be. The depiction of the "showman Disraeli" shows the man "at the top of the greasy pole" who uses social reform as an instrument to gain political advantages through presentation and rhetoric charlatanism. Therefore surely it is feasible that this Disraeli is still committed to social reform, although for intrinsic needs. However, being "personally" committed to social reform, requires a genuine belief that it is a sound and needed policy to resolve the "condition of England". In conclusion Disraeli's commitment to social reform was dependable on when it would prove to be advantageous. Despite all allegations of opportunism, Disraeli's government produced a programme of legislation, which made a difference to his party's image for years to come. However Disraeli's background, whilst appearing to be commitment-based, was probably pure rhetoric and his speeches of 1872 nothing but political expediency. His motives behind the reforms, both political and social, point to the fact that the legislation was provoked more by his desire for votes than by his genuine concern for the plight of the working class. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Why did Disraeli pass the 1867 Second Reform Act?

    3 star(s)

    the Tory's and if he could, become the Prime Minister of Britain. This was not going to be easy as Disraeli was born into a working class Jewish family, which is not a typical candidate for a Conservative leader. Disraeli was an opportunist however, and when he saw his chance


    However, due to the death of General 'Chinese' Gordon and the contradictory nature of his foreign policy, public opinion remained against Gladstone in terms of foreign policy. So, the fact that Gladstone had thought about British interests mainly in terms of Egypt and Afghanistan means that he had, at one

  1. To what extent did the social reforms of Disraeli(TM)s government of 1874-1880 succeed in ...

    Whilst Adelman accuses the Tories of "windy rhetoric" concerning reform, Jenkins questions the need for the plan; Gladstone had produced an unexpected election and it "was not accepted practice at this time for part leaders to issue detailed manifestos". In addition, the people had elected the Tories on a principle

  2. "England experienced fundamental changes in the Political and Social life of the Nation" To ...

    The Municipal Corporations arguably did fundamentally change the political system in Britain as the effects of the act can still be seen in modern government. In 1833 the Whig government passed the Factory Act which was designed with the intention of improving the welfare state for the working classes.

  1. Warner Bros.' GoodFellas (1990) is director Martin Scorsese's stylistic masterpiece - a follow-up film ...

    Impatient with the delay while watching the commercial in the front of the salon, Jimmy moves to the back of the store and wraps a telephone cord around Morrie's neck to strangle him: "You got money for that f--king commercial of yours."

  2. Why did the Tories pass the Reform Bill in 1867?

    Considering the Conservatives Party had formed a minority government, and there was Liberal majority in Parliament, it is considered a huge success that the Bill was passed. How they were able to do this is down to a number of reasons.

  1. The changing position of women and the suffrage question. Revision notes

    * Peaceful marches * E.g. Women?s suffrage pilgrimage. * WSPU * Published pamphlets, formed petitions etc. * In 1908 a loss of interest in the suffrage cause, resulted in a change in methods whereby the WSPU adopted more militant tactics. * Shouted slogans during meetings of ministers. Assaulted police man. Demonstrations to Downing Street and House of Commons.

  2. To what extent did Disraeli achieve his aims in foreign and imperial policy?

    it as an insult to British power, served to encourage Turkish violence towards Christians and ultimately led to the exacerbation of the Bulgarian Horrors and the advance on Constantinople. This gave Gladstone the incentive to come out of retirement to openly attack Disraeli?s policies in his pamphlet, criticising Disraeli?s foreign policy as wasteful of lives and money.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work