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Thursday, 11 February 2016

A Second Reading List from Robert Finn

A conservative Reading list courtesy of Robert Finn @RobertFinn12. More great conservative books may be found here: Part 1 and Part 2 and more articles by Finn here: Remembering John A Macdonald, Remembering Edmund Burke, A Conservative Reading List 1


  1. Lady Elizabeth Longford’s Wellington: Pillar of State

The second volume of Lady Longford’s elegant biography of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, recounts the legendary soldier’s career as a politician. He became a two-time prime minister and became essentially the first reform-minded premier with the passing of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829- though he’d hate to think of himself as such. Wellington nearly destroyed the Tory party by his opposition to the extension of the franchise; he, however, with Peel, reconstructed the Tory party into the modern Conservative party. Wellington later led the House of Lords to repeal the Corn Laws. All in all, Wellington was not only a benign politician, but  a man who, after becoming a hero as Britain’s greatest general since Marlborough, died a hero. A great conservative! A great man!

  1. Sir Winston Churchill’s My Early Life

Churchill’s small autobiography is a pure delight for a historian. Of course, it is a delight for many reasons: it’s by Churchill, so you know off-the-bat it is going to be a great read. But it is delightful because it describes an era which we wrongfully frown upon as backwards and old fashioned. He describes a time of material improvement and imperialism. He describes a time when education was a privilege and not a right; when actually reading Gibbon and Macaulay, Plato and Aristotle, was taken upon by many and not by those in university. But this books is important, for it describes the immortal man's upbringing, his growth, his intellectual development, and his many early books and adventures.

Donald Creighton’s John A. Macdonald: The Young Politician and John A. Macdonald: The Old Chieftain

The greatest biography written in Canada written by Canada’s greatest historian on Canada’s greatest prime minister. Macdonald couldn’t have wished to have a biographer with greater literary prowess than Creighton. Creighton recreates not only the times of Macdonald’s era, yet also the figures who he had to deal with: Brown and Cartier, for example. At the end of each page I was filled with great sadness: what great prose! Yet, upon turning to the next, I was filled once again with resolution and joy: another page! Do not let yourself never read this biography!

Henry Adams’ History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

Adams stands with Parkman and Prescott as America’s greatest historian. His nine volume history of America during the years 1801 till 1817 are one of the greatest historical epics in the English language. He chronicles a difficult period in American history: though the state's’ right’s school had triumphed against the Federalists, Jefferson and Madison found it malleable to adopt Federalist policies. Yet the vigour which they inspired in the electorate invigorated America: she emerged from those two great presidents tenures willing and ready to take on fresh hardships. The moral of this work for conservatives to discover is that conservative policies do in fact benefit a nation much more than liberal policies.

Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Gibbon is the first modern historian; he is also the greatest historian in the English language. His historical epic concerns the fall of the greatest civilization that has ever existed on our barren and redundant earth. His irreligion is evident, and some of his sympathies some will not be able to condone. Yet do not dismiss Gibbon! He has lessons to share with us, not to mention beautiful prose filled with wit and irony. There were reasons why Carlyle and Churchill loved Gibbon. Read him, for he transports us forward in the centuries which were filled with misery and depression: we may heed his warnings, so that we do not fall into such a deplorable state again.