Sir Robert Peel - paragon or pariah? Peel was the greatest statesman and political leader of mid-Victorian Britain, a titan of Conservative politics, whose legacy has inspired generations in his party and in British political life. In a career spanning forty years he held the greatest offices of state including Chief Secretary to Ireland, Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and was twice Prime Minister. He was the first acknowledged leader of the Conservative Party and the Founder of Modern Conservatism. Yet Peel's seemingly peerless reputation has never been secure. The Repeal of the Corn Laws split his party, his 'Peelite' supporters joined the Liberals and the Conservatives remained in opposition for thirty years. Richard Gaunt, drawing on a huge archive of state papers, contemporary writings including Peel's own Memoirs and the latest historiography, paints a convincing picture of Peel as an exponent of effective government in the modern industrial state and a calculating practitioner, supremely self-confident, who dominated both his Party and the House of Commons.
Gaunt's revisionist life of Peel will be essential reading and the standard work for students and general readers interested in Conservative and mid-Victorian political history and historical biography.
Richard A. Gaunt is Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Nottingham and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has contributed to The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and edited the diaries of a major Ultra-Tory politician of the period in Unhappy Reactionary: The Diaries of the Fourth Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne and a book of contemporary texts concerning Benjamin Disraeli. He is currently writing Conservative Politics in the Age of Reform 1780-1850 (I.B.Tauris).