Historical example

March 19, 2004

Academic investigation of Conservative intellectual history could have practical implications not only for those advocating the Tory cause but also for those concerned with more radical strands of politics.

John Charmley and the Conservative History Group ("Thin gruel of cliché will never win votes", March 12) are looking at the political visions of the Stanley family, headed by the earls of Derby, for a liberal view of Conservatism.

There is also more to be learnt from their dynastic rivals, the Cecil family. The third marquess of Salisbury was a great prime minister, but his nephew Arthur Balfour's work merits particular investigation.

Balfour concentrated on the philosophy of science and religion. For much of the 1920s he was the minister responsible for British science and saw the development of science as key to Britain's international status and economic recovery after the first world war. Science today could do with recognition through a responsible minister of Cabinet status.

Frederic Stansfield

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