The First World War was a period of turbulent and unprecedented political upheaval that witnessed contrasting fortunes for Britain's major political parties. This book demonstrates how the Conservative Party was able to respond effectively in these years by refining a wartime patriotism that ensured its unity as a party, helped define its electoral fortunes and shaped ideological cohesion. Concepts of patriotism determined not only attitudes to the prosecution of the war, to voluntary and forced military enlistment, but also to class politics, Irish Unionism, democratic reform and the relationship between citizen and state. Fundamental conclusions about modern Conservatism emerge: its organic ideological genesis into a property-defending party; its peculiar willingness and capacity to adapt not only to the immense challenges of 'total war', but also to the new political climate awakened by the conflict. Conservatism was therefore at once flexible and ideological. Filling the historiographical gap created by an overemphasis upon its rival Liberal and Labour parties, and using previously unused party sources, this study sheds new light on many aspects of the war, of Conservative Party history and its regeneration following three disastrous general election defeats in succession, and of British politics in the twentieth century.
'This lucid, original and important book illuminates a key topic which has been too long neglected.' Stuart Ball, University of Leicester, UK ’…a cogently argued and well-researched book… Keohane charts with great skill the mix of political opportunism and deeply-held conviction, which shaped the Conservative response to the war and concludes pithily and aptly that not alone had the Conservatives fought to make the world safe for democracy, but that they had also succeeded in 'making democracy safe for the world'.' Dr William Mulligan, University College Dublin, Politico.ie 'This book offers a welcome corrective to research which has traditionally concentrated on the rise of Labour and the decline of the Liberals during the First World War by focusing on the experience of the party that, after all, dominated British politics for a twenty-year period after 1918.' English Historical Review '… Keohane's assiduous research provides a valuable contribution to a still developing component in the historiography of British politics and is recommended.' Cercles 'This work is a thorough and focused study that will no doubt offer new insights even to those who specialize in both the period and the party.' H-Albion 'This is a lucid and thought-provoking work. The International History Review
Contents: Introduction; War, politics and military strategy; Coalition and leadership; Irish Unionism; Patriotism and anti-socialism; Electoral reform; Collectivism; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.