Prime Minister Robert Peel Lost His Job for Supporting Repeal of the Corn Laws, but Advanced Britain’s Middle-Class

(p. C11) Simon Heffer’s “High Minds” is a deep, droll and lucid exploration of Britain’s intellectual and political life from 1837, when the young Queen Victoria ascended the throne of a chaotic, semifeudal society, to 1880, by which time Victoria was a widow and the Empress of India, and the British, apart from those at the very top and bottom of society, had bootstrapped themselves into sobriety and “respectability.”

. . .

The “crucial step” in the middle-class advance, Mr. Heffer writes, was the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Opening the ports to foreign grain pacified the workers by lowering the price of bread. It hobbled the aristocracy by cutting the value of land, their biggest asset. And it geared economic policy to the commercial classes. A “long-term realignment” in politics followed. Repeal was secured by a Tory prime minister, Robert Peel, in alliance with free-market Whigs. It cost Peel his job but, over the next two decades, the Whigs turned into the Liberals, the party of middle-class reform.

For the full review, see:

Dominic Green. “Laying Stone on Stone.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 23, 2022 [sic]): C10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 22, 2022 [sic], and has the title “‘High Minds’ Review: The Victorian Pursuit of Perfection.”)

The book under review is:

Heffer, Simon. High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. New York: Pegasus Books, 2022.

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