Kelley, Robert, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. "Correspondence." Journal of British Studies 6, no. 2. 1967.


To the Editor of The Journal of British Studies: I am writing to make certain that someone, at least, enters a protest against Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb’s extraordinary arti- cle in the November, 1966, issue of the J.B.S. on the Reform Act of 1867. As a teacher of intellectual history, I have long used with admiration her excellent books in the field of “pure” ideas – on Mill, Darwin, and Acton. It is painfully clear that the Reform Act article sees her quite out of her element. Perhaps without realizing it, she has entered another precinct in intellectual history, that of “ideas in politics,” which is not susceptible to the use of the same techniques she has so skillfully applied in her other works. One must learn party history intimately, so that one sees a particular crisis against a deep background. As those of us who have worked in this field know, from painful experience, it is alluring but funda- mentally disastrous to extrapolate from a few utterances made in a particular political crisis outward to large statements about what constitutes “Conservatism” or “Liberalism.” It is certainly danger- ous to assume that intellectuals like John Stuart Mill and Walter Bagehot may be taken as speaking for the politicians of their era.

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