The Abolition of Britain

The Abolition of Britain

"The Abolition of Britain" (subtitled "From Lady Chatterley to Tony Blair" in its British editions and "From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana" in the USA) is a book by Peter Hitchens, first published in the UK by Quartet Books in 1999 (ISBN 0-7043-8117-6), and then in a revised edition the following year. The volume was published in North America by Encounter Books in 2000 (ISBN 1-893554-18-X).


"The Abolition of Britain" is a conservative polemic against the changes in the United Kingdom since the mid-1960s. It contrasts the funerals of Winston Churchill (1965) and Diana Spencer (1997), using these two related but dissimilar events, three decades apart, to illustrate the enormous cultural changes that took place in the intervening period. His argument is that Britain underwent a "cultural revolution", comparable to the one imposed on China by Mao. He describes and criticises the growing strength of such forces as multiculturalism, which still had a liberal consensus behind it at the time the book was written. He was among the first writers to point out that British schools had largely ceased to teach the history of the country, criticising the preference for methodology, or the literature of Britain's past.

Other changes gain Hitchens' attention, from the passivity and conformism resulting from the watching of television to the Church of England's rejection of its traditional liturgy and scripture. Sex education, he argues, is a form of propaganda against Christian sexual morality and he describes the efforts made to provide respectability for unmarried motherhood, not least the campaign to replace the expression "unmarried mother" with "single parent", thus lumping together those who had children out of wedlock with widowers, widows or deserted wives and husbands, and so deflecting disapproval. The sexual revolution brought about by the first contraceptive pills is viewed negatively, and he argues that this pill was the result not of accidental discovery but of research deliberately pursued by moral revolutionaries. Hitchens sees the British establishment as being morally weak in their failure to resist the emerging drug culture, when they could easily have done so in the mid-60s. He devotes much space to an account of the prosecution of Mick Jagger and the subsequent intervention of "The Times" in Jagger's defence in 1967 "(Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?)" after his (temporary) conviction.

One chapter analyses the use of TV and radio soap operas to spread liberal cultural and moral propaganda, and refers to several instances where this intention has been openly expressed by the editors and authors of such programmes. In another, he attacks the development of "anti-establishment" comedy since the staging of "Beyond the Fringe" at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960. For Hitchens, the development of television, citing with approval a critical letter by T. S. Eliot to "The Times" in 1950, was something which should have led to a greater public debate than it did. In particular, Hitchens criticises the easy capture of the Conservative Party by lobbyists for commercial TV, which removed the BBC's monopoly power to defend cultural standards. He argues that the introduction of colour television, which made even the bad programmes look good, greatly increased the influence of TV over the public mind.

He identifies the then Labour politician Roy Jenkins as a highly-effective campaigner for "cultural revolution". He describes the Chatterley trial, describing what he calls "myths" about it, and argues that the defence of literary merit (from the 1959 Jenkins backed Obscene Publications Act) eventually came to be used to allow the publications of books and periodicals which had none at all. He examines Jenkins' use of cross-party alliances and, what he sees as, supposed Private Members' Bills to achieve his programme. These legislative changes had not been mentioned in the 1964 or 1966 election manifestoes, and Hitchens develops his argument by drawing on proposals Jenkins had made in a section (p135-140) of his 1959 book "The Labour Case". He cites warnings made by those who opposed the abolition of capital punishment, and claims that those warnings have largely proved to be true. For Hitchens this is an example of the political elite working against the desires of the public. Hitchens' view is sustained, in the case of capital punishment, by the liberal historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his history of the period "White Heat" (2006 p321) using contemporaneous opinion poll data. He went on to explore this issue in more detail in "A Brief History of Crime".

A chapter in "The Abolition of Britain" on the contrast between the public health policies on lung cancer and the public health policies on AIDS was left out of the first edition of the book, after Hitchens was advised that airing thoughts critical of homosexual acts would bring such criticism on it that it would distract attention from the book's main message. It was reinstated in the paperback and American editions, with an explanatory preface. He notes the damaging moral and cultural effects on Britain of the presence of huge numbers of U.S. troops during World War II and regrets the cultural impact of American usage of the English language in the UK itself. For Hitchens, the major failing of the Thatcher governments was the absence of a decidedly conservative stance over cultural and moral matters.

ee also

* Conservatism
* Paleoconservatism
* Peter Hitchens
* Pro-life
* Social conservatism

External links

; Book reviews
* [,,266632,00.html "How Hague loses the plot – and the battle over Europe"] article by Polly Toynbee in "The Guardian" 25 August 1999
* [ "The Battle of Britain – Is the sun setting on the United Kingdom?"] review in "The New Standard" (USA) 12 March 2001 by Jonathan Foreman
* [ "Will There Always Be One?"] "New York Times" review by Alan Cowell
* [ "Only a federal Europe can stop the abolition of Britain"] review in "The Spectator" 4 September 1999 by Peregrine Worsthorne
* [ "Presenting the past as another place"] review in "The Spectator", 11 September 1999 by John Redwood
* [ "Goodbye to All That?"] review in the "National Review" 31 December 2000 by John O'Sullivan
* [ Short book review from the Ulster perspective] by David Kerr at [ Ulsternation] , a web based forum for political debate
* [ "Conquered Without a Shot"] review in Spearhead (magazine) by John Tyndall (politician), founder of the BNP
* ["The Brainwashed Land of Hope and Glory"] review by Alistair McConnachie of the [ SOVEREIGNTY] monthly journal

; Extracts
* [ Extract from the first chapter from the U.S. publisher's website]
* [ Further extracts from "The Abolition of Britain"]

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