HILAIRE BELLOC: Edwardian Radical by John P. McCarthy

HILAIRE BELLOC: Edwardian Radical

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A prolific writer, Hilaire Belloc earned recognition in England as an elegant essayist, Catholic historian, Liberal MP, and anti-socialist, monarchist ideologue. Exactly how the various threads of his thought were woven together has not been previously explained. Taking a close look, John P. McCarthy (History, Fordham) finds two dominant strands: Catholicism and Radical Liberalism. In the context of British political history, Belloc's ideas belong at the end of the Radical Liberal tradition, which came down from Cobden and Bright into the 20th century where it proved fruitless. Thus, Belloc was devoted to the small farmer, free trade, individualism, and private property and was hostile to privilege, plutocracy, imperialism, and big government. And as a good Catholic--like his close friend, G. K. Chesterton--he believed that the Reformation had dissolved respect for moral authority and community. Elected to Parliament in the Liberal victory of 1906, he supported Radical and Catholic causes but soon grew discouraged over the Liberal government's move toward paternalism--which he denounced in his best-known book, The Servile State. He also lost faith in the party system itself, decrying it as the plutocratic heir of traditional aristocracy; and, along with the many critics of his day who rejected parliamentary government altogether, he now turned toward monarchism. McCarthy convincingly explains Belloc's Radicalism without excusing his ideological rigidity. His study thereby supports and supplements the friendly biography of Belloc by Robert Speaight (1957) and will help to deflect charges that Belloc was a reactionary Medievalist.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1978
ISBN: 0913966444
Publisher: Liberty Press (7440 North Shadeland, Indianapolis, Ind. 46250)