Conservative Party

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Conservative party,

British political party, formally the Conservative and Unionist party and a continuation of the historic ToryTory
, English political party. The term was originally applied to outlaws in Ireland and was adopted as a derogatory name for supporters of the duke of York (later James II) at the time (c.
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The Rise of the Conservative Party

The name "conservative" was used by George Canning as early as 1824 and was first popularized by John Wilson Croker in the Quarterly Review in 1830. The Reform Bill of 1832 (see Reform ActsReform Acts
or Reform Bills,
in British history, name given to three major measures that liberalized representation in Parliament in the 19th cent. Representation of the counties and boroughs in the House of Commons had not, except for the effects of parliamentary
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), which created some 500,000 middle-class voters, marked the advent of the new party. The 19th-century Conservatives, like their Tory predecessors, were defenders of the established Church of England. They supported aristocratic government and a narrow franchise. They attempted, by passing factory acts and moderating the poor law of 1834, to ease hardships stemming from the Industrial Revolution, but they had no comprehensive plan to cope with its widespread dislocations. They were stronger in rural than in urban areas and were defenders of agricultural interests.

Sir Robert PeelPeel, Sir Robert,
1788–1850, British statesman. The son of a rich cotton manufacturer, whose baronetcy he inherited in 1830, Peel entered Parliament as a Tory in 1809.
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, in his Tamworth Manifesto (1834) and after, attempted to make the party attractive to the new business classes and formed the first Conservative government. But his repeal (1846) of the corn lawscorn laws,
regulations restricting the export and import of grain, particularly in England. As early as 1361 export was forbidden in order to keep English grain cheap. Subsequent laws, numerous and complex, forbade export unless the domestic price was low and forbade import
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 brought about an angry reaction from protectionist agricultural interests, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin DisraeliDisraeli, Benjamin, 1st earl of Beaconsfield
, 1804–81, British statesman and author. He is regarded as the founder of the modern Conservative party.
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, and resulted in a party split. The "Peelites" eventually merged with the Liberal partyLiberal party,
former British political party, the dominant political party in Great Britain for much of the period from the mid-1800s to World War I. Origins
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, and the Conservatives were hampered by the loss to the Liberals of able young leaders like William Gladstone.

From Disraeli to World War I

In the heyday (1846–73) of free trade and anti-imperial sentiment, the Conservatives were out of office, except for three brief ministries, until the Disraeli government of 1874–80. Disraeli's strong imperialism and his wooing of a broadened electorate with plans for reform, a program known as "Tory democracy," was attractive in a period of depression and increasing imperial competition. After the Reform Bill of 1884 campaign, organizations like the Primrose League and the development of the caucus gave the Conservatives greater solidarity and cohesion. They gained additional strength as a result of the secession (1886) from the Liberal party of the Liberal Unionists, who, like the Conservatives, opposed Home RuleHome Rule,
in Irish and English history, political slogan adopted by Irish nationalists in the 19th cent. to describe their objective of self-government for Ireland. Origins of the Home Rule Movement
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 for Ireland. (In 1912 the Liberal Unionists formally merged with the Conservative party.)

The party was in office under the 3d marquess of SalisburySalisbury, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3d marquess of
, 1830–1903, British statesman. He entered Parliament in 1853 as a Conservative and devoted himself for 50 years to a program of cautious imperialism
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 (1885–86; 1886–92; 1895–1902) and Arthur BalfourBalfour, Arthur James Balfour, 1st earl of
, 1848–1930, British statesman; nephew of the 3d marquess of Salisbury.
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 (1902–5). Efforts by Lord Randolph ChurchillChurchill, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer,
1849–95, English statesman; son of the 7th duke of Marlborough. A sincere Tory and a founder (1883) of the Primrose League, dedicated to upholding national institutions, he was nonetheless opposed to the traditional structure of
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 to implement further domestic reforms in the tradition of Tory democracy were unsuccessful, but the popular imperialist emphasis remained. In this period the party was gradually drawing closer to middle-class business interests, but the insistence of Joseph ChamberlainChamberlain, Joseph,
1836–1914, British statesman. After a successful business career, he entered local politics and won distinction as a reforming mayor of Birmingham (1873–76).
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 on a program of tariff reform, including imperial preference, split the party, which lost (1906) to the Liberals. Conservatives were next in office as part of the coalition government during World War I.

The Dominant Party

In 1922 the Conservatives refused to continue the coalition formed during the war, and under Andrew Bonar LawLaw, Andrew Bonar
, 1858–1923, British statesman, b. Canada. He went to Scotland as a boy and in 1900, after a business career, was elected to Parliament as a Conservative. He soon became known as a spokesman for tariff reform.
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 emerged victorious at the polls. With the Liberals in decline and the Labour partyLabour party,
British political party, one of the two dominant parties in Great Britain since World War I. Origins

The Labour party was founded in 1900 after several generations of preparatory trade union politics made possible by the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884,
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 still developing, the Conservatives entered a period of almost continuous hegemony. They held office from 1922 to 1929, interrupted only by a brief Labour ministry in 1924. They were the dominant power in the National governments of Ramsay MacDonaldMacDonald, Ramsay
(James Ramsay McDonald), 1866–1937, British statesman, b. Scotland. The illegitimate son of a servant, he went as a young man to London, where he joined the Social Democratic Federation (1885) and the Fabian Society (1886).
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 (1931–35), Stanley BaldwinBaldwin, Stanley,
1867–1947, British statesman; cousin of Rudyard Kipling. The son of a Worcestershire ironmaster, he was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and entered the family business. In 1908 he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative.
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 (1935–37), and Neville ChamberlainChamberlain, Neville
(Arthur Neville Chamberlain), 1869–1940, British statesman; son of Joseph Chamberlain and half-brother of Sir Austen Chamberlain. The first half of his career was spent in business and, after 1911, in the city government of Birmingham, of which he
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 (1937–40). Under the long leadership of Baldwin (1922–37), the party spoke for the interests of business, the professional and white-collar classes, and farmers. They lost prestige with Chamberlin's appeasement policy toward Nazi Germany, but the country rallied to his successor, Sir Winston ChurchillChurchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer,
1874–1965, British statesman, soldier, and author; son of Lord Randolph Churchill. Early Career

Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he became (1894) an officer in the 4th hussars.
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Postwar Years

Triumph in war preceded electoral defeat (1945), owing to popular demand for urgently needed social reform, which the Conservatives would not carry through. Returning to office (1951) under Churchill, the Conservatives displayed a sense of pragmatic modernity in accepting many of the social reforms instituted by the Labour government. The party's majority in the House of Commons was increased in 1955, and Sir Anthony EdenEden, Anthony, 1st earl of Avon
, 1897–1977, British statesman. After service in World War I he attended Oxford and entered (1923) Parliament as a Conservative.
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 became (1955) prime minister upon Churchill's retirement. Popularity diminished temporarily during the Suez CanalSuez Canal,
Arab. Qanat as Suways, waterway of Egypt extending from Port Said to Port Tawfiq (near Suez) and connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and thence with the Red Sea. The canal is somewhat more than 100 mi (160 km) long.
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 crisis, but favorable economic conditions and the political skill of Harold MacmillanMacmillan, (Maurice) Harold, 1st earl of Stockton,
1894–1986, British statesman. A descendant of the founder of the publishing house of Macmillan and Company, he was educated at Eton and at Oxford and served in
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, who headed the government after Eden's resignation (1957), resulted in a solid electoral victory in 1959. Under the leadership of Sir Alec Douglas-HomeDouglas-Home, Alexander Frederick, Baron Home of the Hirsel
, 1903–95, British politician. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he was elected to the House of Commons in 1931 as a Conservative.
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, who succeeded Macmillan (1963), the party lost narrowly to the Labour party in 1964. After that defeat, Lord Home instituted a formal balloting system for choosing future party leaders.

Heath, Thatcher, and Major

In 1965, Edward HeathHeath, Sir Edward Richard George,
1916–2005, British statesman. Educated at Oxford, he served in the Royal Artillery during World War II, rising to the rank of colonel.
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 became the first leader chosen through election. Heath led a Conservative government from 1970 to 1974 that faced the problems of a stagnant economy and a declining international political position. In response, the party moved to curb the power of trade unions and encouraged more economic self-reliance. In foreign affairs, it continued the policy of restricting Great Britain's Commonwealth and international roles while expanding ties with Western Europe, as demonstrated by Britain's entry (1973) into the European Community (now the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
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 [EU]). In subsequent years, however, divisions within the party over Britain's relationship with Europe remained unresolved and at time undermined Conservative governments.

In 1974, the Conservatives lost two elections and Heath was replaced as party leader by Margaret ThatcherThatcher, Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, Baroness,
1925–2013, British political leader. Great Britain's first woman prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising political stance, Thatcher served longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th
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, the first woman to lead the party. Thatcher was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, the longest uninterrupted government of the 20th cent. Her government dismantled much of Britain's postwar welfare state, and the party became identified with free-market economic policies. In 1990, Thatcher's leadership was challenged by members of the party; in the ensuing elections, she was succeeded by John MajorMajor, John,
1943–, British statesman, b. John Major Ball. Raised in a working-class area of London, he was elected to Lambeth borough council (1968–71) and entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1979.
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. Under his leadership, the Conservatives won the 1992 general election. The party received a resounding defeat in the 1997 elections, and Major was replaced as party leader by William HagueHague, William Jefferson
, 1961–, British politician, leader (1997–2001) of the Conservative party, b. Rotherham, Yorkshire. After graduating from Oxford, he worked briefly in industry, then (1989) won election to Parliament.
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In 2001 the party, which had come to be seen as anti–European Union, was again trounced at the polls by Labour, leading Hague to resign. Iain Duncan SmithDuncan Smith, Iain,
1954–, British political leader, b. Edinburgh. Educated at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he served in the Scots Guards from 1975 to 1981, leaving the army for a series of business positions, mainly in the defense industry and publishing.
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 was chosen to succeed Hague but served only two years as party leader before he was replaced by Michael HowardHoward, Michael,
1941–, British politician, leader of the Conservative party (2003–5), b. Llanelli, Wales, as Michael Hecht. The son of immigrants (his father changed the family name after becoming a British subject in 1947), he was educated at Cambridge and became a
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. The party made gains in the 2005 elections, but Labour's majority, though reduced, remained secure. Following the elections Howard announced his resignation, and David CameronCameron, David William Duncan
, 1966–, British political leader, b. London. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he worked for the Conservative party's research department beginning in 1988, became an adviser to two high-ranking government ministers, and headed corporate
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 was chosen to succeed him. Cameron moved the party more toward the center, and in 2010 the Conservatives won a plurality. They formed a coalition (2010–15) with the Liberal DemocratsLiberal Democrats,
British political party created in 1988 by the merger of the Liberal party with the Social Democratic party; the party was initially called the Social and Liberal Democratic party.
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, and Cameron became prime minister.

Cameron remained in office after the party won a slim majority in 2015, but his promises to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and to hold a referendum on EU membership exacerbated the party divisions that had led to those commitments. Cameron, who supported remaining in the EU, subsequently (2016) failed to secure a pro-EU result in the referendum, and resigned as prime minister and party leader; Theresa MayMay, Theresa Mary,
1956–, British political leader, b. Eastbourne, Sussex, as Theresa Mary Brasier, grad. Oxford (1977). She worked for the Bank of England (1977–83) and the Association for Payment Clearing Services (1985–97) before she was elected as a
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 succeeded him. Early elections in 2017 resulted in a Conservative plurality; the party formed a minority government with the support of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists. May subsequently was unable to craft a negotiated British withdrawal from and future relationship with the EU around which the divided party could unite. She survived a leadership challenge and no-confidence vote early in 2019, but resigned as party leader that June. Boris JohnsonJohnson, Boris
(Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson), 1964–, British political leader, b. New York City, grad. Oxford (1986). While at Oxford Johnson was president of the prestigious Oxford Union debating society.
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 subsequently became party leader and prime minister and, campaigning on the promise to exit from the EU, led the party to a sizable majority late in the year.


See M. Pugh, The Tories and the People (1985); F. O'Gorman, British Conservatism (1986); R. Shepherd, The Power Brokers (1991).

Conservative party,

in Canada. 1 Former Canadian political party that merged with the Progressive party to form the Progressive Conservative partyProgressive Conservative party,
former Canadian political party, formed in 1942 by the merger of the Progressive and Conservative parties. Beginning with the first Canadian prime minister, John A.
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2 Officially the Conservative party of Canada, political party formed in 2003 by the merger of the Progressive Conservative party (PC) and the Canadian AllianceCanadian Alliance,
former Canadian political party that had its origins in the Reform party of Canada, which was founded in 1987 in Winnipeg, Man., as a W Canada–based conservative alternative to the Progressive Conservative party.
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 (CA). In 1993 the Progressive Conservatives, who had held a parliamentary majority, were savaged at the polls as many voters in W Canada deserted the PC for the young Reform party (the predecessor of the CA). The PC failed to recover from the losses, and in 2003 agreed to unite with the larger CA against the Liberal partyLiberal party,
Canadian political party. Prior to confederation in 1867, reform parties advocating greater local participation in provincial governments, free trade, and increased separation of church and state existed in Canada West, Canada East, and the Maritime Provinces.
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, which had secured three successive victories (1993, 1997, 2000) facing a divided conservative opposition. However, a number of prominent PC members, including former party leader Joe ClarkClark, Joe
(Charles Joseph Clark), 1939–, prime minister of Canada (1979–80), b. High River, Alta. He entered the Canadian House of Commons from Alberta in 1972 and became leader of the Progressive Conservative party in 1976.
..... Click the link for more information.
, did not support the union. Former CA leader Stephen HarperHarper, Stephen,
1959–, prime minister (2006–15) of Canada. A founding member of the conservative Reform party (later the Canadian Alliance), he won a seat in the federal parliament in 1993, but broke with party leader Preston Manning four years later and left
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 was elected Conservative party leader.

In the 2004 elections the party's social conservatism failed to resonate with enough voters to force the Liberals from power, despite voter unhappiness with the Liberals. By the 2006 polls, however, the Liberals had been further hurt by scandal, and the Conservatives secured a plurality of the seats in parliament. Their plurality increased after the 2008 elections, and they won a majority in 2011. In 2015 voters gave the Liberals a parliamentary majority, and Harper stepped down as party leader. Andrew Scheer, a former House of Commons speaker, was elected party leader in 2017. The Conservatives won the largest share of the vote in 2019, but the Liberals secured a plurality of the seats. Scheer subsequently resigned as party leader, and was succeeded in 2020 by Erin O'TooleO'Toole, Erin Michael,
1973–, Canadian politician. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force (1991–2000), then earned a law degree and practised corporate law.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a former cabinet minister.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Conservative Party


(Great Britain), the chief party of the British monopolistic bourgeoisie.

Organized in the mid-19th century, the Conservative Party evolved out of the Tory Party. The name “Conservatives” came into use as early as the 1830’s, but the party is still widely known as the Tories. After the Parliamentary Reform of 1832 local organizations of Conservatives were formed. In 1867 they united to form the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations.

B. Disraeli, the leader of the Tories and later of the Conservatives (1846–81) and prime minister in 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880, played a major role in the formation of the Conservative Party. The party represented the interests of the aristocratic landlords until the 1870’s and 1880’s, when it attracted the support of colonial bankers and the big industrial bourgeosie, who were leaving the Liberal Party. As Great Britain made the transition to imperialism, the Conservative Party continued to defend the interests of the landed aristocracy. However, at this time it was becoming the chief party of British monopoly capital.

A significant role in the development of Conservative doctrine was played by J. Chamberlain, who advocated the formation of an imperial tariff union and the introduction of a protectionist policy. These proposals were engendered by Great Britain’s loss of its industrial monopoly and by increasing competition from other states, particularly Germany.

The Conservatives held power alone between 1885 and 1886, 1886 and 1892, 1895 and 1902, and 1902 and 1905. The leader of the party from 1881 to 1902 was Lord Salisbury, and from 1902 to 1911, A. Balfour. From 1916 to 1919 and from 1919 to 1922 the Conservatives governed in a coalition with the Liberal and Labour parties. (Bonar Law was the leader of the party between 1911 and 1923.) After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia the Conservatives were among the main organizers of the anti-Soviet intervention. Between the two world wars (1918–39) the Conservatives held power almost without interruption. S. Baldwin was the party leader from 1923 to 1937, and N. Chamberlain, from 1937 to 1940.

In 1940, after the complete failure of the policy of appeasing fascist aggression, which had been pursued by the Conservative government of N. Chamberlain, a coalition government (1940–45) was formed under W. Churchill, the leader of the Conservatives from 1940 to 1955. In March 1946, soon after the end of World War II, Churchill delivered a speech in Fulton, Mo. (USA), in which he formulated a program to unite the forces of the capitalist world for a struggle against the USSR. He called for the creation of anti-Soviet military and political blocs. After their defeat in the parliamentary elections of 1945, the Conservatives reorganized the machinery and structure of the party, hoping to broaden its popular base. In addition, they worked out a somewhat more flexible social policy.

The Conservatives held power continuously between 1951 and 1964. From 1955 to 1957 the party leader was A. Eden, who was forced to retire in January 1957 after the failure of the Anglo-French-Israeli aggression against Egypt in 1956. H. Macmillan was the party leader from 1957 to 1963, and A. Douglas-Home, from 1963 to 1965. From 1970 to 1974 the Conservatives were again in power under E. Heath, who was party leader from 1965 to 1975. During this period the Conservative government encouraged a stronger assault by the monopolies on the vital interests of the working people, adopted a policy unfavorable to the trade unions, and took repressive measures against the advocates of civil rights in Northern Ireland. In foreign policy the Heath government achieved the entry of Great Britain into the Common Market in 1972. It also took a number of steps to maintain the military, economic, and political presence of Great Britain in the region “east of Suez.” The Conservative Party was defeated in the parliamentary elections in 1974.

The upper officer corps, the upper clergy, the bureaucracy, and the diplomatic corps are, for the most part, members of the Conservative Party. In 1975 the party had about 3 million members. Members do not have to pay dues. The leader of the party enjoys enormous power. Should the party win the parliamentary elections, he becomes the prime minister. He is not obliged to obey the decisions of the annual party conferences. With the party’s exclusive leadership group, who represent the big bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, the party leader decides all the most important questions. The party faction in the House of Commons—the 1922 Committee—has considerable influence on the party’s policy. The Association of Electoral Districts is the basic unit of the party organization at the local level. The party has a young people’s organization, the Young Conservatives. M. Thatcher has been the party leader since 1975.


Lenin, V. I. “Konstitutsionnyi krizis v Anglii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 25.
Gollan, J. Politicheskaia sistema Velikobritanii Moscow, 1955. (Translated from English.)
Nekrich, A. M., and L. V. Pozdeeva. Gosudarstvennyistroi ipoliticheskie partii Velikobritanii Moscow, 1958.
Gorodetskaia, I. E. “Izbirateli glavnykh politicheskikh partii Velikobritanii.” In Sotsial’ no-politicheskie sdvigi v stranakh razvitogo kapitalizma. Moscow, 1971.
Mackenzie, R. T. British Political Parties, 2nd ed. London, 1963.
Dietz, H. Geschichte der Konservativen Partei Englands. London, 1955.
Blanke, R. The Conservative Party From Peel to Churchill. London, 1970. (Bibliography.)

L. A. ZAK [13–100–4; updated]

Conservative Party


(Prussia, later Germany), a party formed in 1848 to struggle against the bourgeois-democratic Revolution of 1848–49.

Initially known as the Kreuzzeitung Party, the Conservative Party represented the interests of the Junkers, the aristocracy, the military elite, the higher clergy, and the bureaucracy. In the first few years after the unification of Germany under the aegis of militaristic Prussia, the party was in opposition to the government of O. von Bismarck. It resisted the introduction of bourgeois reforms and, considering Prussia’s hegemony in the empire not sufficiently secure, opposed the expansion of imperial powers. It was reorganized in 1876 as the German Conservative Party, functioning throughout the empire.


Bergstrasser, L. Die Geschichte der politischen Parteien in Deutschland. Berlin, 1928.

Conservative Party


(Rumania, Partidul Conservator), a party founded in 1880, representing the interests of the large landowners.

The Conservative Party was the bulwark of domestic reaction. Led successively by L. Catargiu, G. Cantacuzino, and P. P. Carp, it was the ruling party in 1889–95, 1899–1901, 1904–07, 1910–14, and 1918. In 1908 a splinter group left the party and founded the Conservative Democratic Party, which lasted until 1915. After the agrarian reform of 1918–21 the party’s influence diminished. In February 1938, with the establishment of the royal dictatorship in Rumania, the party was dissolved.


Politics and Political Parties in Roumania. London, 1936.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Conservative party

British political party, once called the Tory party. [Br. Hist.: NCE, 632]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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