'A great reforming Home Secretary?' A re-evaluation of the home secretaryship of R. A. Butler, January 1957-July 1962

MacLeod, Alan S (2006) 'A great reforming Home Secretary?' A re-evaluation of the home secretaryship of R. A. Butler, January 1957-July 1962. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2476383


Published twenty years ago, Anthony Howard's official biography of R. A. (Rab) Butler remains the most comprehensive study of one of the giants of twentieth century Conservative politics. Howard portrayed Butler as a liberal and progressive politician whose reforming instincts were at times frustrated by stronger-willed colleagues, right-wing backbenchers, or Conservative party activists. Now widely accepted, this view relies strongly on the liberal reforms Butler introduced - on prisons, betting and licensing - during his time as Home Secretary from January 1957 to July 1962. However, it has also been argued that the influence of his junior minister David Renton prevented Butler from implementing the Wolfenden Committee's recommendations on homosexual law reform and forced him to introduce restrictions on Commonwealth immigration. Moreover, Butler was unable to overcome opposition from within the Conservative party to his efforts to abolish capital punishment and consistently battled against demands for the re-introduction of judicial flogging. It is also possible to discern in the writing on Butler the acceptance of a 'Jenkinsian' model that equates the success of a particular Home Secretary with the volume and extent of 'progressive' or even 'radical' legislation that they implemented. A re-evaluation of Rab Butler's Home Secretaryship is long overdue. Examining government files held at the National Archives - which were unavailable at the time Howard was writing - that shed new light on Butler's character and the motives behind his penal and social policies, this thesis challenges several of Howard's conclusions. Most importantly, what this evidence makes clear is that it is vital to adopt a more nuanced view of Butler. The argument that certain policies were forced upon him by colleagues cannot be sustained as it becomes clear that Butler was motivated by a desire to reverse a widely perceived decline in moral and religious values that was leading to an increase in crime and permissiveness. In addition, it is demonstrated that the straightjacket of the 'Jenkinsian' model of Home Secretaryship gives a distorted view of Home Office history, which detracts from our understanding of Butler's tenure as Home Secretary.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Dr. Simon Ball.
Keywords: Biographies, Richard Austen Butler, Home Secretary, statesmen.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 2006
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2006-71744
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 20 May 2021 16:15
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71744

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