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Robert Norman William Blake, Baron Blake (23 December 1916 - 20 September 2003) was an English historian. He is best known for his 1966 biography of Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, and for The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill, which grew out of his 1968 Ford lectures. He was created a life peer in 1971 as Baron Blake, of Braydeston in the County of Norfolk.

He was educated at Norwich School and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a First in Modern Greats (PPE) and a hockey Blue. He served in the Royal Artillery during the war, was taken prisoner in Tobruk in 1942, escaped Italy in 1944 and was mentioned in despatches. He was in MI6 from 1944 to 1946. In 1947 he became Tutor in Politics at Christ Church, Oxford, and in 1968 was elected Provost of The Queen's College, Oxford, a post held until retirement in 1987. Blake was a good friend of the late historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. He was for many years Senior Member (i.e. the University Don responsible for ruling on internal disputes, e.g. accusations of electoral malpractice) of the Oxford University Conservative Association. In 1987 he was nominated in the election for the Oxford Chancellorship, but lost to Roy Jenkins, although polling ahead of former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath.

His History of Rhodesia (1978) is a notable work on the development of that area; critical, but not unsympathetic. It makes interesting reading in conjunction with the less critical Sunrise on the Zambezi (1953).

Blake opposed the Labour Party's policy to abolish the hereditary peers in the House of Lords:

"Abolition of the hereditary vote...is alleged to be phase one of a policy to substitute an elective Upper House for the existing chamber. Meanwhile we would have the biggest quango of all time: a House whose members would owe their seats solely to past or present prime ministerial patronage. Even as an interim measure, this would be thoroughly undesirable, and certainly no improvement on the present composition. The hereditary system, whatever its logical defects, does produce some people of independent opinions and also some who are much younger than the normal run of middle-aged legislators...My guess is that after achieving stage one, which would involve a great deal of parliamentary time and much controversy, a Labour Cabinet would rest on its oars and postpone for many years any plans for an elective chamber. There are immense difficulties involved – its powers, electoral system, and above all relations with the Commons, which would certainly resent the creation of a body with rival claims to democratic legitimacy."[1]

Father of crime writer Victoria Blake.

Partial List of Works

  • Unknown Prime Minister; the life and times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923 (1955)
  • Disraeli (1966)
  • Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill (1970) (later revised and updated as Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher, then again as Conservative Party from Peel to Major)
  • History of Rhodesia (1978)
  • The Decline of Power, 1915-1964 (1985) (part of The Paladin History of England series)

Notes

  1. ^ The Times, 23 July 1996. Jim McCue, Edmund Burke and Our Present Discontents (The Claridge Press, 1997), p. 123.
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