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Gilding Victoria

Victorian values are no longer so confidently promoted by conservatives in the UK, but their US counterparts are picking up the banner. David Cannadine discovers Republican nostalgia for the 1950s rather than the 19th century

By David Cannadine   December 1995

In those far off days when her power was at its zenith, Margaret Thatcher delighted in celebrating what she called Victorian values: the qualities of thrift, independence, sobriety, entrepreneurship and self-reliance which she claimed she had learned at her father’s knee at his corner shop in Grantham; which she believed had made Britain pre-eminent during the 19th century; and which she was certain would make the country great again under her own formidable leadership. As Lytton Strachey had observed before Thatcher had been born, this was a selective catalogue of Victorian conventional wisdoms: it failed to recognise the complexities of…

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