Robert Blake, Baron Blake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named Robert Blake, see Robert Blake (disambiguation).

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 as Baron Blake, of Braydeston in the County of Norfolk.

Early life[edit]

Blake was born on 23 December 1916, at Manor House, Brundall, Norwich, the son of a schoolmaster.[1] He was educated at King Edward VI's Norwich School, where his father taught and, Magdalen College, Oxford, where he got a First in Modern Greats and a hockey Blue.[2] 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.

Blake was a Conservative member of Oxford City Council from 1957-1964.[3]

Academic career[edit]

In 1947 he became Student and 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 (the University Don responsible for ruling on internal disputes such as accusations of electoral malpractice) of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

In 1987, Lord Blake 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 sympathetic. 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 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."[4]

Other activities and honors[edit]

In 1967 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and in 1971 received a Life Peerage. Lord Blake served as a Trustee of the Rhodes Trust from 1971 to 1987, and as Chair of the Rhodes Trustees from 1983 to 1987.[5]

He was editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a Trustee of the British Museum, and Chairman of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

Blake was a Director of Channel 4 Television.

Portraits of Lord Blake hang at The Queen's College, Oxford and at Rhodes House, Oxford.[6]


  • The Private Papers of Douglas Haig (1952)
  • The Unknown Prime Minister. The Life and Times of Andrew Bonar Law, 1858-1923 (1955).
  • Disraeli (1966).
  • Disraeli and Gladstone (1969) (Stephen Lecture).
  • 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).
  • The Office of Prime Minister (1975).
  • Conservatism in an Age of Revolution (1976).
  • History of Rhodesia (1977).
  • Disraeli's Grand Tour: Benjamin Disraeli and the Holy Land, 1830-31 (1982).
  • The English World (1982)
  • The Decline of Power, 1915-1964 (1985) (part of The Paladin History of England series).
  • An Incongruous Relationship. Lloyd George and Bonar Law (1992) (The Welsh Political Archive Lecture).
  • Gladstone, Disraeli and Queen Victoria. Centenary Romanes Lecture (1993).
  • Churchill: A Major New Assessment of His Life in Peace and War (1993) (edited with W. M. Louis).
  • Winston Churchill (1998).
  • Jardine Matheson. Traders of the Far East (1999).


  1. ^ "Professor Robert Ashton: Historian of early modern England". The Independent. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Roberts, Andrew. "Lord Blake". London: Royal Society of Literature. 
  3. ^ Blake, Robert (1985). The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher (2nd ed. ed.). Fontana Press. pp. foreword. 
  4. ^ The Times, 23 July 1996. Jim McCue, Edmund Burke and Our Present Discontents (The Claridge Press, 1997), p. 123.
  5. ^
  6. ^