Stuart Ball

Emeritus Professor of Modern British History

Stuart Ball



After studying at the University of St. Andrews, I was appointed to a lectureship in History at the University of Leicester in 1979, where I taught until retiring as Professor of Modern British History in October 2016.  I have been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1990, and am Historical Consultant to the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.  I am a member of the editorial committee of the journal Parliamentary History, and a Trustee and the Treasurer of the Parliamentary History Trust.

In the New Year Honours List of 2018, I was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) ‘for services to political history’.

Research Interests

My research area is British political history during the twentieth century, especially in the period between the two World Wars.  My main focus has been on the Conservative Party; despite its long record of electoral success and dominance in government since 1918, when I began research in the late 1970s this was a neglected area, and my work has sought to redress this balance.  My doctoral thesis examined the internal party crisis of 1929-31, when rebellion within the Party and attacks from the ‘Press Lords’ nearly forced Stanley Baldwin out of the leadership, and this resulted in my first book: Baldwin and the Conservative Party: The Crisis of 1929-1931 (Yale University Press, 1988).

My interest in the organisation and ethos of the Party led to further projects which dealt also with the period after 1945, particularly in the volumes Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Recovering Power: The Conservatives in Opposition since 1867 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), both co-edited with Anthony Seldon.  However, my main interest remained the inter-war period, and this culminated in the substantial monograph, Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain between the Wars 1918-1945, published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

I am also interested in the history of Parliament, and these two research areas came together in an edition of the private diary of Sir Cuthbert Headlam, who was a Conservative MP for most of the period 1924-51 and a junior minister in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His diary is a fascinating source for British political history, and the edition consists of two volumes: Parliament and Politics in the Age of Baldwin and MacDonald: The Headlam Diaries 1923-1935 (The Historians’ Press, 1992), and Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee: the Headlam Diaries 1935-1951 (Cambridge University Press, 1999.  I have also edited of a volume of contemporary letters from politicians and other prominent figures, such as the editor of The Times, to Lord Irwin (later the Earl of Halifax) during his term as Viceroy of India, which contain much material about politics the parliamentary situation: Conservative Politics in National and Imperial Crisis: Letters from Britain to the Viceroy of India, 1926-1931 (Ashgate, 2014).

My most recent project is an edited collection of articles for the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, focusing upon its effects and significance. This was published simultaneously as a special issue of the journal Parliamentary History (volume 37, no. 1) and a book, The Advent of Democracy: The Impact of the 1918 Reform Act on British Politics (Wiley, 2018).

I am currently working on a number of articles exploring aspects of inter-war politics, and my major long-term project is a full-length biography of Stanley Baldwin, leader of the Conservative Party from 1923 to 1937 and three times Prime Minister during that period.

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