Julian Amery and his contemporaries: a British Network
Julian Amery was born into a network of influence that he maintained and extended for his entire life. His father, Leo Amery (1873-1955), was an MP, a cabinet minister and one of the leading advocates for the British Empire and Commonwealth. Julian Amery was the heir to the network cultivated by Leo that included political, intellectual and cultural figures across the globe. At Eton and Oxford, Julian added more friends, acquaintances and contacts. His upbringing equipped him with a powerful belief in his own destiny. He expected nothing less than a glittering career culminating in him becoming leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of Great Britain.
Even in the age of mass democracy, British politics has been dominated by individuals from highly privileged backgrounds and who have attended the same institutions. Underlying this was his belief that he had a right to rule and this reveals much about the deferential and conservative nature of British society. Amery acts as a gateway into the sheer number of different worlds in which he operated. He was a staunch imperialist and an ardent pro-European; a grandee whose father-in-law was prime minister, but who made his name in dissident backbench groups such as the Monday Club and the Suez Group; the intelligence officer who was also a businessman and dilettante; the campaigning politician who allied himself, at different times, with Enoch Powell, Tony Benn, and the ‘permissive’ reformers of the 1960s. Amery offers a point of entry into each of these areas, while also showing how political networks were constructed, lived and experienced over a crucial period in the history of conservatism, of the Empire and Britain’s place in the world.