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Peter Raina

One of the peculiarities of British history is the development of a constitution headed by the Crown and the two Houses of Parliament. This system emerged to become a balance of democracy, efficiency and moderation that became the admiration of the world.

The contribution of the House of Lords to this balance is all too often overlooked. In this richly documented four-volume work, the author offers a detailed examination of the Lords' constitutional position and the predicament they faced as the times changed and pressures for reform ebbed and flowed.

Drawing on speeches, letter, reports and memoranda of the times (some never previously published), the six books in this four-volume set bring to life the inner wranglings and arresting personalities of a divided House.

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House of Lords Reform:

House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 4. 1971–2014: The Exclusion of Hereditary Peers – Book 1: 1971–2001 – Book 2: 2002–2014

Peter Raina

Peter Raina’s magnificent history of Lords reform has already brought into the public domain a mass of original documents and thrown light on the debates they fuelled. In Volume 4 he brings his study up to the present age.
The Thatcher and Blair governments were both determined to shake up the system, and in such times the old House of Lords began to look more and more outdated. Mrs Thatcher’s inaction on the issue only increased calls for abolition or change. So the Blair government grasped the nettle. In one historic Act of Parliament it ejected hereditary peers from the House – except for 92 saved by a last-minute amendment. The negotiations and reactions surrounding this event are recorded here in lively detail.
This concluding book brings Peter Raina’s History of Lords’ Reform up to the end of 2014. It follows on from the banishment of hereditary peers from the House in the name of democracy. This was proclaimed as only the start of more sweeping change. What was to happen next?
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House of Lords Reform:

House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 1. The Origins to 1937: Proposals Deferred- Book One: The Origins to 1911- Book Two: 1911–1937

Peter Raina

One of the peculiarities of British history is the development of a constitution headed by the Crown and the two Houses of Parliament. This system emerged to become a balance of democracy, efficiency and moderation that became the admiration of the world.
The contribution of the House of Lords to this balance is all too often overlooked. In this richly documented two-volume work, the author offers a detailed examination of the Lords’ constitutional position and the predicament they faced as the Commons increasingly championed popular rule. With a landowning membership based on the hereditary principle, the Lords struggled to adapt. Yet, valiant attempts were made. The author gives us the first thorough, full-length history of the Lords’ ambiguous responses to the new democracy and the stream of arguments, proposals and bills raised for reform of their House.
Drawing on speeches, letters, reports and memoranda of the times (some never previously published), the book brings to life the inner wranglings and arresting personalities, the hopes and anxieties and the sheer frustrations of a House divided between entrenched interests and idealism, and often threatened by progressives outside.
The two books in Volume One cover the period from the medieval origins of the House of Lords and proceed, through many tumultuous events, to the outbreak of the Second World War.
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A.V. Dicey: General Characteristics of English Constitutionalism

Six Unpublished Lectures- With a Foreword by Lord Plant of Highfield

Peter Raina

Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922) was elected to the Vinerian professorship of English Law in the University of Oxford in 1882. Dicey established himself as a great expert on constitutional history when in 1885 he published his Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, a major classic on the British constitutional system. Dicey’s writings have achieved an almost canonical status, and his views are judged almost entirely on this volume. However Dicey developed his views further and extensively in a series of lectures he delivered in the late 1890s in which he focused his thoughts on the sovereignty of Parliament, the relationship between Parliament and the people, and the role of constitutional conventions. Dicey would not defend every detail of the British Constitution, but was quite prepared to consider certain constitutional innovations, such as the principle of referendum to give special status to Constitutional Acts, or that the House of Lords should have more representative legitimacy. Dicey also toyed with the idea of a Constitutional Convention as a basic form of protection for constitutional rules: he argued about constitutional safeguards to remedy the defects of the party system and recognised the adaptability of an unwritten constitution to changed circumstances. All these aspects of Dicey’s thought are reflected in these lectures, published here for the first time.
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Bishop George Bell

House of Lords Speeches and Correspondence with Rudolf Hess

Peter Raina

Bishop George Bell always felt that the Church must endeavour to meet the problems of the modern world. He was thus foremost in applying the precepts of the Christian faith to national and international issues. George Bell very often raised his voice in the House of Lords (of which he was a distinguished member from December 1937 till January 1958) against class and racial hatred, against war, and against totalitarianism, and spoke for the innocent and helpless victims of persecution. Complete texts of all Bell’s House of Lords speeches are presented here, published for the first time in one volume. The issues that Bell tackled are, in essence, still relevant today.
This volume also includes unpublished correspondence between George Bell and Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy. After the National Socialists came to power in Germany, Bell, as a committed Christian, felt that he had to act in defence of the German Church, which the Nazis were eager to destroy. The Bishop made strenuous efforts to contact people in power in Germany, people who, he knew, took decisions with momentous consequences. Rudolf Hess was one of them.
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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 2. 1943–1958: Hopes Rekindled

Peter Raina

Peter Raina’s House of Lords Reform recounts the long struggle to bring an ancient institution up to date. The first volume ended in 1937, as crisis overwhelmed Europe. Reform issues were not forgotten, however. This second volume continues the story, presenting a wealth of illuminating records, a great many of them published here for the first time.
The 4th Marquess of Salisbury planned changes to the Lords even before the war’s end. Further proposals followed after the establishment of the Labour government in 1945. Fearful that its legislation would be blocked, Labour amended the Parliament Act, 1911 to limit the Lords’ delaying powers to just one year. Some believed the Upper House would disappear altogether.
Salisbury’s heir worked hard for preservation, and managed to secure an all-party conference. Its complex schemes and animated discussions are all presented here in original documents. Though the conference failed, Lords Reading, Exeter and Simon continued the effort, with ideas that would eventually bear fruit. They championed the rights of women, self-regulation through standing orders, and the creation of life peers. The Churchill government formed a Lords Reform Committee but could get no further. Then, in an unexpected twist, the cause finally triumphed when Harold Macmillan and the Earl of Home got a one-clause bill through parliament in 1958. The Life Peers Act transformed the nature of British politics.
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A Daring Venture

Rudolf Hess and the Ill-Fated Peace Mission of 1941

Peter Raina

At the height of the Second World War, Hitler’s Deputy, Rudolf Hess, made a dramatic solo flight to the British Isles. His arrival there was sensational news – and it baffled everyone. Why had he come?
Hess claimed he had flown to Britain entirely of his own initiative and was on a personal mission of peace. But so unlikely was the success of such an appeal in Churchill’s entrenched Britain that historians continue to wonder at his motives.
In this book, Peter Raina publishes, for the first time, complete texts of Hess’s ‘peace proposals’ and a treatise he wrote in captivity outlining how he saw Nazi Germany’s role in Europe. These texts throw considerable light on Hess’s mission and also on how the Nazi leadership saw their programme of expansion and their relations with Britain.
Disconcertingly single-minded and an unashamed disciple of Hitler, Hess was at heart an idealist. His friend and confidant Albrecht Haushofer was an idealist of a different kind, and joined the German Resistance Movement. The frame story of this book relates how the two men moved to their tragic ends.
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John Sparrow: Warden of All Souls College, Oxford

«I loathe all common things»

Peter Raina

John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls, was a notable character in post-war Oxford. He was educated in the old-time classical humanist tradition, and this remained his field even as the world about him changed. A man with a brilliant mind, he is often remembered negatively – as a bogeyman to progressives because of his outspoken conservatism – and as a disappointment to those who expected a more solid academic achievement. It was felt that his talents were too widely scattered.

Presenting hitherto unpublished letters and papers which vividly evoke the contemporary Oxford scene, Peter Raina traces this scattering of talent. Sparrow may have been a generalist, but he dabbled in depth in many disciplines. He was an expert on Latin, on law, on inscriptions, on rare books and on poetry. Above all he was a tireless supporter and friend of other academics and poets in a special generation. The book gives context to his circles of influence and to his uncompromising intelligence and distinct charm.

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George 'Dadie' Rylands

Shakespearean Scholar and Cambridge Legend

Peter Raina

Just once in a while, actors and performers change the whole way in which they approach the words in their scripts. Such a change happened in the early-to-middle years of the twentieth century; and the person behind it was "Dadie" Rylands. He was a man with an ear acutely attuned to the nuances of poetry, and he insisted that it was the ear and not the eye that mattered most in productions of Shakespeare. It was Rylands who taught an exceptional generation of Shakespearean actors how to speak. Gielgud, Olivier, Ashcroft, Redgrave – all owed their superb diction to him. Moreover, they adored him as a person.

Amazingly for a man with such influence, Rylands was not ensconced in the established Theatre. He taught undergraduates at Cambridge and his own productions were with the amateur Marlowe Dramatic Society there. Nor was his life confined to dramatics and the academic world. He was a fringe member of the Bloomsbury set – firm friends with Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes, all regular correspondents. And his circle of notable friends stretched to a wider group of literati including Maurice Bowra and T. S. Eliot. Rylands died, aged 97, in 1999. We no longer have his irrepressible presence, but he left a palpable legacy in gramophone recordings of all Shakespeare’s plays in which he directed star-studded casts. Now that legacy is augmented by Peter Raina’s study, with its admirable selection of Rylands’ marvellously lucid radio talks (hitherto unpublished) and its sampling of the multitude of letters he wrote and received.

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House of Lords Reform: A History

Volume 3. 1960-1969: Reforms Attempted

Peter Raina

Volume 3 of Peter Raina’s magisterial history covers the 1960s and draws on newly released documents. In astonishing detail, it traces new plans drawn up during the Macmillan-Wilson era to reform the House of Lords. ‘Mission impossible,’ a civil servant declared. But when, to remain a Commons MP, Tony Benn insisted on disclaiming an inherited peerage, he started off a fresh willingness to tackle old problems. The Peerages Act 1963 allowed peers the option of disclaimer and, at last, gave equal rights in the Upper House to Scottish and women inheritors.
A Labour government came in, and in 1967 gained the majority needed to embark on bold legislation. But it feared interference, so comprehensive plans were backed for changing the whole complexion of two-chamber politics. Led by Lord Shackleton and the intellectual Richard Crossman, schemes were devised and inter-party talks got under way – at first in a spirit of cooperation. But had the party elites listened to their fiery back-benchers? When a bill was introduced into parliament, the scenes were unforgettable …
This volume tells not just the story, but reveals the intricate thinking of those who wanted to make a bicameral system work in the age of modern party politics.