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The Baldwin Age

John Raymond offers a light-hearted survey of an important era in British social and political history, when the Prime Minister set an example of optimism that, despite setbacks at home and abroad, many of his most distinguished countrymen followed.

Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin

Sometime in 1919, Lord Riddell recorded in his diary:

"Winston said that he is often gloomy and abstracted when thinking things out. I said, “It does not do to look so. This is the smiling age. In former days, statesmen were depicted as solemn, stately individuals with the cares of the world on their shoulders. Today, the smile is in fashion. The Lloyd George smile; the Winston smile, and so on. Even great soldiers and sailors are depicted as smiling.”

The Baldwin Age—1923 to 1937—was the Smiling Age par excellence. “Master Stanley” himself smiled—shrewdly, quizzically, as he turned the leaves of Dod’s Parliamentary Companion on the Front Bench, dismissively, as when he told his friend Tom Jones in 1934 that “Mosley won’t come to any good, and we need not bother about him”; sadly and whimsically, in 1936 (“When I was a little boy in Worcestershire reading history books, I never thought I should have to interfere between a King and his Mistress”); exasperatedly, in Year One of the Third Reich—“Walking alone among these hills I have come to the conclusion the world is stark mad. I have no idea what is the matter with it but it’s all wrong and at times I am sick to death of being an asylum attendant.”

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