Benjamin Disraeli

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Benjamin Disraeli (photo around 1878) Benjamin Disraeli Signature.svg
Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli as a child (around 1808) by George Henry Harlow (1787–1819) in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (born December 21, 1804 in London , † April 19, 1881 in Mayfair ), was a conservative British statesman and successful novelist. Twice, in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880, he held the office of British Prime Minister .

Origin and early years

Disraeli 1852
Disraeli 1878

Benjamin Disraeli (originally " d'Israeli ") came from a Sephardic Jewish family from Italy , but was baptized anglican at the age of 13 . His father, Isaac Disraeli , was the author of various works, including The Life and Reign of Charles I. Benjamin Disraeli was drawn in a similar direction. After finishing school he studied law. His first book, the novel Vivian Gray , was published in 1826 and sold extremely well. In the following years, Contarini Fleming (1832), Alroy (1833) and Henrietta Temple (1837) appeared; all treat political and social issues in a way that betrays his political views. In his basic attitude he was rather conservative all his life, without being a typical conservative.

With the money he earned as a writer, he traveled to Spain, the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans in the early 1830s of the 19th century. Between 1832 and 1835 he ran unsuccessfully for the British House of Commons - first for the radicals and later for the conservatives . In the year of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne in 1837, he finally had success and moved into the House of Commons . Due to his extravagant and arrogant manner, he initially encountered incomprehension and rejection. Over time, however, he earned the respect of the MPs. In 1839, Disraeli Mary Anne Lewis (1792–1872) married the widow of the House of Commons Wyndham Lewis (1780–1838). Mary Lewis was 12 years older than her new husband.

Disraeli's rise as an opponent of Peel

Lord Melbourne's government ended in 1841 with the resignation of the Prime Minister. The following elections were won by the Conservatives, and Disraeli saw his chance for a cabinet seat in the new government of Sir Robert Peel . But Peel rejected the young politician's wooing for a cabinet post. So Disraeli remained a backbencher with a lot of charisma in the years to come . Disraeli has now become one of Peel's harshest critics. Peel, who developed a tendency towards the increasingly powerful bourgeoisie in the course of the beginning of industrialization , often saw himself on the defensive against a rather unusual alliance between the aristocracy and the newly emerging working class in Great Britain, which was supported by Benjamin Disraeli among others. Socialist or communist ideas were not yet formulated at that time. Disraeli believed that the nobility had a historical obligation to the working class, and met with other politicians with similar aspirations. They formed a community of interests called the Young England Group. This grouping also became the basis for Disraeli's new novels Coningsby (1844), Sybil (1845) and Tancred (1847).

In 1846, when Peel enforced the repeal of the grain tariff laws in favor of free trade , Disraeli won the leadership of the so-called protectionists , the opponents of free trade, through his rhetorically brilliant attacks on Peel . The following year, the Conservative Party, now split into free trade advocates under Peel and protectionists under Disraeli, could no longer win the parliamentary elections.

From 1847, following the purchase of the Hughenden Manor, it was Buckinghamshire in which he had his constituency. Disraeli supported the Liberal Prime Minister, Lord John Russell , in lifting the ban on Jews from the British Parliament. With the Jewish Disabilities Bill , supported by Disraeli, Jewish citizens were finally eligible from 1848 - it was his friend Lionel de Rothschild who took a seat in the lower house as the first Jewish MP for the constituency of the City of London . In 1852, after Lord Russell resigned from office, the Conservatives under Lord Derby won the election. Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer . The Derby government lasted only a few months as the government failed to get the budget through the House of Commons. The government of Lord Derby then resigned and was replaced by Lord Aberdeen , who led the United Kingdom in the Crimean War .

It was not until six years later that Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli were given the opportunity to form a government again. Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer again. This government did not last long either, it ended after only 18 months. An attempt by Disraelis to introduce a new right to vote (all taxpayers should be given the right to vote) failed. Lord Palmerston , a Liberal, became Prime Minister in 1859. It was not until 1866 that the Derby / Disraeli duo succeeded in forming a government again. A year later Disraeli was able to initiate the Reform Act 1867 through a temporary non-partisan alliance. The number of men eligible to vote rose significantly and rotten boroughs overrepresented in parliament were partially dissolved.

At the top

In 1868 Lord Derby resigned as premier and Disraeli succeeded him. However, his tenure was short-lived. In the elections in 1869, the liberal William Ewart Gladstone was elected as the new Prime Minister and Disraeli went into the opposition. Disraeli said of Gladstone: It would be a tragedy if anybody were to push Mr Gladstone into the river and a disaster if anybody were to pull him out again (It would be a tragedy if someone pushed Mr Gladstone into the Thames and a disaster if someone pulls it out again).

Disraeli presents the Indian imperial crown to Queen Victoria (caricature of Punch , 1876)

In the 1874 elections, the Conservatives won a clear majority and Disraeli was elected Prime Minister. Unlike William Gladstone, he had a very good relationship with Queen Victoria. Disraeli gave her the title of Empress of India , which founded the British Empire . In 1876 he was ennobled by the queen. He received the hereditary titles Earl of Beaconsfield , in the County of Buckingham and Viscount Hughenden , of Hughenden in the County of Buckingham. In order to counteract the Pan-Slavic ambitions of Russia , Disraeli called the Conference of Constantinople in 1876 , which dealt with the future of the Balkan peoples . Beaconsfield performed his greatest foreign policy act in 1878 at the Berlin Congress . It was about finding peace between Turkey and Russia after the Russo-Ottoman War . Beaconsfield was able to negotiate a very good agreement, particularly favorable for Great Britain, and Great Britain received Cyprus . Russia, as the winner of the war, did poorly, Bulgaria became the biggest loser. In gratitude, Queen Victoria offered him the ducal status, but he refused.

In 1880, Beaconsfield surprisingly called new elections, which the Conservatives lost. As a result, Gladstone, who had agitated violently against Beaconsfield in the Midlothian campaign , was again prime minister. Although he was an opponent of Beaconsfield, Gladstone continued its foreign policy in relation to the British Empire. Beaconsfield died in Mayfair on April 19, 1881. Beaconsfield left all his correspondence and private papers to his longtime confidante and private secretary Montagu Corry as the executor of his last will. Until the First World War , Primrose Day was celebrated annually on the day of his death . On this day, Disraeli's grave and his statue erected in Parliament Square in London in 1883 were decorated with primroses . His novels are published to this day. Since he had no children, his nobility titles expired on his death.


Because of his origins, Disraeli was often confronted with anti-Jewish agitation. B. at election campaign events and during the Balkan crisis , when his policies were branded as "unchristian" and insensitive to the problems of Christians in Ottoman-ruled Bulgaria as well as "in-English" by opposition activists and representatives of the clergy, alluding to his roots. Occasionally it was denigrated as a "Jewish premiere". This is interpreted as the beginning of modern, that is, no longer religious but racially based anti-Semitism in Great Britain.

As was not uncommon in his time, Disraeli himself made several racist remarks; at times he propagated the superiority of the Jewish race. Henning Ottmann does not see this as the core of his inner convictions, but rather as the result of his desire to catch up with the aristocratic elite of his time.




  • Vivian Gray . Europäische Hochschulverlag, Bremen 2011, ISBN 978-3-86267-250-9 (English; EA London 1826, full text (English) from Project Gutenberg )
    • German: Vivian Gray. Humorous novel . Engelmann, Heidelberg 1827 (3 volumes)
  • The voyage of Captain Popanilla . Wildeside Press, Doylestown, Pa. 2004, ISBN 0-8095-9446-3 (EA London 1828; full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
  • The Young Duke . Colburn & Bentley, London 1831 (3 volumes)
  • Contarini Fleming. A psychological romance . Longmans Green, London 1919 (EA London 1832)
    • German: mirror of life. Novel . Saturn publishing house, Vienna 1931
  • Alroy, or the prince of the captivity. A wondrous tale . Dunne, London 1904 (EA London 1833)
    • German: David Alroy . Paalzow, Halle / Saale 1913.
  • The Infernal Marriage . Jackson Books, London 1926 (EA London 1834)
  • Ixion in Heaven . Books for Libraries, Freeport, NY 1970 (EA London 1834)
  • The Revolutionary Epick . Longmans Green, London 1864 (message of the London edition 1834)
  • The Rise of Iskander . Wildeside Press, Doylestown, Pa, ISBN 0-8095-9445-5 (EA London 1834; full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
  • Henrietta Temple. A love story . Tauchnitz, Leipzig 1859 (EA London 1837)
    • German: Henriette Temple. A love story etc. Duncker, Berlin 1837 (3 volumes)
  • Venetia . Davies Press, London 1927 (EA London 1837, full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
    • German: The great Lord. Novel . Saturn-Verlag, Vienna 1930 (thematizes the life of George Gordon Byron )
  • The Tragedy of Count Alarcos, 1839; Full text (English) at Project Gutenberg
  • Coningsby, or the New Generation . Colburn, London 1844 ( full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
    • German: Coningsby or the new generation. Novel . Manesse-Verlag, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-7175-8190-2 .
  • Sybil, or The Two Nations . University Press, Oxford 1981, ISBN 0-19-281551-2 (EA London 1845, full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
    • German: Sybil. Socio-political novel . Bading publishing house, Berlin approx. 1882.
  • Tancred, or the New Crusade, 1847.
    • German: Tancred or the new crusade. Novel . Manesse-Verlag, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-7175-2038-5 (EA Munich 1914).
  • Lothair . University Press, London 1975, ISBN 0-19-255356-9 (EA London 1870, full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
    • German: Lothar. Novel . Günther Verlag, 1874 (4 volumes)
  • Endymion . Tauchnitz, Leipzig 1880 ( full text (English) from Project Gutenberg)
    • German: Endymion . Brockhaus, Leipzig 1881 (3 volumes)
  • Falconet . Davies, London 1927 (published in fragments as it remained unfinished)


  • An Inquiry into the Plans, Progress, and Policy of the American Mining Companies . Murray, London 1825.
  • Lawyers and Legislators. Or, Notes, on the American Mining Companies . Murray, London 1825.
  • The present state of Mexico . Murray, London 1825.
  • England and France, or a Cure for the Ministerial Gallomania . Murray, London 1832.
  • What is he? Ridgway, London 1833.
  • The Letters of Runnymede . London 1836.
  • Lord George Bentinck. A political biography . Gregg International, Westmead 1969, ISBN 0-576-02169-5 (EA London 1852)


  • Richard Aldous: The Lion and the Unicorn. Gladstone vs. Disraeli . Pimlico, London 2007 ISBN 978-1-84413-312-3
  • Bruno Bauer : Disraeli's romantic and Bismarck's socialist imperialism . Scientia-Verlag, Aalen 1979, ISBN 3-511-00602-3 (reprint of the Aalen edition 1969; EA Chemnitz 1882).
  • Robert Blake, Baron Blake : Disraeli . Prion, London 1998, ISBN 1-85375-275-4 (EA London 1967)
    • German: Disraeli. A biography from the Victorian era . Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7973-0360-2 (translated by Klaus Dockhorn).
  • Matthias Buschkühl : The Irish, Scottish and Roman question. Disraeli's key novel “Lothair” (1870) . Dissertation, University of Hamburg 1979.
  • Susan E. Colón: The professional idea and the Victorian novel. The works of Disraeli, Trollope , Gaskell , and Eliot . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2007, ISBN 978-1-4039-7613-0 .
  • Edgar Feuchtwanger : Disraeli, Democracy and the Tory Party. Conservative Leadership and Organization after the Second Reform Bill . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1968.
  • Edgar Feuchtwanger: Disraeli . Arnold, London 2000, ISBN 0-340-71909-5 .
  • Christopher Hibbert: Disraeli and his world . Thames & Hudson, London 1978, ISBN 0-500-13065-5 .
  • Christopher Hibbert: Disraeli. The Victorian Dandy who Became Prime Minister. Palgrave Macmillan, New York City 2006, ISBN 1-4039-7270-2 .
  • Douglas Hurd: Disraeli, or the two lives . Weidenfels & Nicolson, London 2013, ISBN 978-0-297-86098-3 .
  • Adam Kirsch: Benjamin Disraeli . Schocken Books, New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-8052-4249-2 .
    • German: dandy, poet, statesman. The many lives of Benjamin Disraeli . Insel-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-458-17518-6 .
  • Dick Leonard: The great rivalry. Gladstone and Disraeli . Tauris Books, London 2013, ISBN 978-1-84885-925-8 .
  • André Maurois : La Vie de Disraëli . Gallimard, Paris 1950 (EA Paris 1927)
    • German: Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield (Fischer-Bücherei, Volume 15). Fischer-Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 1952 (translated by Erich Klossowski , EA Berlin 1930).
  • Robert O'Kell: Disraeli. The Romance of Politics . University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2013, ISBN 978-1-4426-4459-5 .
  • Friedrich K. Otto: Autobiography from Disraeli's youth novels "Vivian Gray", "Contarini Fleming", "The youg Duke" . Roßteutscher, Coburg 1913 (plus dissertation, University of Leipzig 1913).
  • Jörg Schneider: The image of Benjamin Disraeli in German journalism between 1900 and 1945 (Philosophy and Society; Volume 4). Holos-Verlag, Bonn 1996, ISBN 3-86097-213-8 (also dissertation, University of Bonn 1995)
  • Paul Smith: Disraelian Conservatism and Social Reform (Studies in political history). Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1967.

Web links

Commons : Benjamin Disraeli  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Benjamin Disraeli  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Blake: Disraeli. Faber and Faber, London 2010, p. 754.
  2. Elke Kimmel: Disraeli, Benjamin . In: Wolfgang Benz (Hrsg.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus . Vol. 2: People . De Gruyter Saur, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-44159-2 , p. 178. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  3. ^ Henning Ottmann: History of political thought. The Modern Age. Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2008, p. 31 f.
  4. Formerly under the title Contarini Fleming. A psychological novel (Berlin 1909) or Contarini Fleming (Grimma 1846).
  5. Formerly under the title: David Alroy (Leipzig 1862), Alroy. Roman (Frankfurt / Oder 1852) and Alroy's miracle saga . (Berlin 1833).
  6. ^ Paul P. Grünfeld (text) and Bernhard de Lisle (music) created with Alroy. Music drama in four acts 1910 an adaptation of this material.
  7. Formerly under the title: Coningsby or the new generation. Roman (Grimma 1845); In 1937 an excerpt (23 pages) was published under the title Die Jewish Weltherrschaft .
  8. Former title: Sybil or the two nations (Grimma 1846) or Sybille or the doubled nation (Leipzig 1846).