The Establishment

I discovered recently (as it happens, in a footnote to a letter that Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote to Wallace Notestein in March 1960 denouncing Sir Oliver Franks as a candidate for the Chancellorship of Oxford University and proposing Harold Macmillan as an anti-establishment candidate instead) that the term ‘The Establishment’ was not first used, as I had always understood, by the journalist Henry Fairlie in an article in The Spectator in 1955, but by the historian Hugh Thomas as he drove past the Royal Academy in a taxi in August 1954.   Maybe it was legitimate in 1954 when a visit to the Summer Exhibition was the start of the season and the annual dinner included Winston Churchill, although the term described the network of social influence which protected Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean from detection and I find it hard to view Alfred Munnings as part of this tendency.   Nowadays, I like to quote Michael Craig-Martin who said ‘I thought I was joining the establishment and discovered that I had joined the anti-establishment’.


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