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Benjamin Disraeli

Born 1817 and converted to Christianity

Entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1837 after four attempts

Denied a Cabinet position by Robert Peel in 1841

Becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1852 under Lord Derby

Becomes Prime Minister in 1868

Dies in 1881

Learn More

There have been lots written about Disraeli. Find out more in these recommended works.  (paid links)

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives is written by former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd:

Discover Memorable Quotations from Benjamin Disraeli

Read works written by Disraeli himself:

Sybil: or The Two Nations (Oxford World’s Classics),

Vivian Grey



Benjamin Disraeli MP 1804 – 1881

British statesman and novelist, Disraeli provided the UK Conservative Party with its policies of popular democracy and imperialism.

Early years

Born to Italian-Jewish parents, in 1817 Disraeli’s father baptised his children as Christians. With Jews excluded from parliament until 1858, this enabled Disraeli to pursue a career that would otherwise have been denied him.

Early business ventures failed, leaving him heavily in debt. He had a breakdown and for four years did little until he decided to pursue a political career. After four attempts, in 1837 he was elected as Tory candidate for Maidstone.

Disraeli in Parliament

He soon established himself as a compelling speaker and his career took off.

But the failure of the Conservative leader, Sir Robert Peel, to give him a cabinet position in 1841 prompted his bitter opposition to Peel’s decision to repeal the Corn Laws, the protective duties on foreign grain. Although the laws passed, Peel resigned the following year.

In 1852, Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Derby’s minority government. He served as chancellor under Derby in three such governments, reforming parliament in 1865 with a bill that doubled the existing electorate.

Disraeli becomes British Prime Minister

When Derby retired in 1868, Disraeli ‘climbed to the top of a greasy pole’ as the new Prime Minister. He oversaw a shift towards the emergence of two parties, each with their own, coherent, policies. The polarisation was accentuated by the mutual loathing of Disraeli and Liberal leader William Gladstone.

In 1874, the Conservatives won a huge election victory and Disraeli once more became Prime Minister, aged 70. Domestically, he concentrated on social reform. He codified the law on public health and passed laws to prevent labour exploitation and recognise trades unions. Abroad, his acquisition of shares in the Suez Canal was a major success. Disraeli died in 1881.

Benjamin Disraeli