MARIA PLATT-EVANS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MARIA PLATT-EVANS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81), British politician and writer. Disraeli was born in London, into a Jewish family, the son of a literary critic. He converted to Anglicanism and was educated in London. He first tried a career in law, but instead took up writing novels to support himself. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he was elected a Member of Parliament in 1837 as a Tory. He served twice as Prime Minister, in 1868 and in 1874-80, and had a bitter rivalry with the opposition leader, Gladstone. He had a close friendship with Queen Victoria, who created him 1st Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876. His foreign policy was dominated by the decay of the Ottoman Empire, including the purchase of a large part of the Suez Canal Compnay and brokering peace in the Balkans at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. He is considered a founder of the modern Conservative Party.
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