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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 December 2006, 13:56 GMT
Tories release 'key Britons' list
Nye Bevan
Nye Bevan set up the National Health Service
The socialist founder of the NHS and a sixth-century saint are among a dozen people who the Conservatives say have "shaped British history".

Schoolchildren should learn about these characters to maintain Britain's "national identity", the Tories say.

The diverse roll-call includes post-war Labour health minister Nye Bevan, early Christian St Columba and feminist campaigner Millicent Fawcett.

Only one Tory - Robert Peel - was included in the list.

The party chose the individuals in consultation with a group of academics.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said the roll-call was of people who had built the "institutions that shaped our country's history".

Saint Columba (521-597)
Christianity in Britain
Alfred the Great (849-899)
The Kingdom of England
Henry II (1133-1189)
The common law
Simon de Montfort (1208-1265)
James IV of Scotland (1473-1513)
The Kingdom of Scotland
Thomas Gresham (1519-1579)
The stock market
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)
The British Army
Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
The Royal Society
Robert Clive (1725-1774)
The British Empire
Sir Robert Peel (1778-1850)
The police
Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929)
Universal suffrage
Nye Bevan (1897-1960)
The National Health Service

The list contains some familiar names, such as the soldier Oliver Cromwell, the scientist Isaac Newton and Robert Clive, who helped forge the British empire.

Likewise, some of the Britain's most notable monarchs - Alfred the Great, Henry II and James IV of Scotland - would not surprise many.

But the inclusion of Thomas Gresham - a 16th Century merchant whose ideas led to the stock exchange being set up - may be less obvious.

Similarly, 13th Century baron Simon de Montfort - who was involved in the establishment of Britain's first parliament - is hardly a household name.

Some of the Tory faithful may question the exclusion of such luminaries as former prime ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Nye Bevan, the labour minister responsible for the creation of the NHS, will also raise eyebrows.

Bevan did little during his political career to hide his antipathy for the Conservatives whom he blamed for the inter-war poverty endured by millions of the working classes. After the Labour general election landslide of 1945, Bevan said it was his aim to see the Tories political destroyed forever.

But Mr Willetts insisted the list was "neither definitive nor exhaustive". Instead, it should "provoke thought and debate" and highlight the need for more "narrative history".

"The loss of national memory means a loss of national identity," he said.

"Britain needs to be one country - and this means that all British people must share a knowledge and understanding of the events which have made us what we are as a people."

He said that a country was "more than an aggregation of individuals".

"It consists of the associations that individuals form - the institutions which bind us together in common and overlapping memberships.

"These institutions are the inheritance of every British child, and all British children should know about them."

The list was compiled by the party's policy adviser, Sean Lang, of Anglia Ruskin University.

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