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Balfour: The Last Grandee Hardcover – 15 Nov 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; 1st Edition edition (15 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719554241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719554247
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,036,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Praise for Bonar Law:

'A fine biography, scholarly, wise and generous'

(David Gilmour, Financial Times)

'This is an authoritative book . . . an essential work' (John Vincent, The Spectator)

'[The book] shows that Adams's proved ability to write general history is matched by his talent for biography' (John Grigg, The Times)

'Intelligent, lucid, immaculately researched' (Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph)

'A masterly life of a modest man' (Paul Addison)

Book Description

An authoritative and comprehensive biography of the Conservative Prime Minister

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 27 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A comprehensive, well written and well researched biography of the Conservative Prime Minister and life-long member of the political class. This book covers the full life of Balfour from his privileged beginnings, his sponsorship in the Commons by his uncle Lord 'Bob' Salisbury, his short unsuccessful three year term as Prime Minister leading a party split on the subject of tariff reform and, finally, his extended service in the war-time coalition of Lloyd George.
The problem with this book is the subject, Balfour himself. Whilst he was known to be excellent company and engaged in erudite and stimulating conversation, particularly with his intimates known as 'The Souls', his political career was far from sparkling. Balfour was vain, indecisive and chronically indolent so it is of little surprise that his extended period as leader of his party in the Commons under the premiership of Lord Salisbury was lacklustre in terms of solid achievement. Balfour's premiership was riven by a lack of leadership and an inability to resolve arguments on tariff reform; periodically calling for 'freedom of action' rather than resolving a party line. (Some readers may find this very reminiscent of John Major and the arguments on Europe.)
The most notable characteristic of Balfour's activity in the Lloyd George coalition was his tendency to write ambivalent and often ambiguous position papers that were then usually ignored, so that he was present at many events but actually contributed little. The odious 'Balfour Declaration' which within its few lines is immediately self contradictory is typical of his ambiguity. Again Balfour's intention, apart from placating his friends, was to resolve the local assimilation or non-assimilation question for the Jews, whereas the Declaration did the complete opposite and perpetuated the question for as long as a Zionist state of Israel exists.
A good book about an irritating and feckless politician.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Lowther on 24 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
Balfour remains an enigmatic figure. As a mass of contradictions he still poses problems to historians, who are invariably left wondering which diversion he considered his true calling; politician or philosopher? This sense of unease shows itself in every book written on Balfour and, though to a lesser extent, Adams' new biography is no exception. Although not so dazzled by his subject as Max Egremont, whose biography is still a useful introduction to Balfour's life and career, Adams reveals little of the man that was not already known. Happily, he avoids idle speculation regarding Balfour's emotional life and concentrates instead on a refreshingly objective and elegant study of his political beliefs and achievements. This is by far the best biography on Balfour and, although it offers little detailed study of his political career or philosophical outlook, as a general survey of his life and career is unlikely to be bettered.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William D. Freeman on 19 Dec 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prof. Adams provides the most accurate account ever of this now extinct (as the subtitle indicates) yet facinating breed of politician. A born aristocrat who literally inherited the premiership from his uncle, Balfour served as Tory leader for twenty years during which time he led his party's futile campaign against Irish nationalism and endorsed the Conservatives' suicidal reversion to support for high tariffs which Disraeli had rightly concluded were not only dead but damned. Yet, Balfour championed progressive views on education, was facinated by science and technology and became an outstanding Foreign Secretary under Lloyd George. One can see Balfour, unlike most Victorians, easily settling into today's world consulting a laptop computer while riding in the back of a chauffeured Bentley.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A fine book 9 May 2010
By DUSA - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
R.J.Q. Adams' BALFOUR: The Last Grandee is a fine book. However, I strongly recommend reading Kenneth Young's 1963 biography before pursuing Adam's work. Young does a superb job of analyzing Balfour's philosophical volumes; as well, Young takes the reader back to the era in which Balfour lived and practiced philosophy, politics and the art of life. There is something rather too modern and easy-going about Adams' style of writing which does not suit the subject matter. Taken together, both books provide the reader and the serious historian with a broad and yet detailed sensibility of Arthur James Balfour.
0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Who's the "grandee"? 20 July 2012
By W. J. Reedy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I suppose it's good that someone is still writing this kind of political biography/history, though there's nothing very insightful or innovative here in its methodology or its judgments. Don't expect any social historiography let alone "postmodernist" perspectives. And why an American historian from rural Indiana uses the affected initials "R. J. Q" is anyone's guess. Perhaps this affectation sheds some light on why Adams has happily been at Texas A&M his whole career and even on the nature of his ideology and self regard. Does his own "grandeeism" lead him to genuflect on the steps of the Bush Library whenever he's on campus there? A useful book for those indentured to outdated "great man" history and passionately interested in the personal details and decisions of a British pol from a century ago.
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