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Edward Heath: The Authorised Biography [Paperback]

Philip Ziegler
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

15 Sep 2011

The magisterial official life of Britain's complex and misunderstood former prime minister, which offers a fundamental reassessment of his reputation.

Edward Heath arguably changed the lives of the British people more than any prime minister since Winston Churchill. By securing Britain's entry into Europe he reversed almost a thousand years of history and embarked on a course that would lead to the legal, political, economic and social transformation of this country. By abolishing the Resale Price Maintenance he cleared the way for the all-conquering march of the supermarket and revolutionised every high street in the country. He forced through both reforms by a combination of determination, patience and persuasive powers, against the inertia or active hostility of a large part of the British population, including many in his own party.

Yet Heath today is a largely forgotten figure, completely eclipsed by his more famous successor. His working class origins and suspect accent made him an unlikely Tory leader. But he was a trail-blazer, and without him it is unlikely that Mrs Thatcher would ever have risen to prominence.

With exclusive access to the huge collection of Heath's personal papers, distinguished biographer Philip Ziegler reassesses the contribution of one of the most resolute and forceful politicians in recent British history.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (15 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007247419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007247417
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘Written with the style, grace and polish that one has come to expect from Ziegler…the great strength of the book lies in its grasp of Heath’s psychology and of the psychology of political leadership.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘The best biography of the year was Philip Ziegler’s rather straight-faced life of Edward Heath.’ Spectator

’The finest political biography of the year was Philip Ziegler’s meticulous and beautifully written Edward Heath, which got beneath the skin of sometimes perverse, often pompous and always enigmatic prime minister’ Rod Liddle, Sunday Times

‘The non-fiction book I enjoyed most this year was Philip Ziegler’s masterly biography of Edward Heath.’ Antonia Fraser, Daily Telegraph

‘[An] elegant, compelling and devastating study’ Sunday Times

‘Philip Ziegler has produced a convincing account of Ted Heath’s defeat at history’s hands…anyone who is interested in British politics, or in the demeaning weaknesses of almost-great men, will find it a compelling read’ Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Philip Ziegler was born in 1929 and educated at Eton and New College, Oxford, where he gained first class honours in Jurisprudence. He then joined the Diplomatic Service and served in Vientiane, Paris, Pretoria and Bogota before joining the publishers William Collins, where he was editorial director for fifteen years. His many books include biographies of William IV, Lady Diana Cooper, Louis Mountbatten and Harold Wilson, as well as the classic history of the Black Death.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Zeigler dislikes Heath. 4 Feb 2011
By Dalgety
Format:Hardcover
This biography reads easily and is written in Zeiglers usual elegant stle - it comprehensively covers Heaths life from birth to death.However, what emerges from this book is that Zeigler actually dislikes Heath.Full credit is given to Heaths political successes- but as a person Heath emerges as an arrogant, self-opiniated "mummys boy"- who cared about nobody but himself. Even Mrs. Thatcher appears warm and human compared to the cold and disdainful Heath.Even the few personal friends that he did have seem to have been semi-estranged from him by the end of his life-largely due to the off-hand way they were treated.Only in the last few pages does the author evoke any sympathy for his subject- depicting a lonely old man sitting in pubs in Salisbury-with only his paid employees for company-of course , Heath ,himself was responsible for this situation.Mrs .Thatcher said on seeing a woman who had been in love with an unresponsive Heath in her youth-"Impossible -that cannot be true- nobody could love Ted Heath!".-Let that be Heaths epitaph.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Widmerpool to the life 9 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Often political biographies which criticise their subject are curiously dull - Young's biography of Baldwin being the supreme example; this is the exception to the rule. If you thought Heath was an unfeeling and rather unpleasant man obsessed with himself to the exclusion of others, this books shows that you were far from right - he was much worse than that. Ziegler is one of our best biographers, but this is his best book. He never really understood the Labour Party, which vitiated his study of Wilson, but he does understand the Tories, and this makes the book a joy. Teddy Heath was a cold fish from the start and remained that until the end. He is good on exploding the mythology which Heath used to describe his own career, and his Oxford days are presented as the triumph of the will they undoubtedly were. Heath was Widmerpool, without the originality which turned him mad at the end. He was one of the worst prime ministers of our time, but he was also, to judge by this, quite as ghastly as his worst enemies thought. Intellectually incurious and morally obtuse, he saw no problem in defending the excesses of a Chinese regime which rewarded him well. His account of the 'long sulk' is a joy - only a deeply solipsistic man could have failed to see that the only person damaged by this was himself. Woe to the country whose leaders are like this. A brilliant and successful biography of a limited and unsuccessful man.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read. 20 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
I came to this book having a fairly preconceived bias against Heath : my dominant memories of him being the monumental sulk at his loss of the Tory leadership, and his seemingly deranged hatred of Thatcher ! I think this book paints a more sympathetic picture of the man - his humble background, Oxford and his competence and popularity as a war time army officer.His strong pro EEC beliefs stemmed from genuine horror of war, and his patchy record as Prime Minister has to be viewed against the backdrop of the quite exceptional trade union intransigence of the period.His signing of the Sunningdale agreement in Northern Ireland was over twenty years before its time, but think of the lives that would be saved if other heads as wise as his were to the fore at that time. I am just an ordinary reader, interested in history and politics, and found this biography to be an accessible and enjoyable experience.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By HBH
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Edward Heath by Philip Ziegler is a good book about the man who was a pretty unsuccessful Prime Minister during a tumultuous period from 1970-74. It is well-written, interesting and detailed although it does suffer from a problem quite common to authorised biographies in that it is a little too sympathetic to the subject. However, the figure who emerges in the work is still a rather unlikeable figure who was rude and at times arrogant and held a grudge against the woman and the people who helped her to replace him. Nevertheless, this work also shows that Heath managed to use his inteligence and abilities to become PM and then achieve the seemingly impossible of getting Britain into Europe. All in all this is a good book if a little too sympathetic to an unlikeable figure whose premiership ended in disaster.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and balanced 2 Jan 2014
By Nesbo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Agree with the blurb on the back of the book - a well observed and, under the circumstances, fair and balanced biography.
It's easy to read but altogether it's a sad story of a brilliantly talented and handsome man, let down by his complex, insular and fatally flawed personality. Macmillan's observation that a politicians bÍte noir was 'events dear boy, events!' was largely Heath's fate, but his 'bad loser' streak did for him in the end. Tragic really.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of the life of Ted Heath 13 May 2013
Format:Hardcover
Although this is the "authorised" biography of Heath and although the author had worked for Heath as a young man, his first hand sources are from Heath's massive archive and collection of papers (he claimed never to have thrown anything away since he was 14), rather than from a series of interviews with the subject: the authorisation was from Heath's estate, rather than the former PM himself. Making use of the extensive source material, Ziegler has painstakingly constructed Heath's life and career as Heath himself saw it, whilst also providing his own commentary in order to inject balance into the narrative. It's a sensitively written book, with beautiful prose, and he creates (in the mind of this reviewer, at least) a portrayal of a dedicated and very focused politician who was convinced that he, and only he, was right on the big issues of the day, particularly Europe and the UK economy in the early 1970s, but who also famously was incapable of forming any kind of warm relationships with anybody. In some ways it's a sad portrayal, and in others one is left thinking that Heath really was his own worst enemy. Altogether, this is a fascinating biography which is well worth a read for anyone interested in modern Britain.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Very forgiving biography of a beleaguered Prime Minister
It is said that you should not meet your heroes, to avoid being let down. I may also be true that you shouldn't meet your villains. Read more
Published on 7 May 2011 by Hugh Claffey
4.0 out of 5 stars GRAND OLD HEDGEHOG
If, as prime ministers go, Tony Blair was the consummate fox, Ted Heath was the archetypal hedgehog. He knew one big, European thing and he was bristly to boot. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2010 by Diacha
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
We all have our preconceptions of Sir Edward Heath as the previous reviews illustrate. He was of course a man of faults, the main one being his inability to get on with other... Read more
Published on 22 Aug 2010 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Important facts missing!
The author has conveniently forgotten that Heath, as documents obtained from the Public Records Office prove without doubt, that he was indeed a treasonous, seditious liar that... Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2010 by Nicholas Green
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather pointless
This is a great disappointment. It tells us very little that even the casual observer of British politics wouldn't already know about Edward Heath; as well as containing some... Read more
Published on 30 July 2010 by paladin
4.0 out of 5 stars Edward Heath - biography
Still reading this, but it is well written and not "heavy" in the way some political biographies are. Read more
Published on 21 July 2010 by R. Corfield
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary man
I am not a Tory supporter or voter and dont suppose I will ever be coming from Scotland ! I bought this book because I like politics and no time like the present could be better,... Read more
Published on 13 July 2010 by R. WALKER
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