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A Genius for Money: Business, Art and the Morrisons [Hardcover]

Caroline Dakers
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Price: 22.96 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Nov 2011
This is the spectacular rags-to-riches story of James Morrison (1789-1857), who began life humbly but through hard work and entrepreneurial brilliance acquired a fortune unequalled in nineteenth-century England. Using the extensive Morrison archive, Caroline Dakers presents the first substantial biography of the richest commoner in England, recounting the details of Morrison's personal life while also placing him in the Victorian age of enterprise that made his success possible. An affectionate husband and father of ten, Morrison made his first fortune in textiles, then a second in international finance. He invested in North American railways, was involved in global trade from Canton to Valparaiso, created hundreds of jobs, and relished the challenges of 'the science of business'. His success enabled him to acquire land, houses and works of art on a scale to rival the grandest of aristocrats.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (1 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300112203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300112207
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 616,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Caroline Dakers is professor of cultural history, University of Arts London. She is the author of 'The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society' and 'Clouds: Biography of a Country House', both published by Yale University Press. She lives in London.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry, but interesting 26 Dec 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think this really is a book for people, like me, who are interested in 19th century history. On the subjects of domestic trade, Victorian family dynamics and particularly the property and art trade, and the architectural developments at Fonthill and Basildon, it is extremely interesting and breaks new ground.
However those are quite minority tastes and it is not possible to recommend it to the general reader. There are a number of incompleted narratives: for example, how and why did the open-hearted and enthusiastic young James Morrison, strikingly generous to his employees, suddenly mutate into the suspicious hypercritical older landowner who drove even his landagents (not generally noted as an abrasive breed when dealing with their employers)to threaten to resign? And having embarked on the second generation, and even the third, it was surely a pity to leave out the fourth's connection with one of the seminal comic moments of 20th century political history - Peter Morrison (John Morrison's younger son) being found asleep at his desk after lunch by Alan Clark (see Diaries) when meant to be drumming up support for Margaret Thatcher's failed re-election as party leader: surely the Morrison family's biggest impact on world affairs?
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Amazon.com: 1.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1.0 out of 5 stars More Art than Business, but all British 29 Mar 2014
By S. M. McMillion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Incredibly enticing title but I couldn't even make it through the first five chapters. Clearly written for an English (vice American) audience, it is full of references to minor British historical events which will be mostly unfamiliar to Americans. The author is explicit in her introduction as to how she plans to tell the story and stays true to her word as she uses the contemporary fictional literature of Morrison (Dickens, etc.) throughout to illustrate points, conditions, and situations. Additionally, Dakers (the author) gives equal weight to Morrison's art collection and self-education (for culture). I was more interested in Morrison as a businessman, and Dakers does give some attention to his efforts, but the attention is lacking detail and non-fictional context. If you are interested in art and cultural history, you will most likely enjoy this. I seldom fail to finish a book, but just couldn't handle this one.

This is similar to Ron Chernow's treatment of Alexander Hamilton or George Washington in terms of referencing many minor historical events peculiar to the country. However, Chernow offers comprehensive perspective encompassing religious, economic, political, geographical, and historical aspects. This book pales in comparison to Chernow's momentous efforts.
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