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Like The Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell Hardcover – 23 Nov 1998


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 969 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 1st Edition edition (23 Nov 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297842862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297842866
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.7 x 6.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

When Enoch Powell died in February 1998, British politics lost one of its most remarkable and intelligent figures. A controversial politician, Powell is most widely remembered for his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech on immigration in 1968 while the Labour government was trying to pass its race relations legislation. He was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet as a result of the ensuing outcry. Whatever the consequences for race relations in Britain-–and many would still maintain that Powell helped to engender a climate of fear and mistrust in which National Front activity steadily increased for more than a decade afterwards-–the speech destroyed Powell's political career.

In a controversial account of a controversial man, Heffer goes some way towards rescuing Powell from demonisation--though there's no getting away from how hilariously curmudgeonly he often was. He seemed to spend his entire childhood being 81 years old; Heffer's account of the proud, spiky Classical scholar (Powell's precocity in this area was astonishing) poncing about like Socrates, his flirtation with morbid German Romanticism and his desire for war, and his success in the army despite his mannerisms and brusque, self- assured superiority do eventually make him a human, almost sympathetic character; but one is not always sure that Heffer is right to attribute irony to Powell's more drastic remarks rather than, say, arrogance or naivety.

What Heffer has done--remarkably swiftly, given that he only saw Powell's most personal papers after his death--is to provide an enormous, well-sourced and sympathetic biography of a towering yet flawed figure. It has wit and an attention to detail that would have pleased the pedantic Powell in his guise of scholar. The youngest ever British professor, promoted from private to brigadier during World War Two, and a much-loved politician for two parties, Powell also wrote tolerable romantic poetry (in the mould of A.E. Housman). One is left with a sense of sadness that such an intelligent and hard-working man was so coldly intellectual as never to appreciate the appalling consequences of his discussion of race and immigration. Whether or not Powell was a racist (and even his enemies seem to have doubted this) his ideas were received rapturously by those who were. But there was more to the man than that; and this is a surprisingly engaging portrait of a sometimes disagreeable genius. --Robert Potts

From the Publisher

A fine biography of one of the greatest orators, parliamentarians and political thinkers of modern times…compelling” Margaret Thatcher, Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Aug 2003
Format: Paperback
Having had a high regard for Enoch Powel despite being as far from him in political terms as it is possible to get it did not surprise me to find from this book that he was also regarded the same way by many of his political opponents.
He and Tony Benn were two sides of the same coin - alas extinct in modern politics - honourable, intelligent men and real politicians.
Simon Heffer's excellent biography is not to be started lightly but once commenced is difficult to put down. It captures the man from his speeches, writing and broadcasting and, for one who lived through the era in question, brings it all back to mind.
Despite being uncritical about the correctness of Powell's economic theories the book lays out a fascinating study of a great man.
Anyone who harbours the opinion that Enoch Powell was a racist will be sadly disabused if they read this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By HBH on 25 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like the Roman by Simon Heffer is a very interesting biography of a man who only held office for a few years in his career but is one of the most influential and well-remembered figures in late 20th century Britian. He is most famous for his Rivers of Blood speech which made him both a much loved and much loathed figure but this biography shows that he was much more than one speech. It shows a man who was an academic genius, a poet, a brigadier, a professor, a man dominated by a cold logic but also a romanticism and a man of principle and ideas who was expounding the economic theory of the 1980s decades before. All in all it is a very good book if a little long and perhaps a bit biased but it shows the man beyond the public caricatures.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By D. Boulton on 29 April 2003
Format: Paperback
Enoch Powell was many things to many people; not least because he was many things. An esteemed academic, Powell was the authority on Greek language and literature - a master scholar; a genius.
To the ill-informed, he was, above all a racist and a fascist. It is only when one realises that he staked his life, with millions of others, in the defence of democracy and the defeat of Nazism in World War II, that it is possible to see just how wrong this perecption is.
This book chronicles Powell's life from his unremarkable uprbringing in the West Midlands, through a highly remarkable academic career, a distinguished service of Britain in her Armed Forces, through to his time in Paliament as a Tory, Ulster Unionist, and elder statesman.
Two minor criticisms would be that there is simply too much detail, especially of Parliamentary exchanges, that is too procedural, and too impersonal, and that, secondly, too little emphasis is given to his later years and an analysis of his political legacy.
Certainly, this book is far too detailed for the casual reader: if you merely want an overview of Powell's life, his motivations, his impact, this is not it. As an 18 year old Conservative, this book was both fascinating and surprising. The fact that I expected not to be impressed with a man labelled 'racist', 'fascist', 'out-dated' etc., perhaps bears testament to Powell's dire predictions of the rise of the Political Correct classes' influence. I certainly was impressed, and anyone bringing a remotely Conservative mind - or, I suggest, open mind - to this book would struggle to be otherwise.
Powell is undoubtedly best-known for his 'Rivers of Blood' speech.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Renzo on 23 Jun 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought the Paperback, mistake, not the right format for a thousand page book with some 33 pages of important notes.

It appeared to have been (very badly) printed in China(?).

Some pages were angled; on others text was missing.

Amazon's excellent returns system sorted this out, and I bought
the Hardback as I should have done from the start.

That apart, good read on a complex flawed character who with deep irony helped create the bloated public sector with it's cushioned pensions scheme.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By R. Burin on 3 Dec 2002
Format: Paperback
Enoch Powell remains one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th Century British political scene: outspoken and forthright, a man of integrity, ever constroversial. As such, a figure suitable for a lengthy and in-depth tome. And in many ways, Heffer has produced a passable biography. However, as a long-standing friend, Daily Mail journalist Heffer could surely have delved deeper into the motivations for and reasoning behind Powell's speeches on race and on economics (his thinking on economic policy formed the basis for Thatcherism), rather than focusing primarily on Powell as a politician. The inevitable centring on Powell's 1968 'Rivers of Blood' speech (from which the book borrows its title) actually works well, but Heffer's style often grates, and he distracts from his subject by frequently going into depth where he needn't, at other times neglecting to study further apparently important concerns regarding Powell's life. He also appears obsessed with Powell's sexuality in the early stages of the book. A good read (and apparently well-researched) in many ways then, but this is probably more a result of the subject's fascinating life than the author's contributions. Worth a look.
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