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Michael Foot: A Life [Paperback]

Kenneth O. Morgan
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Mar 2008

The authorised – but not uncritical – life of one of the great parliamentarians and orators of our times, the former Labour Party leader, now in his nineties, who is also an eminent man of letters.

Michael Foot has been a controversial and charismatic figure in British public life, political and literary, for over sixty years.

Emerging from a famous west-country Liberal dynasty, he rose as a crusading left-wing journalist in the late 1930s: ‘The Guilty Men’ (his book on the pre-war appeasers of Nazi Germany) is one of the great radical tracts of British history. He has been the voice of libertarian socialism in parliament, an international socialist and government minister, and was Labour leader for two-and-a-half years between 1980 and 1983.

His political friendships with people like Beaverbrook, Cripps, Aneurin Bevan and Barbara Castle were passionate and profound, but he also had a remarkable and quite different career as a man of letters, with Dean Swift, Tom Paine, Hazlitt, Byron, Wordsworth, Heine, Wells and Silone amongst his heroes. Foot’s two-volume life of Aneurin Bevan is a triumph of political biography.

Kenneth Morgan's biography does full justice to both the public and the private side of Michael Foot – no more tellingly than his descriptions of Foot's long and happy marriage to the filmmaker, feminist and writer Jill Craigie.

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Michael Foot: A Life + The Uncollected Michael Foot: Essays Old and New 1953-2003
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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007178271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007178278
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'I was engrossed. Kenneth Morgan's superb portrait quickly takes shape…This is much more than another Labour biography. It is a portrait in bright oils of a master parliamentary literary-politcal agitator, in a society congenitally hard to rouse.' Prospect

'A joy to read, erudite, wry, sensitive and enlightening, packed with juicy items…from nearly a century of tumultuous personal, party and national events.' History Today

'Magnificent biography…Morgan has given us a book that is everything an authorized biography should be. It's compendious meticulously researched with the collaboration of its subject, and contains every fact you are ever likely to want to know about him.' Guardian

'A substantial work of history, not shy to explore Foot's human frailties…Yet it is also affectionate, conveying the warmth of Foot's generosity of spirit and his passions.' Scotsman

‘Beautifully written, and with facts and arguments skillfully assembled…a supremely honest scholar.' Financial Times

'Morgan's judgements of Foot are elegantly balanced…accurate narrative and careful analysis.' Roy Hattersley, The Observer

'A fascinating look at an unique public figure' Belfast Telegraph

'this refreshingly candid biography' Sunday Telegraph

'Morgan is one of Britain's most distinguished modern historians, whose books combine scrupulous scholarship with limpid prose… In his equally revisionist biography of Jim Callaghan, he managed, with a remarkable mixture of empathy and skill, to get inside the skin of that surprisingly complex and enigmatic figure. Now he has done the same with Foot – another complex and enigmatic figure, but cut from a very different cloth… Morgan deals faithfully and fairly with Foot's political career.' New Statesman

The Observer

'Foot was, and still is, a great man who deservedly inspires
afffection as well as admiration.'
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This is, on the whole, an interesting book by an established political historian and biographer (and Labour peer in the House of Lords). While many people are familiar with the scornful newspaper stereotypes of Foot from the early 1980s when he led the Labour Party, this biogaphy provides a detailed assessment of both his party political activities and his 'hinterland', especially his early years as a journalist and author (either writing columns for or editing, the Evening Standard and Tribune, amongst other publications, and his co-authored book, Guilty Men, written at the outbreak of World War Two)

It is, on the whole, sympathetic in tone, but is honest about Foot's noticeable illiteracy on matters of economic policy (which his political opponents gleefully exploited as a result of the commitments contained in the 1983 Labour General Election manifesto). While some readers may find the internal politics, personality clashes and left-right tribalism of the Labour Party tedious, this forms an essential backdrop to any serious assessment of a major post-war Labour politician. There is also a wealth of detail on the other members of the Foot clan, and their individual life and works.

A dry, but rewarding read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A groud breaking biography 24 Mar 2007
By George
This is a fascinating and well written insight into the life of Michael Foot where I learn't not just about Michael Foot the politician but also about Michael Foot the man and literary polymath. The best biography I've read in a long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By ShiDaDao Ph.D TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This book contains all the essential facts about the eminent British leftwing politician - Michael Foot (1913-2010). Kenneth Morgan (Baron), is an Oxford academic who writes extensively on the subject of British politics and Welsh history. A member of the Labour Party, he was asked by Michael Foot to compile this authorised biography of his life. Morgan sets a stunning pace from start to finish, and yet still manages to present the chronological facts of Foot's life without confusion or lose of clarity. The text engages the reader to such an extent, that it is often difficult to put the book down.

The paperback (2008) edition contains 568 numbered pages and is separated into 12 chapters that follow a Preface and a List of Illustrations. There is a concluding chapter (distinct from the rest) entitled 'Envoi: Toujours L'audace' - which translates from the French as 'Send Always The Audacitious', and serves as a retrospective and summation to Michael Foot's long life and political career. It is the entire book encapsulated in a few pages. Morgan does well to trace Foot's life from Plymouth to Parliament, and in the process makes clear the complex strands that defined Michael's political ideas. Morgan describes Foot as an 'undoctrinaire ethical socialist', who disliked the Soviet Union (despite UK rightwing media speculation that Foot was infact 'Agent Boot', working for the KGB!), who, whilst preferring a 'pacifist' stance, nevertheless backed the war against Hitler, and the later war against North Korea and China, and who, whilst being opposed to the death penalty, supported the execution of Charles I and was an admirer of Cromwell. Morgan does not hid the contradictions in Foot's life, and neither did Michael Foot.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN EXTENSIVE BIOGRAPHY OF MICHAEL FOOT 2 July 2011
This is a well written book which reveals,I believe,the true personality of Michael Foot. Inevitably he becomes very dretailked about ncertain important political events in his life. The detailed workings of industrial relations, and the creation of legislation in relation to trade unions, for me were rather dry and turgid, but nonetheless needed to be dealt with, if one was to understand the man. The book devoted,obviously, space to the role of Jill Craigie, who I knew very little about.The coverage of his literary achievements were covered well, and gave a good insight into another side of his personna. I have always believed that Michael Foot was a very principled man, who believed and held strong views about particular issues, although I did not agree with them, I admired someone who could hold such strong, and in most cases loife long held views and opinions.
This book covered all aspects of Michael Foot,s life, although slanted more to the historical/political/social aspect rather than the scandal that occured in his life, and much could be made of the ones that did occur, Kenneth Morgan avoided making them a central and integral part, they were events that happened in a long and eventful life. A good solid read.
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