Over the last two hundred years Parliament has witnessed and effected dramatic and often turbulent change. Political parties rose – and fell. The old aristocratic order passed away. The vote was won for the working classes and, eventually, for women. The world was torn apart by two extraordinarily bloody wars. And individual politicians were cheered for their altruism or their bravery and jeered for their sexual or financial misdemeanours.
This second volume of Chris Bryant’s majestic Parliament: The Biography has a cast of characters that includes some of British history’s most famous names: the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher. Its recurring theme is reform and innovation, but it also lays bare obsessive respect for the past and a dedication to evolution rather than revolution, which has left us with a fudged constitution still perilously dependent on custom, convention and gentlemen’s agreements.
This is riveting, flawlessly researched and accessible popular history for anyone with an interest in why modern Britain is the nation it is today.