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Shirley Williams: The Biography Hardcover – 17 Sep 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Biteback Publishing; First Edition edition (17 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849546045
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849546041
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 500,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Mark Peel has given the reader a most perceptive insight into the personality of someone who is probably the UK's favourite politician, but combined it with an equally comprehensive account of the political events which have shaped her career and her influence over them. --Sir Menzies Campbell MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats

Mark Peel, an experienced biographer, offers fresh insights into Shirley Williams's public and private lives in a readable and perceptive account. He explains both her long-lasting popular appeal and also why she did not achieve more as a minister and politician. --Rt Hon. Peter Riddell CBE, Director of the Institute for Government

Nearly everyone possessing an interest in British politics has a certain idea of Shirley Williams a constant and distinctive presence in public life for half a century. They will know her far better once they have finished Mark Peel's fascinating, fine and sensitive biography. --Lord Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History

[An] Admirable autobiography. --Choice

Mark Peel is a sensitive biographer, and this book is very good on the woman behind the public façade and the dilemmas she faced, not only as a mother and a wife, but also as a politician, and why she has never quite achieved what was expected of her --The Good Book Guide

The author recounts a life which began in the shadow of her parents…and which proceeded through the bear pit of British politics while still maintaining her humanity. --Cheshire Life

Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. --London Review of Books

Mark Peel is a sensitive biographer, and this book is very good on the woman behind the public façade and the dilemmas she faced, not only as a mother and a wife, but also as a politician, and why she has never quite achieved what was expected of her --The Good Book Guide

Mark Peel's biography of Shirley Williams is sympathetic, well written and well researched. --The New Statesman

Mark Peel is a sensitive biographer, and this book is very good on the woman behind the public façade and the dilemmas she faced, not only as a mother and a wife, but also as a politician, and why she has never quite achieved what was expected of her --The Good Book Guide

About the Author

After Harrow and Edinburgh University, where he read History, Mark Peel taught History and Politics at Fettes between 1983 and 2007, much enjoying the life of an all-round schoolmaster. His previous books include England Expects: A Life of Ken Barrington (winner of the 1993 Cricket Society Literary Award), The Land of Lost Content: A Biography of Anthony Chenevix-Trench; Cricketing Falstaff: A Biography of Colin Milburn; The Last Roman: A Biography of Colin Cowdrey and The Last Wesleyan: A Life of Donald Soper. A keen sportsman, Mark Peel runs the AllSorts Cricket Club.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This biography was a sympathetic but uncritical account of the long and eventful life of the popular Shirley Williams, even covering her religious beliefs and activism in the Roman Catholic Church, and looking into the reasons as to why she did not quite have the stomach pushing herself forward to becoming the Labour Party's first female leader, leading to the conclusion that inwardly she did not have the confidence in herself that outwardly she appeared to have.

Reading her time leading up to leaving the Labour Party and setting up the ill fated SDP and her clashes with the leadership were fascinating including why she avoided becoming a candidate for the Warrington byelection as she still harboured standing again in Stevenage.

I recommend this very well written book.
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Format: Hardcover
Mark Peel first met Shirley Williams in 2000, when he interviewed her for his biography of Methodist minister Donald Soper, and when he inquired whether she would be interested in allowing him to write her biography, he was delighted when she consented to his request. Subsequently Mr Peel spent the next ten years on his researches with full access to Mrs Williams' papers and she also made herself readily available to Mr Peel to answer his questions. The result is this well-researched, well-written and, it must be said, admiring biography of one of Britain's most well-known politicians.

Born in 1930, the daughter of political scientist and philosopher, George Catlin, and Vera Brittain, the author of the autobiographical Testament of Youth, Shirley had an unconventional upbringing and, being a bright, precocious child, was allowed free access to her father's library and was encouraged by both parents to have a social conscience and to never think of herself as inferior to men. During WWII, Shirley was sent to America with her older brother, John, where she became very popular with both the adults and children she met there, but she returned to England before the end of the war, and it was in London during an air raid, that she found herself in the same shelter as Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary. During the raid, for two hours until the all clear was given, Shirley engaged the Home Secretary in animated conversation, giving him the benefit of her advice on a range of subjects. Herbert Morrison was so impressed by the young teenager's precious intelligence that he invited her to lunch at the Home Office.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8c857a50) out of 5 stars 1 review
HASH(0x8c85990c) out of 5 stars Valuable, if Somewhat Bland, Biography of an Evergreen British Politician 25 July 2014
By Dr. Laurence Raw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a tribute to the longevity of a politician who began her career in the mid-Fifties and who still has an influential voice in Britain's House of Lords today. The daughter of acclaimed novelist and peace campaigner Vera Brittain, Shirley Williams had a glittering career at Oxford, but did not enter Parliament until her fourth attempt. Once ensconced as a member of the Labour Party cabinet, she pursued a career which, while not scaling the heights of political office, nonetheless rendered her a highly popular MP and speaker. Mark Peel suggests that there were two main reasons why she did not obtain one of the major posts of political office, nor became the leader of the Party; for one thing, she was (and is) an independent-minded person who is not especially good at forging alliances among those who might be prepared to vote for her; and b) despite her forceful personality, she has occasionally experienced a failure of nerve to put herself forward at the crucial moment. This was especially true when she co-founded the Social Democrat Party after leaving the Labour Party in 1980; two years later she had a golden chance to assume the leadership of the party, but passed it over in favor of the more staid Roy Jenkins. Nonetheless Williams has retained a magnetic media personality: Peel claims that she is among the politicians most frequently invited to participate in the BBC's weekly political panel show QUESTION TIME. She was originally married to star philosopher Bernard Williams; when they divorced in 1971, Williams undertook the responsibility of bringing up her only daughter alone. As a single parent, Minister of the Crown and indefatigable speaker, she has proved herself to be a highly efficient person. Although not scaling the political heights like her near-contemporary Margaret Thatcher, Williams is perhaps a more admirable personality in her willingness to accommodate alternative viewpoints, her unshakable belief in social and political equality, and her enduring religious faith. Sometimes Mark Peel's biography gets too bogged down in political minutiae - of limited interest to those readers unacquainted with the history of the Labour Party in the Seventies and Eighties - and it sometimes sacrifices analysis in favor of factual (and slightly tedious) presentation and/or repetitive argument. Perhaps some judicious editing might have been helpful in pre-publication. Nonetheless SHIRLEY WILLIAMS is a valuable profile of an evergreen politician.
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