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The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone vs Disraeli

The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone vs Disraeli [Kindle Edition]

Richard Aldous
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'...a narrative historian of great verve and dash...This is a
first-class historical drama, expertly told.' -- Literary Review, October 2006

'Aldous's method is selective and very clever...The result is a
hugely enjoyable joint biography.' -- The Independent, October 10, 2006

'Fascinating...No two men did more [...] to establish the
personality politics that have become such a feature of modern politics.' -- Sunday Business Post, October 29, 2006

'This book is a romp. Aldous writes fluent, vivid prose and he
excels at scene-setting...entertaining and thought-provoking' -- The Spectator, December 12, 2006

'a detailed, entertaining account...set with just the kind of care
and skill these two extraordinary adversaries undoubtedly deserve'
-- The Irish Times, December 30, 2006

'a spirited account of the intensely personal hatred between these
two complex individuals...tremendously readable'
-- BBC History Magazine, December, 2006

'a triumph of both conception and presentation' -- Sunday Independent, December 1, 2006

'engaging and highly entertaining' -- Sunday Times, December 10, 2006

`Engaging and highly entertaining' -- Sunday Times

`Popular history of the struggle for power between Gladstone and
Disraeli... Full of amusing details about these two Victorian titans' -- Daily Telegraph `Books of the Year'

Book Description

The dramatic confrontation between the two 'mighty opposites' of the Victorian age, brilliantly recreated by a talented young historian.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1504 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393065707
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,589 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Richard Aldous holds the Eugene Meyer Chair at Bard College, New York. His numerous books include REAGAN AND THATCHER (New York Times Editors' Choice, Sunday Times Best Books of the Summer, Christian Science Monitor Best Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Starred Review), THE LION AND THE UNICORN: GLADSTONE VS. DISRAELI (Independent, Daily Telegraph, Irish Times books of the year) and GREAT IRISH SPEECHES (an Irish Times No.1 bestseller). Richard writes and reviews for the New York Times, the Irish Times and the Sunday Telegraph, and is a regular contributor to television and radio on both sides of the Atlantic.


'This well-informed account casts new light on the heroic version of the two leaders' association.' New York Times 'Editor's Choice.'

"This gripping account of their difficult relationship reads like a thriller." Sunday Times "Must Reads" and Best Books of the Summer.

"This wonderful new history by Bard College professor Richard Aldous makes clear that the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was far more challenging and complex than is widely recognized." Christian Science Monitor Best Books of 2012.

'This brilliant book reminds readers of the simple lesson that in diplomacy, interests often trump ideology -- and spin trumps both.' Foreign Affairs.

'Intelligent, authoritative and extremely readable.' The Spectator.

'A well-researched, well-written and revisionist double portrait.' Wall Street Journal

'Aldous deserves nothing but credit for the masterly way in which he weaves accounts from published memoirs and recently declassified US material into a pacey, almost thriller-like account of the meetings and telephone calls between these two political giants. This is a work of history that can be read at one sitting.' Sunday Times.

'It is a remarkable story, which deserves the fresh account that Richard Aldous, a professor of history at Bard College, gives it in Reagan and Thatcher. His book casts new light on the heroic version in which two great leaders continued the struggle for freedom waged for generations past by "the English-speaking peoples."' New York Times

'What Aldous manages to achieve is strong research with a vivid narrative style, bringing the most dramatic moments to life.' Guardian.

"An accurate picture of the Reagan-Thatcher dance does us all a favor." Daily Beast "Hot Reads".

'This is excellent revisionist history, giving another slant to the interaction of two political icons on the world stage.' Publishers Weekly (starred review).

"Reagan and Thatcher, a wonderful new book by Bard College professor Richard Aldous, makes clear that their alliance was far more challenging and complex than is widely recognized." Christian Science Monitor.

'This is a well-researched, highly readable book that effectively analyzes the relationship of the two leaders.' Washington Times.

"Aldous makes a compelling case that this important relationship between two historic figures was often complex ... The book offers a well-researched, well-written account of two friends in the heat of battle." Dallas Morning Post

'The portrait of these powerful figures is well drawn and particularly gives the reader a new view of Reagan as a more effective leader than some have portrayed him in the past. In scholarship it supersedes other works on the Reagan-Thatcher relationship.' Philadelphia Inquirer

"Thorough and engaging new history." Slate

'Aldous makes a thorough and compelling case that the Reagan-Thatcher relationship was as difficult as it was "special".' The Hill

'This eminently readable and fascinating book.' Irish Times.

'Richard Aldous has written a vivid, jaunty and highly readable account of the working relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.' The Tablet

"Throughout, Aldous carefully and persuasively demonstrates the elaborate care each took to 'handle' the other, precautions unnecessary had the relationship been as close as publicly portrayed ... A revealing look at the political marriage of two titans, who, like Roosevelt and Churchill, will be forever linked in history.'
Kirkus Reviews

"Vivid, fast-paced and immensely readable, Richard Aldous' new book challenges conventional wisdom and prods us to rethink the 1980s."
David Reynolds, author of 'America, Empire of Liberty'.

"An important study, based on a wealth of recently-released documents, which puts the Thatcher-Reagan friendship in a wholy new (and more somber) light. It should be essential reading for anyone who cares about the history, the health and the future of the Anglo-American 'special relationship'."
David Cannadine, Author of 'The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy' and 'Mellon: An American Life'.

"I can't speak for President Reagan, but I've been both praised and pulverized by Margaret Thatcher, and Richard Aldous seems to me to have captured the force of her personality. She did have an emotional understanding of Reagan and he of her that in its essence, in my judgement, was warmer than between Churchill and Roosevelt. But her fury was incandescent over the invasion of Grenada, a member of the Commonwealth, as was the wimpiness of the initial American reaction to the seizure of the Falkland Islands. This is a valuable look behind the looking glass of public-relations politics of the special relationship."
Harold Evans, author of 'The American Century'.


`Mutual loathing made their bruising encounters a riveting spectacle, richly enjoyed by the British public and recaptured, with great zest, by Richard Aldous in The Lion and the Unicorn.' New York Times.

`It does full justice to the drama inherent in a battle for political supremacy that was central to British history for decades.' Sunday Times.

'A cracking good read which captures the battle between these two extraordinary personalities.' Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor.

`With The Lion and the Unicorn, this epic showdown has found a worthy champion.' Literary Review

'Aldous's enthralling narative is notably judicious.' Independent on Sunday.

'Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone are the subjects of this engaging and gracefully written book. Why should Americans care about the rivalry between two British politicians who died more than a century ago? Because the events described in this book remind us of an important and timely truth.' National Review.

'Why such a book as this? Well, for enjoyment, among other things. Aldous is a gifted writer ... Still their story more than entertains. It instructs.' Weekly Standard.

`Connoisseurs of political rivalry have had much to enjoy this year, not least a history of the struggle for power between Gladstone and Disraeli.' Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year.

`The result is a hugely enjoyable joint biography.' The Independent.

`Aldous's smooth pacing and adroit writing bring a forgotten world back to life and demonstrate how two forceful if warring personalities can create a history that neither could have achieved acting alone.' Publishers Weekly.

`A rousing portrait of 19th-century England's most venomous political rivalry, featuring a highly readable exploration into the dueling natures of two powerful men.' Kirkus Reviews.

`Aldous deftly analyses this peculiar relationship, but also dramatises it - and does so with great panache.' Daily Telegraph.

`This lively joint biography makes clear they utterly loathed each other.' The Guardian.

`Richard Aldous has written an entertaining and thought-provoking book.' The Spectator.

`Aldous describes the different episodes of the rivalry with vividness, capturing the particular flavour of 19th-century political and social life.' New Statesman.

`Richard Aldous has set this drama with just the kind of care and skill these two extraordinary adversaries, authors and politicians undoubtedly deserve.' Irish Times.

'The Lion and the Unicorn - surprisingly, the first attempt at a double-biography of the great Victorian rivals Gladstone and Disraeli.' The Independent, Books of the Year

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminent Victorians 13 Oct 2006
The story of Gladstone and Disraeli is the story of British parliamentary politics for much of the nineteenth century. In The Lion and the Unicorn, Richard Aldous tells the tale with a masterly admixture of narrative panache, dramatic intelligence and sheer enjoyment that makes him the natural successor to Lytton Strachey and Simon Schama. Aldous is a historian who combines incisive political commentary with the gusto and empathy of a great biographer. The result is a book that charts the growth to political maturity of two bitter rivals who between them dominated Westminster and party politics in Britain for decades.

In less able hands, The Lion and the Unicorn would falter under the pressure of disclosing so much material (and telling two life stories at once), but from the outset Aldous reassures the reader as to his strategic brilliance in handling so complex a narrative. The book begins with the funeral of Benjamin Disraeli in 1881. From that unexpected vantage point,Gladstone surveys the six decades of their relationship which, as Aldous remarks, would come to define Britain itself.

I recommend this book unreservedly for its sheer narrative power(especially with regard to Gladstone's anguished private life which is poignantly portrayed against the backdrop of high drama in the Commons) and for its pellucid discussion of Whig and Tory reform bills by which Britain somewhat indirectly attained the full practice of democracy. Above all, perhaps, The Lion and the Unicorn vividly reanimates the chronicle of British political life in the nineeteenth century at a time when our sense of Britain's imperial past has either faded or fallen into disrepute. This clever and gripping book should restore perspective to that past; it should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the formative impact of personality on British politics.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of an era 2 Mar 2008
This book was hard reading. By that I mean that it took a lot of effort to reach the halfway mark. From that point on, the narrative sped up and I found it hard to put down. This book is a facinating insight into two wholly dissimilar men, each with their private devils, each with their unique view on the country and how it should be run. I thoroughly recommend anyone to read it, and see for themselves that "there is nothing new under the sun" - for despite their vision and achievements, they were men with great weaknesses, and to some extent, far more worthy of support than today's British politicians.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the way history should be written 28 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This magnificent account of the rivalry between Gladstone and Disraeli is a revelation for anyone who, like me, thought history was a boring list of kings and queens. The book brings to life the role and functioning of the British parliament in the 19th century, which was, in general, dominated by the wealthy, and run in their interests.

And who 'won'? Well Gladstone outlived Disraeli, and became prime minister several times after Disraeli's death. Disraeli's legacy was the idea that the job of the opposition should be to oppose the government, and he laid down the foundations of the modern Conservative Party, and developed the 'One Nation' ideology that kept it as the natural party of government for near a hundred years.

Gladstone left a Liberal Party severely split over the issue of Irish Home Rule, and doomed within twenty years to be squeezed out between the confident Conservatives and the growing electoral power of the Labour party. On the other hand he did give his name to the gladstone bag!
Queen Victoria survived them both. She adored Disraeli and despised Gladstone. In fact her comment on the two of them makes a fitting epitaph: 'When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr Gladstone I thought he was the cleverest man in England, but after sitting next to Mr Disraeli I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.'

A really good read..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit irritating 8 Nov 2013
By Susan
I'm sorry to disagree with a lot of other reviews but I found this book slightly grating. In an effort to try and make the story dramatic, the author over-simplifies and over-eggs the hatred between the two men (e.g. p.10 when he says that the "two men hated each other from the beginning" - this wasn't the case and it's a much more interesting question to ask why Gladstone disliked Disraeli before Disraeli really turned against Gladstone). The author also resorts to cliches and cheap hits to try and make the book readable and I found this quite irritating - for instance the references to Gladstone's diarrhoea. I thought the analysis of Disraeli's time in government was really shallow and the worst thing was that book seems to fall off a cliff at the end. There's no proper conclusion at all and no real attempt to make sense of the hundreds of pages of rivalry which go before. The book is full of interesting quotes and stories and that to some extent makes it worthwhile. But as a piece of history I thought it wasn't very insightful and I thought the two characters were presented in a really oversimplified way.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 12 April 2007
This book gives a revealing insight into what must be the most fascinating relationship in British politics. It's like watching a fifteen round, no-holds-barred world heavyweight contest fought, literally, to the death. The mercurial Disraeli dodges his way around the rather more leaden Gladstone, jabbing him to a standstill, only to be caught off-guard with a body-sapping uppercut! Following the action as the pendulum of power and dominance swings from contender to champion and back again is rivetting, with each gaining stunning victories that crumble to dust almost as soon as they are achieved, in a sort of rumble in the political jungle. Disraeli even attempts the parliamentary equivalent of a rope-a-dope, biding his time while Gladstone punches himself to a standstill, before nudging him to the canvas with a well-timed jab to that glass chin! OK... maybe the analogy has gone a bit far, but you get the picture.

It is a compelling corrective to those who see the personalisation of politics, presidential-style campaigning and the devious art of spin as a recent phenomenon. As with modern sports, many of the rules of 21st century politics were laid down during the period of this titanic struggle. Disraeli certainly comes across as the more attractive character, but both men manage to drive their supporters to distraction as often as they command, sometimes grudging, respect.

It was also interesting to note that there was so little clamour for reform before Gladstone (who had voted against the 1832 act) brought it back into focus in 1866 - only to see Disraeli snatch the prize from his grasp with some fancy footwork (though this, in turn, proved a pyrrhic victory).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
heavy going
Published 2 months ago by Ashburnham
2.0 out of 5 stars It did seem the author has a strong favourite out of these
It did seem the author has a strong favourite out of these, so I think I will confine my mark to the Disreali half! Mr. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Henry Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant and readable.
An excellent mix of fact gossip and hard reality. Over light for some maybe but very enjoyable and illuminating.
A delight.
Published 5 months ago by Edmund
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy and interesting reading
An enjoyable read about a subject I did not know well. I read it after visiting Hughendon. Told with enthusiasm as a fascinating tale of two key Victorian politicians. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Simon Kirk
4.0 out of 5 stars A great jumping in point
I have only a sketchy knowledge of Mid Victorian politics. I decided to use this book to start off an exploration. Read more
Published 8 months ago by seanjm
5.0 out of 5 stars Involving read
An excellent piece of literature. The relationship between these two political protagonists is an insight to the power struggle that prevailed and which helped mould the political... Read more
Published 12 months ago by K. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Useful
This book is very useful for my A-Level studies. It is an interesting and easy read. I recommend to anyone who is currently studying A-Level History
Published 12 months ago by Cookie
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating study of two competing leaders
The book gave an interesting picture of the period and of two very different characters, brought out in part by their relationship to Queen Victoria.
Published 14 months ago by tallhall
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Interpretation
Richard Aldous provides an excellent insight into the depth of the rivalry between these great 19th century statesmen. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Michael Cooper
4.0 out of 5 stars Factual and interesting
This is SO full of facts that it took me a while to read it, I enjoyed it very much and hope that I have learnes something from it
Published 16 months ago by loopyaitch
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