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William Pitt the Younger: A Biography Paperback – 3 May 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Later printing edition (3 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007147201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007147205
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘A shrewd political biography and a sensitive portrait of one of our most enigmatic heroes.’ Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘One of the most enjoyable biographies for years…if you buy only one political biography this year, make it the one.’ John Major

‘A first-class work of history; informative, well written and captivating.’ The Times

‘What makes the book such an engrossing and stimulating read is the author’s passion for and understanding of politics.’ Sunday Times

‘A weighty and scholarly biography…the empathy, indeed the identification of subject with author, is remarkable. Hague deserves an accolade…he has written a serious, detailed and thoughtful study of one of Britain's greatest prime ministers.’ Shirley Williams, Guardian

‘Truly fine…The need for a distinguished, readable, single-volume work has long been recognised. William Hague has now triumphantly filled this gap.’ Scotsman

‘Narrated with a finely attuned sense of the politically dramatic.’ Andrew Roberts, Evening Standard

‘A reliable and readable account of an unusual politician and a tragic life.’ Spectator

‘A fascinating account.’ Christopher Foyle, Mail on Sunday

From the Back Cover

William Pitt The Younger was one of the most extraordinary figures in British history, who became Prime Minister in 1783 at the remarkable age of twenty-four. In this lively and authoritative biography, William Hague explains the dramatic events and exceptional abilities which allowed extreme youth to be combined with great power.

Pitt was derided as a ‘schoolboy’ when he took office. Yet within months he had outwitted his opponents, and he went on to dominate the political scene for twenty-two years (nineteen of them as Prime Minister). No British politician since has exercised such supremacy for so long.

Generally thought to be cold and aloof, Pitt was described by friends as the wittiest man they ever knew. William Hague succeeds in explaining Pitt’s actions and motives during a series of great national crises, including the trauma of the Napoleonic wars. He describes how a man dedicated to peace became Britain’s longest-serving war leader, how Pitt the liberal reformer became Pitt the author of repression, and how – though undisputed master of the nation’s finances – he died with vast personal debts.

With its rich cast of characters, and set against a backdrop of industrial revolution and global conflict, this is history at its most riveting.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Feb. 2005
Format: Hardcover
From Which the World Should Note Something Particular. Shakespeare.
There was something astonishingly particular about Pitt the Younger. The second son of the Earl of Chatman (Pitt the Elder) was a child prodigy. He was admitted to Cambridge at age 14, elected to Parliament at age 21 and appointed Prime Minister at age 24. Twenty-two years later, of which twenty were spent as Prime Minister, Pitt died at age 46.
William Hague was something of a prodigy himself. He gave his first major political address at a Conservative Party Conference in 1977 at age 16. Hague was elected to Parliament at age 28 and became the Tory party leader at age 36, the youngest party leader in 200 years. Hague's rhetorical skills, like Pitt the Younger, are excellent. Some observers (not all of them Conservatives) believed that Hague regularly bested Labour P.M. Tony Blair in debates in the House of Commons. After losing the 2001 general election and the leadership of his party Hague was asked to write his Memoirs. He indicated that an autobiography was approximately 40 years premature and sat down to write the biography of his idol Pitt the Younger instead.
Hague has done an excellent job here. Although meticulously researched this is a readable, popular biography. Hague's prose style is precise and flows very smoothly.
Hague quickly takes us through Pitts early years and the events surrounding his first election to Parliament. His impact on Parliament was soon felt and within two years King George III twice asked Pitt to form a new government. It was only when Pitt was certain that he could maintain control of a new government that Pitt accepted the King's offer when it was made for the third time.
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58 of 63 people found the following review helpful By R. Ford on 27 Oct. 2004
Format: Hardcover
On purchasing this book, I must admit a feeling of uncertainty as to whether this would prove to be a valuable addition to my bookshelf as opposed to a disappointment. The idea of a politician writing a biography of a historical politician always runs the risk of the author imparting partiality with respect to the subject. Even though some critics have referred to this book merely as an endeavour by Mr. Hague to solidify his position within Conservative ideology (and by result the Conservative party), this book remains a very informative and enjoyable account of one of the more interesting political figures we have had in recordable history.
With historical backdrops such as the rise of Napoleon, the madness of George III, the inception of the abolition of the slave trade and the fact the subject was so unique among his predecessors and successors (due to his youth, oratory skills and the extremely long duration in office) makes a book about the life and career of William Pitt a very enjoyable read. Also, Mr Hague's treatment pulls no more punches than most "established literary historians" and tries to remain both informative and enjoyable throughout.
For those still not persuaded by an interest in political intrigue, if you want to know more about the wonderful characters and situations in "Blackadder the Third" (The mad King, the bumbling Prince Regent, the plight of the French Nobility and the formidable Duke of Wellington - even though historically, Wellington's popular career began as Pitt's ended) then this book will act as a good start for you.
A deserved five stars.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 25 Jan. 2005
Format: Hardcover
Following the death of Roy Jenkins, there is space for an accomplished political biographer to take his place, and William Hague certainly shows the potential in this engrossing book to do just that.
Pitt spent most of his life as Prime Minister, a remarkable feat even for the time. He initially presided over a peace dividend, but half way through his first term as Prime Minister entered war against France, leaving his financial legacy somewhat more ambiguous, though he certainly prevented the country from being invaded by the French.
Hague makes the political manoeuvrings interesting, and the section of his relationship with Addington when the latter was Prime Minister is particularly engrossing. The analysis he renders of Pitt's actions seems sounds, and Hague's telling is straightforward account - there are no massive revelations here, nor is it a revisionist history in any way.
He also makes the period seem suitably interesting when describing events and social conventions of the time. Obviously it was a completely different time, but it is easy to forget and a number of the points were jaw-dropping.
There are a number of flaws in this book. There is often little analysis of his motives, though decision he made during the war with French are better looked at that occurs in the first half of the book. Hague also fails to get to grip properly with Pitt as a person, though again he is better at some points, for example on his speculated homosexuality, than others. The writing is also slightly repetitive, though his editors can be considered equally at fault for these small points.
More worryingly, perhaps, is Hague's refusal to engage in his own past to offer insight. Jenkin's strength as a biographer was insights into politics resulting from his sheer volume of experience.
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