Shop now Shop now Shop now Up to 70% off Fashion Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Amazon Fire TV Amazon Pantry Food & Drink Beauty Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now Shop now
Profile for T. G. S. Hawksley > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by T. G. S. Hawksley
Top Reviewer Ranking: 253,682
Helpful Votes: 167

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
T. G. S. Hawksley
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years
Guns, Germs and Steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.14

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but what about human nature?, 9 Feb. 2016
The brilliance of the book is its disarming simplicity in explaining why some continents and cultures advanced, and others lagged behind.
It's all about geography.

Growing crops and using animals can easily spread across continents where climates are similar (e.g. Middle East, Europe); it doesn't happen where there are severe climate differences, and grim physical boundaries (e.g. The Americas, Africa). A major spin off from animals is developing immunity form the diseases they carry. So when Europeans invaded the Americas those diseases defeated the natives more than war.

The success then of Europe and the West has got nothing to do with Europeans being more intelligent than aborigines or native Americans. And in this scheme forget Tawney and Weber and arguments about religion and the rise of capitalism, that's detail. When you dig back to the basics as to why it was Europeans who took over Australia and not the other way round, it's all about geography. Religion might explain why it was the northern Europeans who got richer than the southern ones, but in the big picture (Europeans taking over from native Americans or Australians) it's geography.

It's the same when it comes to politics. Why was China,with a longer history of civilisation, technological innovation and agriculture, overtaken by Europe in the 19th C? Diamond's persuasive answer is that China's state was homogeneous due to geography. This meant the country was easily ruled by a dictator and one of them – foolishly in the 15th C – stopped ship building. Europe, because of geography, was fragmented. There has never been one ruler of Europe, which meant that when Columbus was turned down by the French and the Portuguese, he could still turn to the Spanish.

It's a convincing paradigm and largely true; but still skewed. It is absurd to think, as many did a hundred years ago, that people are superior because of their race. But equally it is difficult to conclude that a civilisation has nothing to do with how human beings behave. So there is a difficulty with India, a country not looked at in detail by Diamond. Like China, India also has an ancient civilisation with a long history of agriculture, writing, and history. And here is a question for Diamond. Why is India, after all these centuries, still ravaged by poverty and injustice, while the United States, just a few hundred years old, is a place where immigrants flock to because they know if they work hard they can prosper under the rule of law? It's hard to see where geography plays a part. India has all that is needed for a prosperous economy but still enough fragmentation not to lend it naturally to be ruled by a dictator as with China. So why the chronic poverty and corruption? Is it racist to ask whether the different outcomes has something to do with human morality and that Hinduism with its cruel caste system has allowed the rich to ignore the poor and treat them as inferior before the law?
Perhaps there is a geographical answer to this question, but if this is true for India it is true for the rest of the world. It has not just been about geography; it has also been all about how human beings behave and some civilisations have come up with better ways of dealings with the evil that lurks within us than others.

So Diamond's paradigm is brilliant; but skewed because there the impact of human morality is largely ignored.


Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise
Dvd
Price: £2.49

2.0 out of 5 stars Great dialogue - at times - but just not enough ..., 25 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Before Sunrise (Amazon Video)
Great dialogue - at times - but just not enough story. And behind the toothpaste advert like smiles of the couple, the usual sad tacky message of separating sex from marriage that has brought so much misery into people's lives.


The Remains of the Day
The Remains of the Day
Dvd
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure passion, without a kiss, 31 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is one of the finest films of all time, portraying in exact detail the genius of Ishiguro's novel about Mr Steven's, the butler at Darlington Hall. The narrator in the novel is Mr Stevens, and it is his distinctive use of the English language that makes the book such a pleasure. The same English is used throughout the film, indeed much of the dialogue is straight from the pages of the book.

The film also does justice to all the irony surrounding the idea of dignity and what makes a great butler - the major theme in the book. The irony is that Mr Steven's idea of dignity led him to give the best years of his life to serving a naive English gentleman who tried to make peace with the Nazis in the 1930's and even sacked two Jewish housemaids in this cause.

However in the film the main story line is the unexpressed love between Mr Stevens and the house-keeper, Miss Kenton. This builds up slowly to give us a very different sort of irony: that one of the most heart-breaking and romantic scenes in cinema happens without a kiss, just two hands shaking at a rainy bus stop, and then parting. It's virtually the final scene - in both the book and the film.

The film though adds a superb epilogue, which sums up why Mr Stevens never had a love life. A bird is found flying around one of the large rooms at Darlington Hall where Mr Stevens served. The bird is taken to the window and flies free into the Oxfordshire skies. Mr Stevens stays in the hall - with his duty and dignity - to live out the remains of his day.


The Last Mughal: The Fall of Delhi, 1857
The Last Mughal: The Fall of Delhi, 1857
by William Dalrymple
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant narrative history, stained by a simplistic and offensive bias against evangelical Christians., 1 Jan. 2014
As all the other reviewers say, this is an absolutely brilliant book. But there's a stain on the painting: a simplistic and offensive bias against evangelical Christians.

The bias is obvious in Chapter Two, 'Believers and Infidels'. Here the evangelical Anglican vicar Rev. Jennings is depicted in hideous colours. According to Dalrymple he is a man of violence:

'Jennings' plan was to rip up what he regarded as the false faiths of India, by force, if necessary.'

Dalrynmple's sentence enforces the old cliché of the missionary holding the Bible in one hand, a machine gun in the other. However from Dalrymple's text all one can ascertain is that Jennings was hoping that the arrival of the British Empire in India would further the cause of Christianity. There's nothing about 'forced' conversions.

The character assassination of Jennings continues. We learn from Dalrymple of his 'brash and insensitive yet silky unctuous manner - strikingly similar to that of Obaidah Slope in Barchester Towers...' There is no foot note to support this. All we learn from the other people quoted is that Jennings was 'enthusiastic' and a 'bigot', which could simply mean he believed what most Christians have believed for the last two thousand years - that the Christian faith is exclusive.

A couple of pages on and the same bias gets to work on the bishop of Calcutta, Reginald Heber, who, not surprisingly, wanted to see the Christian faith spread. Dalrymple misinterprets one of Heber's hymn to argue that the bishop and others like him thought the Indians were vile. In verse two of a hymn that begins; From Greenland's icy mountains..., Heber pens these lines:

Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile

Any Christian with just the slightest knowledge of their faith would immediately recognise that here Heber is referring to all of humanity; every native of every nation is vile, contaminated with Adam's sin. But Dalrymple uses the hymn to try and get his readers to think that Heber only thinks the natives of India are 'vile'.

The bias is truly shocking a few pages on. Dalrymple is continuing to paint a picture of increasing religious tension as the background to the mutiny. While doing this he seems to condone 'Sati', the practice of a Hindu widow being burnt alive on her husband's funeral pyre, and appears to condemn the British for banning the practice in their determination to 'aggressively and insensitively promote Christianity.'

In this moral universe the good guys are those who see women being burnt alive and walk on the other side in the name of tolerance; the bad guys are missionaries like William Carey who campaigned to get the practice banned. They are 'aggressive' and 'insensitive'.

This chapter ends with the author calling all Christians fundamentalists, which presumably means evangelicals, as people who inject 'venom' into the world. Writing about Islam and Christianity Dalryple says - '...the fundamentalists of both faiths have needed each other to reinforce each other's prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the other'.

The idea that a Christian only becomes an evangelical/fundamentalist because of an encounter with a fundamentalist of another faith is extremely simplistic - and fanciful. In the 19th C thousands upon thousands in England and America were converted by the preaching of dogmatic, intolerant Bible believing Christians like Moody, Finney, Booth, Spurgeon and Simeon. These converts became evangelical. Like Jennings they believed in spreading the Gospel. Most of them probably had never met a fundamentalist Muslim or Hindu. They were dogmatic because of the Gospel, not because of another faith. It is disappointing that an author of Dalrymple's abilty should serve up this superior sounding simplistic liberal myth that one fundamentalism breeds another.

As for the use of the word 'venom' to describe the missionary endeavour of Victorian evangelicals in India, this is unfair. Most decent minded people believe that everyone of faith should have the right to seek the conversion of others. This is not a venomous activity, this is what freedom of conscience and religion is all about. The use of the word 'venom'is also offensive. Most Christian missionaries truly believe that lives improve when people follow Jesus Christ. They are dogmatic about this. That's why they sacrifice a lot to go and preach. Dalrymple here is implying that their impact is 'venomous' - poisonous, destructive. This is offensive to the character of missionaries, and to the millions who have benefited from their countless projects to help the poor.

The rest of the book is superb historical narrative. We are largely spared the bias. But then it appears again right at the end. As Dalyrimple concludes the tale he has told so well we have this odd contrast with Zafar, the last Mughal king who failed to take a stand either for or against the British during the mutiny. For Dalrymple Zafar is a 'strikingly liberal and likeable figure when compared to the Victorian Evangelicals whose insensitivity, arrogance, and blindness did much to bring the Uprising of 1857 down upon their own heads.'

As another reviewer has said, it is simplistic to see the Victorian Evangelicals as causing the mutiny. In fact it is very likely that if there had not been a single evangelical Christian in India in 1857 the army - which was not run by evangelicals - would still have wanted the sepoys of Bengal to use the new rifles with the unclean lubricants. So the sepoys, seething with all sorts of grievances, would still have thought the 'Christian' British were wanting to corrupt their faith and would have rebelled. The source of the initial violence of the mutiny was firmly with the sepoys. There is not a murderous evangelical in sight.

Simplistic - and offensive. Most Christians throughout history have wanted to spread the Gospel. It is in the DNA of the church. But Dalrymple smears such activity as being filled with 'insensitivity' and 'arrogance', and, worse, implies that if a Christian shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ seeking the conversion of a Hindu or Muslim, then the Muslim or Hindu has a moral right to react with appalling violence. It's a 'shut up or we'll kill you creed'.

As it has turned out the Victorian Evangelicals, and many other Christians, especially the Roman Catholics, went on to bring immense benefits to India. Jennings' vision, so loathed by this author, saw churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, hospices, and much more built for the people of the sub-continent. Some are still in use.

And no young widows are being burnt alive.

William Dalrymple is rightly recognised as one of our generation's greatest writers and historians. It is hard to see how anyone will produce a better book on Delhi and the mutiny. It is brilliant history. All the more pity that he has allowed this stain of an unreasonable bias against evangelical Christians to spoil such a fine work.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 29, 2014 5:18 PM BST


The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution
The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution
by Amir Taheri
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'Khatami denies the holocaust', 'The Shah never tortured anyone': angered by Taheri's cavalier attitude to history, 26 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Vali Nasr, Ray Takeyh, Kasra Naji, Michael Axworthy, Kenneth Pollack, and Roy Mottahadeh are serious writers whose work on Iran has helped readers understand a fascinating country.

I was hoping Amir Taheri would be of the same ilk. I was disappointed. There was little that was new and some of the writing so cavalier I felt the author was treating his readers with an arrogance that assumed just because he was meant to be an Iran expert he could write whatever he wanted and be believed.

On the Shah's opponents, Taheri writes, `The shah had not thrown them into prison, even for a single day...nor had his police beaten them up or tortured them, let alone killed them in the streets.' (page 284, paperback edition). Unless all the other witnesses are lying all of the above is wrong. The Shah's opponents were imprisoned and the Shah himself apologised to the nation when demonstrators were shot dead on September 8th, 1978.

Taheri states that Ahmadinejad, Khatami, and Rafsanjani all deny the historicity of the holocaust (page 290) A two second search on Google shows, as I knew, that Khatami most certainly affirmed its historicity.

There are many other generalisations, such as `At any given time tens of thousands of workers are on strike...' (page 295) There is no footnote to validate this claim, indeed in this particular chapter ('We Can, Chapter 24) there is just one footnote. So we have to translate this as being, 'Mr Taheri thinks a lot of people in Iran are on strike a lot of the time.' It is virtually meaningless.

There can be only one reason why the publisher has allowed this casual sort of writing into print, and has managed to get recommendations for the title, even from respected newspapers like the Economist. The author is arguing for regime change.

A little disturbing.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
by Eric Metaxas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent detail that stays in our minds, 19 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The grand story of one of the great Christians who gave his life resisting Hitler is told in a masterful way here. What makes this biography especially good is the attention to background detail. And some, seemingly small at the time, come to leave their own picture in our minds. Take for example Bonhoeffer's first visit to New York in 1930. Metaxas carefully explains how rich John Rockefellow was trying to expel the fundamentalists from New York and had built a splendid church called Riverside for the liberal Harry Fosdick to preach his secular Gospel from. The liberalism leaves Bonhoeffer cold, and this brilliant aloof German, student of scholar Adolf von Harnack and friend of Karl Barth, finds his spiritual home at the black Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where a hot heaven and hell Gospel was preached by Dr Adam Clayton Powell Sr. Metaxas could have left it there. But quite rightly he tells us more about Powell; that he had been converted from a life of hard drinking and gambling; that he had built a huge church in Harlem which by the 1930's had a congregation of fourteen thousand members; and something very moving. He was the son of slaves. Metaxas then shows through a letter that Bonhoeffer wrote to a close friend about his this time `...something happened, something that has changed and transformed my life to the present day', and he admits that before, `I had not yet become a Christian'. So, because of Metaxas digging to get the detail we have this fitting jewel of a detail about Bonhoeffer: the man who died fighting anti Semitism in Germany, almost certainly became a Christian through the preaching of a son of slaves.

There are many other examples of details that enrich and fascinate. One I will never forget is that Bonheoffer shared his last two months with Dr Sigmund Rascher, who as Himmler's chief `medical officer' had designed gas chambers, and experimented on human beings for science. Metaxas gives a full account of this, and the good impression Rascher made on one of his fellow prisoners. Payne Best, an imprisoned English spy, wrote: `Rascher was such a good comrade to us all...he was the life and soul of our party, and although he well knew the risks, never hesitated to stand up to the brutal set of guards who had us in their power'. Metaxas gives us a detail here that makes little sense, but still we can't shake it out of our minds: that a saint like Bonhoeffer ended up with such a sinner as Rascher. Strange world.

With all this detail Bonhoeffer is always firmly centre stage and his message to us today is still clear. Preach `costly grace', a radical following of the living Christ to keep church and country safe. For if the church is allowed to sail away into the grey waters of theological liberalism and formalism, as happened to the Lutheran church in the early 20th C, she becomes easy meat for the waiting sharks.

The prose on the whole was great: easy flowing, with plenty of colourful phrases like, `charging into the white jaws of the notorious Russian winter.' Or `Goebbels...erected a veritable Chartres of trickery and fraud.' As a British reader the many `wrote Mr Whoever' instead of `wrote to Mr Whoever' jarred a little; there were too many exclamation marks; and very occasionally a word seemed a little informal like, `goofball', `bent themselves into pretzels', and `fussbudget', which I assume means a spoil sport.


Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader
Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran's Radical Leader
by Kasra Naji
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing immediacy, with a disturbing analysis., 5 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some of the finest writers about Iran's politics such as Ray Takeyh or Vali Nasr are, without doubt, experts in their field - but they live in America. Right from the start of this book, with its vivid descriptions of a distraught and dusty Ahmadinejad burying his father, you sense the author is not only a complete master of his subject, but he has been close to the events he is writing about.

Much of the material such as the reverence for the missing Mahdi, the holocaust denial conference, the erratic economic policies, or the rambling letters to Bush and Merkel are familiar from the general media, but because Naji was in Iran while it happened, the picture has a refreshing immediacy. Naji was certainly an eye witness on the opening day of the holocaust denial conference - `Nowhere else in the world could you find such a mixed bag: American white supremacists, European Nazis, fundamentalist Muslims and ultra-orthodox anti Zionist Jews milled around, exchanging handshakes and smiles.' And as he wandered around the centre he lets us know about a model of Auschwitz which was on display, proving large numbers of Jews could not have been killed. He is also thorough, but concise, with his background material throughout the book, so for the conference he gives us the depressing bios of some of the delegates such as David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan or Veronica Clark, head of the Adolf Hitler Research Society, who presented a paper on how Hitler was in fact very lenient with Jewry or Patrick McNally who called the holocaust `a vicious lie.'

It is not surprising that after writing this book Naji has had to leave Iran. For his sharp eye underlines two alarming characteristics about President Ahmadinejad and the other hard-liners. The first is naivety, a lack of planning, a making up of policy on the spot without thinking through the consequences. There is naivety in foreign policy: Naji makes it clear that Ahmadinejad had little idea about the backlash there would be from hosting Nazi lovers at his conference. He wanted to annoy America, but deeply offended the entire world, and so many politicians in Iran that the foreign ministry was hauled before parliament to explain itself. And there was much naivety in economics. Ahmadinejad insisted on a high minimum wage that then ruined small businesses and so threw out of work the very people he was trying to help. He also ordered the banks to cut interest rates to below the rate of inflation, which would make it impossible for them to make a profit. There is even naivety in religion and politics. Ahmadinejad thought he could win the support of women by allowing them into football matches. He was stepping into the territory of the ayatollahs and soon had to back down. The second characteristic Naji underlines is more disturbing. It is that Ahmadinejad - and many who rule with him - live in a make believe world where Iran's economy is flourishing, the `arrogant' i.e. imperial Western powers are retreating before the might of Iran and her allies like Bolivia, and it is the rest of the world that will suffer as the Islamic Republic steps up its sanctions regime on unfriendly countries. This is all disturbing, especially for Iran's citizens who have to live with the reality of rising prices, the impact of sanctions, and the threat of an attack from Israel over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Since this book was published in 2008 Ahmadinejad has had a few reality checks - not just the massive demonstrations after the 2009 presidential elections, or the bruising disputes with the Supreme Leader and parliament which he has lost,but also of course the fact that in 2013 he has to step down.


Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
Don't Sleep, There are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle
by Daniel Everett
Edition: Paperback

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but what about speaking in tongues?, 19 Mar. 2012
Learning about the life of an obscure tribe of about three hundred souls in the middle of the Amazonian jungle was a fascinating read; as was the section on the Piraha language and linguistics. Daniel Everett's thesis is that it's wrong to think of language being innate to humans but instead it is moulded by culture. This makes some sense. No doubt though the supporters of the time plus chance theory of the universe feel they have another nail to bang into the creator God's coffin. And the nail is sharp because the author used to be an evangelical Christian missionary, but is now an atheist.

But I have a question for this evolutionary linguistics scheme of things: what about speaking in tongues, the prayer language spoken by millions of Christians? These prayer languages are adapting to no cultural need. There is absolutely no way they are a part of a time plus chance evolutionary process. They are a gift. And their purpose surely points to the purpose of all language: to worship God, the chief end of man.

Speaking in tongues and other dramatic, immediate signs of God's presence also has something to say about Christian mission. Daniel Everett stresses that the Christian message makes no sense to the Piraha because they only believe in what they could see and only live in the now. So though Daniel Everett clearly did a Herculean job translating the Gospel of Mark into the Piraha language, and he and his family did all they could to show Christ's love to the tribe- at the end of the day this wasn't enough. From the Christian mission point of view there needed to be a demonstration of God's power and show down with the spirits as there was with Don Richardson and the head hunting Sawi tribe in Indonesia in the 1960's. And as there has been in countless confrontations between Christian missionaries and pagans.

Speaking in tongues also has an immediate relevance to Daniel Everett's own spiritual journey. He says towards the end of the book that as a scientist he does not believe in `anything supernatural'. What though is `speaking in tongues'? The prayer language is not natural, for not everyone speaks in tongues. So surely there is a case for saying they are `supernatural'. If he does not believe in speaking in tongues, then what are millions of Christians doing every day?

You cannot help but feel sympathy for Daniel Everett as he faces the seeming reality of the complete lack of relevance of the Christian message to the Piraha culture. But it's important to remember that all missionaries who have faced totally alien cultures grapple with this. Not all are successful, but surely the children of the head hunting Sawi who are now worshipping Christians are grateful that Don Richardson persevered. And surely we Europeans should be grateful to Augustine, Patrick, Boniface and countless others who preached Christ to our pagan ancestors, so that we have enjoyed living in a culture still moulded by Christian values.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2012 3:28 AM BST


The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran
by Hooman Majd
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No peering into Iran's soul, but excellent travel writing, 23 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Somewhere near the start of the book the author said he wanted us to peer into Iran's soul. That didn't happen. There was no eureka moment. As there wasn't really anything new here, apart from a few interviews with some senior figures in the Islamic establishment.

So no furniture in my mind shifted. But as first rate travel writing with plenty of background and gentle insight the author certainly polished the furniture. For example anyone who has had any interaction with Iranians know there is a huge amount of snobbery in the disdain the rich and middle classes have for the clerics and Ahmadinejad's working class constituency. Hooman Majd underlines this, but gives us great background on the identity of the `laat' (working class skin head type) and the jahel (skin head leader) who won the revolution for the clerics.

He is particularly good on how Shia Iran is, and during his description of the mourning for Hossein he tells us what the passion is all about: tribalism. `This was our cult', he writes, `and screw the rest of the world, particularly the Arabs if they didn't like it.' This is refreshingly blunt.

There is no detailed political story here, but on these sort of big points you feel Majd has probably got it right: the MEK is rightly loathed by most Iranians; Iranians' garden walls (the public/private divide) is still respected; the idea that the Diaspora Iranians will have any political influence is laughable; the Islamic Republic has massive and committed support, easily seen when Majd attended the revolution's anniversary party; there is no appetite for another violent revolution; the young are more interested in social freedoms than politics, the old in economic security; and so as long as the rulers remember their `Shia sensibilities', (the right of the righteous David to fight the oppressive Goliath) there will be no internal overthrow of the constitution Ayatollah Khomeini set up over thirty years ago.

So for me, there was no peering into Iran's soul; but it was a pleasant journey with plenty of enjoyable sights. If you enjoy travel writing, and want to find out more about Iran from a sensible and knowledgeable guide, this is a good place to start.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2015 10:29 PM GMT


William Pitt the Younger: A Biography
William Pitt the Younger: A Biography
by William Hague
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespearean Hero, 10 Dec. 2011
This is the sort of book that becomes your friend. Such is Hague's comprehensive mastery of the details and the easy flow of his prose that we are drawn into the world of our hero, his friends and enemies and all the swirl of the political dramas. There are plenty. Probably best of all, superbly told by Hague, is right at the start when Pitt becomes the King's minister on his own terms and then uses all the crown's patronage to turn around a very hostile Commons. It's gripping stuff. As is the drama of the King's madness. Will the dissolute Fox and his prince sweep out the hard working Pitt from Number Ten. We all know the answer, but we still keep on turning the pages.

Hague gives space to Pitt's private life - his concern for his mother, his loyalty to his friends (so his refusal to abandon Melville when he is accused of financial irregularity), the lack of romance in his life, his debts - but we are never far from the dispatch boxes and the politics, because Pitt wasn't. The pressure is relentless. The French Revolution, the ensuing war, Catholic Emancipation, riots, and slowly but surely you sense that Pitt has something heroic about him. He gets the big questions right - inflexible opposition to Jacobinism, security before freedom - and works himself to an early grave for his country. But there is also a touch of Shakespearean tragedy about it all too. When he died many of the causes dear to his heart were flickering in the wind. Napoleon was the undisputed master of Europe after Austerlitz, so there was no end in sight of the war Pitt had vowed to win; this meant more public debt, something he had vowed to reduce; Catholics were still restricted from entering public office, so endangering Ireland, something he had once resigned over; the slave trade which he loathed was still legal; and his command in the Commons was seriously threatened. It would seem events had swept away all that Pitt had stood for. But then our narrator comes onto the stage and shows us the future and we see he had not died in vain. For at least a quarter of a century Pitt's friends ruled Britain and all his causes eventually saw victory. The war was won at Waterloo; Catholics were freed; slavery was abolished; and Pitt's rigorous system in the Treasury became the foundation for Britain's great expansion in the 19th C. His legacy most certainly lived on, even today, as for Hague it is not Peel who is the founder of the Conservative party, but William Pitt The Younger.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5