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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beacon of light
"A beacon of light which the passing of two centuries has scarcely dimmed". This is Hague's concluding assessment of Wilberforce. This fine biography should keep that light blazing. I think it will probably be the definitive biography of the great abolitionist for quite some time to come. Hague writes well and keeps one's attention throughout a long book. He is masterful...
Published on 17 Aug 2007 by G. J. Weeks

versus
1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars what a guy
i bought this book wanting to elarn more about the slave trade
Mr winberforce was a great man and this book does cover the abolition but not in as much depth as i thought

this book is about wilberforces life all aspects of it
i thought they could of gone into the slavery issues allot more

still a good read
Published on 23 Mar 2009 by Mr. J. Williamson


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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beacon of light, 17 Aug 2007
By 
G. J. Weeks (London) - See all my reviews
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"A beacon of light which the passing of two centuries has scarcely dimmed". This is Hague's concluding assessment of Wilberforce. This fine biography should keep that light blazing. I think it will probably be the definitive biography of the great abolitionist for quite some time to come. Hague writes well and keeps one's attention throughout a long book. He is masterful at setting the historical scene. No doubt his previous biography of Wilberforce's friend Pitt was a great help in researching the period. One is given a real feel for a very different world where only men of means could afford to enter politics for getting elected, except to a rotten borough, could mean huge expense. It was a time when party allegiance was not so well developed and Wilberforce maintained his independence as a member of parliament for Yorkshire. He was a friend of Pitt but opposed him over the war with France as he opposed a later government over Queen Caroline. Hague does not fall into the trap of judging an historic figure by more modern criteria. Contemporary critics of Wilberforce disliked his social conservatism. His radicalism was aimed at stopping an evil trade not promoting cause of the poor close to home.Hague explains it. Wilberforce would give no support to those who would be socially disruptive and those applauding the French Revolution. His detestation of what had happened in France, Hague rightly identifies as Wilberforce's opposition to all things against religion.

One expects Hague to be good on the politics of Wilberforce's life but I was pleasantly surprised by his understanding of his subject's Evangelical faith. Christian faith we know transformed Wilberforce from a pleasure seeking young man into an ardent reformer. It was the motivation in all his subsequent life. As well as abolition it also moved him to seek the opening of India to Christian missions. Hague seems to have a sympathetic understanding of Wilberforce's Christianity as well as a great appreciation of his political achievements. here was an MP who was most diligent in his duties though he never held an office of state. There is also admiration for the personal character of his subject. He was a man who made friends, was hugely charitable and a loving husband and father. Here was a notable orator and a man of wit, welcome at the tables of the great and the good. His character was indeed that of a joyful Christian as Piper writes in his short biography. He died impoverished by his own personal charity and the foolishness of his eldest son. He declined ennoblement and wanted a quiet burial place but was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey for his contemporaries judged him to be great as well as good.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilberforce, 9 Aug 2007
By 
Sean (Northumberland, UK) - See all my reviews
William Hague follows up his debut biography of Pitt the Younger with Pitt's best friend and tireless slave-trade campaigner. It is the perfect sophomore effort. Similar era; one of the closest friendships in politics, yet, some great differences between the two great men. Pitt, the son of the great Chatham; by no means wealthy; eager for ministerial power. Wilberforce: from a very wealthy mercantile background; advocating the abolition of the slave-trade as an `Independent' constituent for Yorkshire.

I too disagree with a previous reviewer who seems to criticise Hague's book on his own personal dislike of Wilberforce, not on the merits of the book itself. I have to say that Hague paints a very fair and unbiased account of Wilberforce. Wilberforce considered himself an `Independent', not a Tory. He could be rightly called one of `Pitt's friends' but famously turned against Pitt in opposition to the Revolutionary War; he managed to remain on friendly terms with Fox and Grenville as a matter of fact. Hague does point to certain faults: his licentious youth, his frequent inability to commit to one side of an argument; his complete naivety on military affairs. The biography as a whole however is favourable to what emerges as a brilliant man; Hague quite rightly makes great use of contemporary descriptions of Wilberforce and offers a succinct argument for his policies.

For anyone who believes politics are boring, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Hague's description of the various machinations building up to the 1807 act is about as dramatic and exiting as it gets. Those were certainly exiting times in politics: two Revolution and two subsequent wars; Irish Union; reform; the trial of Warren Hastings; Catholic emancipation; the slave-trade etc.. Some of the greatest orators of all time graced the Commons' floor: Pitt, Burke, Fox, Sheridan and of course Wilberforce. Later Canning and Castlereagh would be added to that long list of luminaries. It puts our own politics to shame if truth be told.

Hague occasionally juxtaposes his own modern political world with the politics of that era yet never goes overboard while doing it. He instead draws out the eccentricities and bustle of the 18thc election; the lack of a party machine; the greater reliance on debate etc.. It frequently is reminiscent of an early satirical scene in A Pickwick Papers.

Christian Evangelicalism of course was hugely important to Wilberforce. In fairness he never imposed his Christianity though he sometimes despaired of Pitt's relevant lack of religion. Instead he offered guidance to any of his friends so inclined. It's significant that once he went through his dramatic conversion he still remained something of a social animal (despite his best efforts). Wilberforce has an amazing knack of remaining friends with rivals; contemporaries describe him as humorous, amiable and the soul of the party. He saw his own religion as enlightened, benevolent and uplifting; in stark contrast to Methodism which influenced him. Wilberforce never withdrew from life, his own Christianity reinvigorated it.

Hague's book is wonderfully presented with numerous plates; particularly brilliant are the many (nothing less than scathing will do) Gillray sketches. His research and use of sources is impeccable; his prose informative and accessible. All in all, Hague is turning into the new-Roy Jenkins. I like the fact that he seems to specialise in a era; an era I am very interested in as it happens. How about a Charles James Fox book William?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed account of a remarkable life, 27 Dec 2008
Relased to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, this detailed and engaging biography really makes clear the moral conviction, determination and no small degree of political skill that enabled Wilberforce (1759 - 1833) to lead the campaign against first the slave trade, and then slavery itself, for so many years. In so doing, it provides well-reasoned answers to questions like: Why did Wilberforce first campaign against the slave trade, and not slavery itself? Was abolition inevitable for purely economic factors? How strong was his influence in advancing the cause of abolition outside of the British Empire?

This book also shows how the aforementioned qualities combined to make Wilberforce perhaps the last and greatest truly independent British politician, from his election to the House of Commons in 1780 to his retirement in 1826. A close friend of William Pitt (the younger) from a young age, and often instinctively socially conservative, Wilberforce nevertheless was not afraid to oppose Pitt and his Tory government on issues as serious as war with France. When there was a constitutional crisis over the divorce of Prince George (the future George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick, Wilberforce's political independence made him the ideal mediator in many people's eyes at the time.

Hague makes no attempt to play down the importance of a profound (Evangelical) Christian faith to Wilberforce's work. After a time spent with a Methodist aunt and uncle as a teenager, and conversations with Isaac Milner later, Wilberforce gave his life to Christ in 1785. Pitt was surprised, but convinced his friend that his Christian convictions would be best served by continuing in public life. After meeting leading abolitisionists in 1787, and encouraged by John Newton and John Wesley, Wilberforce took up the leadership of the parliamentary campaign for abolition. His Christian faith also led him to support a myriad of charities and to campaign for the opening up of India to missionaries.

Overall, this is a sympathetic but not sycophantic account of a truly remarkable life from a very able author who on the one hand obviously admires his subject's politcal abilities, and on the other understands his Yorkshire roots. If Hague is nevertheless occasionally bemused by Wilberforce's Evangelical Christianity, that is to his loss, but not the reader's. Recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful biography of a great, great man, 22 Sep 2008
Some time ago I heard William Hague lecture on Wilberforce. It was a pleasure to hear such a fine speaker so on top of his subject. The lecture lasted an hour but could have gone on for three as far as I was concerned, it was so interesting. The same is true of the book. It is written by a political enthusiast about a fellow politician, in my mind one of the greatest politicians we have ever had. He laid aside a beckoning life of luxury and ease to devote himself to the service of people. He inherited a fortune but spent most of it helping people less fortunate than himself.
Remembered for his fight against the slave trade, Wilberforce was also the founder of over 100 charities. A deeply committed Christian, he also worked tirelessly to reform the manners of England. True, he was not perfect and made mistakes, but then which of us hasn't? He was also a man of his time but although we might not agree with some of his conclusions Hague takes us through the mental agony Wilberforce put his conscience through before he made them.
The book is meticulously researched and brilliantly written. One of the best biographies I have ever read, and I've read quite a few. Strongly recommended!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class historical biography, 30 Sep 2009
By 
Pilgrim (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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I wonder how William Hague found the time to research and write such a thorough and thoughtful historical biography? This is an excellent read: its thorough, persuasive and objective but also holds the reader's attention. Hague's experience in politics provides an added dimension - he recognises the difficulties Wilberforce faced and his need to form alliances across the political spectrum in order to advance the cause of Abolition ("in politics the truly independent are impotent") and also seems to have a good understanding of the times in which Wilberforce lived. I am not sure where Hague himself stands in relation to Christianity but his understanding of the importance of faith in the life of William Wilberforce is very clear and persuasive. This is quite simply, one of the best historical biographies I have ever read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, 4 Nov 2007
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William Wilberforce by William Hauge is a very good book about one of the leaders of the campaign to abolish slavery. It has a clear narrative structure and is informative without being overcomplicated. It is all in all a very good book about a man who acquired a deep evangelical faith (how Hauge deals and explains this is one of the best pieces of the work) which inspired him to help to rid the world of slavery.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the definitive Wilberforce biography, 14 Jun 2010
By 
R. Bailey "www.biblebase.com" (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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William Hague, once leader of the Conservative Party and now Foreign Secretary, has provided us with a wonderful biography of this great Englishman. There have been several biographies of William Wilberforce but this is written by a politician who sets Wilberforce's achievements within the political structures and struggles of his day. This makes the read a little laborious at times but surely William Hague has provided the definitive Wilberforce biography.

This is a very sympathetic record of Wilberforce's labours and Hague really seems to have a true sense of the powerful motivating force of Wilberforce's personal evangelical faith. It is a fascinating glimpse into an age which is almost unimaginable today. Wilberforce's commitment to abolishing the slave trade and then slavery itself was the abiding passion of his life. His patience and tenacity in fulfilling what he believed to be his God-given task bore testimony to his personal faith. The delays and reversals would surely have deterred most other men. While bloody revolution and madame guillotine reigned in France and many expected similar events in Britain, through the Napoleanic wars and turbulent times Wilberforce patiently and carefully steered his path through to a solid foundation for abolition of slavery as an acceptable part of `civilised' life.

I would have liked to hear more about the `Clapham Sect', a community of evangelical leaders in society and the political world. This company of like minded believers had an enormous impact on Bible translation and publication, with the Bible Society and with the founding of several mission societies.

A long and sometimes laborious read but heartily recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William Wilberforce, 13 Mar 2009
One of the best books I've read for ages. Really excellent account of a very interesting man surrounded by interesting people at a time when alot was going on. Fascinating account of the English politcal system during the late eighteenth century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fabulous biography of a great man, 2 Sep 2013
By 
Mr. Stephen Redman (York England) - See all my reviews
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Well done William Hague on this excellent piece of work. A good read, and some great research into a man who deservedly can be said to have changed history by dogged determination.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant biography - brings Wilberforce to life, 16 Oct 2011
By 
Chris J. Newman "lao-ke" (China) - See all my reviews
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The author's rather stuffy political image is quickly obscured as one begins this brilliant biography. It's one of the best written and best researched biographies that I've come across in recent years, the work made all the more charming by the delightful personality that it describes.

Knowing nothing about Wilberforce before I began the book, I had pictured him as being a rather dry god-fearing man who "did good" as a matter of duty to his faith. God fearing, he may have become, but he was never dry and his dogged determination to abolish the slave trade came not from a sense of duty but from his very genuine and very deep sense of humanity.

A brilliant man, and a brilliant book that does great justice to its subject. A real page-turner that I found impossible to put down once I'd read the first page or two. Well done Mr Hague!
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