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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Well researched and thoughtful. Balanced analysis. Very readable. One of the best books on the period. Highly recommended for students, academics, politicians or just a layman reader interested in Attlee in politics, the rise of Labour, the development of the Welfare State etc.
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by M. C. Cajal-lawson

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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks depth
This is certainly readable and makes a few interesting points of interest but I have so far been disappointed by the considerable lack of depth in this biography; the formation of the NHS is, for example, swept over with amazing brevity and the chapters seem to end as soon as they've begun.

This is good history - and probably excellent as an introduction for a...
Published on 31 Jan 2011 by ROL


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, 9 Nov 2010
By 
M. C. Cajal-lawson "Lawson" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Well researched and thoughtful. Balanced analysis. Very readable. One of the best books on the period. Highly recommended for students, academics, politicians or just a layman reader interested in Attlee in politics, the rise of Labour, the development of the Welfare State etc.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, balanced, authoritative, 1 Aug 2010
Having seen the review of this work by Roy Hattersley in Saturday's Guardian, I felt moved to add my own, admittedly much smaller voice. Mr Hattersley's criticism of Thomas-Symonds is unrelenting, but it seems to proceed on the false assumption that A Life in Politics is another revisionist attempt to 'patronize' Attlee and belittle both his political talent his achievements. For myself, I found the work to be both meticulously researched and politically aware. The most serious accusation that Mr Hattersley levels in his review, which is that Thomas-Symonds apparently believes that 'dumping' Attlee would have made Labour more likely to be 'the natural party of government', appears to have no basis within the text whatsoever. It is simply not a claim that I picked up from reading the work.

Perhaps, from his position as, for want of a better phrase, a 'Labour grandee' concerned quite rightly with protecting the legacy of the postwar movement, Mr Hattersley assumes that any of the new breed of left-leaning academics who are in any way critical must in fact be seeking to destroy that legacy. That was clearly the very opposite of Thomas-Symonds' inetntion. While the book does point out his subject's limitations, this is obviously a work which makes a positive case supporting Attlee's billing as Britain's greatest post-war Prime Minister, without reading like a sycophantic tribute piece.

The picture presented of Attlee is nuanced, perceptive, and above all detailed. Where Thomas-Symonds makes judgements, they appear to be sound (for example, his criticism on the delay in identifying the Indian partition must surely be right, and his critique of Attlee's handling of the Bevan-Gaitskill split is all the more sound because Thomas-Symonds ascribes it to a failure of Attlee to deploy what was perhaps his best skill, that is, to form a compromise).

The work is notable for its attention to detail. The reader learns of Attlee's comfortable, middle-class, public school and Christian upbringing; of his enduring affection for Haileybury, his early days doing social work in the East End following his abandonment of a career at the Bar, then the formation of his political ambitions. In an attempt to portray the man as well as his deeds, Thomas-Symonds draws heavily on letters from Attlee to his brother Tom, which give a revealing picture of his views on both his work and his colleagues. Similarly, through quotations from Hansard we learn of Attlee's public stances and significantly the kinds of issues he chose to address in his days as a young Parliamentarian. In fact, Mr Hattersley quotes the example of Attlee's directive on the disassembly of telephones for cleaning as evidence of Thomas-Symonds' apparently 'patronising' approach, calling his 'emphasis on the Pooterish prelude to greatness'... 'irritating'.

This book is, however, truly a study of a life in politics, and that Attlee went on to be the 'statesman... who changed the world', to use Mr Hattersley's phrase, is in no sense whatsoever neglected or diminished in the text. Mr Hattersley did award Thomas-Symonds 'high marks for meticulous accuracy' (before alleging a 'failure of judgment (sic)'), and perhaps it is the 'telephone instrument' analogy which best describes this work. Thomas-Symonds certainly attempted to examine the materials and components that made up a leader who did perhaps more than any other to shape (rather than shatter) the society we live in today, and his judgements in reconstructing Attlee, far from being the 'hatchet job' that Mr Hattersley appears to have assumed in his own, are clearly those of a skilled biographical technician.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Book About One Of The Great Peace-Time Prime Ministers, 3 Dec 2010
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Attlee by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds is a very good book about one of the great British Prime Ministers. It is well-written, fast-poaced and informative but lacks detail and therefore should be regarded as more of an introduction to Attlee. The Attlee who emerges from this work is a very interesting character who is a most unlikely Labour Prime Minister given his background and his quite reserved personality. However, the work also shows that Attlee was undoubtedly a very effective leader whose government achieved a great deal because of the approach and consensus building of the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, it also shows that this great strength was also a flaw in certain circumstances and especially in the 1950s. All in all though this is a very good book about a great Prime Minister and although not very detailed is still undoubtedly a very good introduction to the life of this most unlikely leader.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A model for all biographies, 21 Mar 2011
What I like about Mr Thomas-Symonds' book is his selection of material. Too often biographies are immense, dull, tedious works (particularly those multi-volumed ones), the reading of which becomes an exercise akin to wading for miles through thick treacle before one collapses exhausted barely a third of the way through, very enlightened on the exact experiences Sir X had in the spring term of his year 9 history lessons but none the lighter for the meaty stuff later on. A life in politics avoids these issues, first and foremost, because Mr Thomas-Symonds is a very good writer. He is concise, the structure is excellent, and he sticks to what is necessary and what is interesting. Attlee was a fascinating man and this is an immensely enjoyable book. I am very much looking forward to seeing more of this writer's work.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful analysis, 17 Aug 2010
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AJ Hunt (Griffithstown) - See all my reviews
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I very much enjoyed reading this well researched, thoughtful analysis of Attlee and his political life. The respect of the author for the subject does not impede an in-depth analysis of his charachter, his decisions and those around him, especially in the post-war Labour Government. Highly recommended reading for students of the period or those with an interest in politics, and an especially aptly timed study of leadership style, as Labour prepares to elect its next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A carefully thought-out biography of a great man, 26 May 2012
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R. N. Wood (London) - See all my reviews
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One of the qualities of Thomas-Symonds biography is its kinship with the subject. The style is Attlee's. Plain prose, no fireworks, yet thoroughly worthwhile. It is hard to enliven the picture of someone so low key. Yet this is done, and done well. One reads on with pleasure.

Attlee was a modest man, as Churchill remarked, and he had much to be modest about. He was at, or near the centre of British politics from 1931 until his resignation as Leader of the Labour Party in 1955. It is interesting to imagine how a biographer might fare, attempting to write a personal rather than, as in this case, a political biography.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and balanced, 3 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Attlee (Kindle Edition)
I got a new perspective on this period by reading this book, and a new respect for its subject. There would not have been many occasions in history when Attlee would have become PM, but he was truly the right man in the right place in his time. One disappointment: there was very little here about taxation, which was my primary reason for buying the book.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 3 Feb 2011
This book is incrredibly detailed and scholarly, but is also very readable. I really enjoyed it. It really brings Attlee to live. Thoroughly recommended.
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks depth, 31 Jan 2011
This is certainly readable and makes a few interesting points of interest but I have so far been disappointed by the considerable lack of depth in this biography; the formation of the NHS is, for example, swept over with amazing brevity and the chapters seem to end as soon as they've begun.

This is good history - and probably excellent as an introduction for a first year under-graduate - but anyone looking for a seriously first class biography should look elsewhere. The tendency for the author to sex certain points up, with parallels to New Labour that almost certainly aren't there, is also disappointing.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very worth reading, 1 April 2013
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This was one of the twentieth centuries' great polititians although the well meaning damage he did was incalcuable. Still an attractive character
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Attlee by Nicklaus Thomas-Symonds
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