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Curzon Paperback – 3 Apr 2003
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"An impeccably researched and written biography" (THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 20030413)
"A biography as definitive as such a work can ever be . . . a splendid book" (Evening Standard 20030413)
"Magnificent" (Oxford Times 20030620)
"One of the best biographies of our time . . . a book of outstanding excellence" (New Statesman 20030620)
About the Author
David Gilmour's books include the award-winning biographies, The Last Leopard: a Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa and The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling. He is also the author of Cities of Spain and several works on the politics of Spain and the Middle East. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a former Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, he is a contributor to The Spectator, the Financial Times and the New York Review of Books.
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Curzon^ by David Gilmour is an outstanding biography. Although India was fortunate enough to have very brilliant and competent Governor Generals like Hastings, William Bentics , Lord Dalhousie and after 1858 very outstanding and knowledgeable Viceroys like Lord Canning Lord Mayo, Lor5d Landsdowne, and Lord Lyttens,George Nathaniel Curzon definitely occupied this place. He was appointed Viceroy of India(under British Raj) which was the Golden period of the Raj. Mr Curzon became very famous in India and India got best governance under him. Only Partition of Bengal was a solitary incident of his period. He was right choice of Salisbury and Queen Victoria who game him few piece of advice before he departed to India. He used to say ^ Let India be my judge^ and it was right that India judged him best Viceroy .When there was difference of opinion in Cabinet regarding who is Superior between Commander in chief and Viceroy , he decided to resign.
David Gilmur has well researched his subject and worked very hard to make this biography a outstanding one. I have got second hand copy. The paper is very god and enduring. It is very fascinating, simple and full of facts.I have enjoyed it fully. It was very unfortunate that this genius could not be Prime Minister of Great Britain. Great Britain LOST Ireland It lost its power and pulp in Great War during his time. If anybody is interested in Great period of British Raj, he should read this biography.
From a miserable childhood - the infant George was largely ignored by his remote and indifferent parents and tyrannised by nannies and tutors who would now, at the very least, be barred from any access to children and who, in at least one case, would probably be committed for psychiatric examination - the future Lord Curzon went on to a distinguished academic career at Eton and Oxford, winning numerous school and college prizes and clearly shaping up to be one of the future great architects of British Imperial policy. He went on to become, at 39, the youngest ever Viceroy of India, and the undisputed expert in government circles on any matters pertaining to the Orient. In his heart he wanted the ultimate prize of statecraft - the Prime Ministership of Great Britain - and seemed set in his stellar course to get it.
But then something happened which marked the course of his future career and threw into stark relief the failings in his character which ultimately led him never to gain that most glittering of all prizes, the Premiership. He made the mistake of obtaining the services of Lord Kitchener as head of the army in India. Kitchener, after his relief of Khartoum and the defeat of the Islamic insurgency in Sudan, was the darling of the Empire and might, on the face of it, have appeared to be the perfect military compliment to Curzon's civilian administrator. Curzon clearly thought so. But everyone else knew that he had made a disastrous mistake. Kitchener was an egotistical, power-mad bully who determined to cow and subdue everyone he came into contact with, especially if, like Curzon, they were superior in rank to him. Those in the know pleaded with Curzon to change his mind and select someone else. But Curzon would have none of it. Characteristics that, as time went on, clearly made him unsuitable for the highest rank - an inability to take advice or to discern the true character of those he needed to be able to trust and rely on, and a wilful expression of contempt for anyone of lower social standing than himself, which led to him alienating anyone who might otherwise have been an ally or faithful servant - first came to the fore in his encounter with Kitchener. After a brief power struggle, in which the wily and experienced Kitchener made mincemeat of him, Curzon resigned, returning in ignominy to England, and to years in the political wilderness. Only during and after the Great War did Curzon start to claw back some of the power and influence that he had lost in his clash with Kitchener - and by then it was too late. The old order, in which the Curzons, Chamberlains and Salisburys took power as of right, rather than through political skill, was crumbling in the face of the growth of the Labour movement and in the shift of power from the Lords to the Commons. Curzon had one last chance at the premiership in 1923, when Bonar Law had to resign through ill-health, and the vacant office had to fall either to himself or to Stanley Baldwin. Many would have seen Curzon gain the crown, but his inability to be loyal or even polite to almost everyone he encountered in his domestic and political life had alienated too many people, and the prize went instead to Baldwin (characterised by George Orwell as not even a stuffed shirt but "a hole in the air"). As a quoted commentator of the time succinctly put it, "His methods are inappropriate to harmony". Two years later, Curzon was dead.
I've given this book four rather than five stars because, in its emphasis on illustrating the man and the rapidly-changing world that he lived in, it has neglected too much his work and accomplishments in the geopolitical field. We learn that he did great things in India, but not a lot about exactly what, why it was so important, or how he did it. And there is no mention of his other activities - the Curzon Line, for instance, which he devised in 1921 to divide the new, post-Habsburg and Romanov Europe into modern spheres of influence, and which was used by Stalin as a tool with which to delineate the modern map of eastern Europe, receives not a mention. It is omissions such as these which make this merely a very good, and not a great, book.
Still, for all that, it gives one a very clear picture of the man behind the name, which is what the author clearly intended, so for that reason alone can be unreservedly recommended to students of this fascinating, talented yet infuriating and often insufferable man.
Judged by this excellent biography, Curzon was an intelligent and somewhat more sympathetic individual than history has judged him but it's not at all surprising after reading this that he never made it to Prime Minister or that he deserved to be; he seems to have been one of those luckless individuals who have neither insight into others nor perceptions of his own impact on them and thus spent much of his career upsetting people even when he was right. Or perhaps he just never learnt to care.
My only small complaint is that it's sometimes difficult to place Curzon in the context of contemporary developments within Bristish politics (eg the Tariff Reform camapaign which tore apart the Unionist party etc) but I suppose at 700 pages its long enough already.
The publishers use the word "definitive" of this biography which seems fair if only because I can't imagine that he's a significant enought figure for anyone to bother again.
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