Parliament: The Biography, Vol. 1 - Ancestral Voices Hardcover – 27 Mar 2014
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"This magnificent book... Bryant is a fine historian. His understanding of political processes shines through. After this epic the next volume will be eagerly awaited" (Leo McKinstry Express)
"A bravura ‘biography’ of Parliament… both charming and important… A carefully constructed and lucidly written adventure story about the institution that – like it or not – still shapes our lives" (Roy Hattersley Telegraph)
"Admirably comprehensive… and written in the kind of lucid, elegant prose now rarely associated with our elected representatives" (New Statesman)
"a fascinating study into the lives and reputations of those who, honourable or not, have sat as parliamentarians... compelling reading" (Chris Skidmore Times Literary Supplement)
"This book tells the story of our greatest national institution. It it well-written, contains much truth, and a great deal of important information. It is a wonderful idea." (Peter Oborne)
"Lively... a warts-and-all account of how MPs have first survived and subsequently shaped and initiated policy" (The Lady)
"This is a wonderful, wry view of the history of parliament "from the inside". Chris Bryant is a great myth-buster. If you ever thought that modern MPs were more corrupt or worse behaved than their predecessors, then read on. You'll find it's not quite so simple." (Mary Beard)
"A remarkably readable and scholarly account of the emergence of the British Parliament over its first five hundred years or so" (Ken Clarke)
"A wonderfully iconoclastic yet affectionate history ... Bryant tells the story with clarity and verve." (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University)
"Worthy of its venerable subject" (Independent on Sunday)
The fascinating and authoritative history of the institution at the cultural heart of BritainSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
It did not really go beyond, however, a list of anecdotes. He prefaces himself by drawing a caricature of a sixth-form Bagehot geek that lives in a time warp, and stating that this book is effectively written to dismantle the erroneously-held views of this supposed person. No doubt, Victorians, known for their florid descriptions of reality and high-minded ideals, may be mistaken for such a person by an unthinking writer; but to align directly their sentiments with a modern conservative person seems just an overdose of purple rhetoric.
He seems to want to prove himself, feigning contraversialist interpretations, and generally looking down on everybody that may, were they here today, disagree with him. I was particularly disappointed by his scanty treatment of Burke, who is mentioned in passing a few times in the context of disparaging anecdotes (albeit amusing ones), and no attempt is made to really get to grips with what Burke thought - given his preface, I thought it peculiar that he completely failed to address this character, since Burke is the standard bearer of the thinkers that Bryant clearly dislikes.
While anecdotes are interesting, they are legion, but disconnected: he spends a long time talking about members being elected, or selected, in the middles ages and early modern times, but doesn't actually broach the methods of election until well over half-way through the book, and then only in passing.
Overall, a good source-book for dinner party anecdotes, if your friends are all bookish, but as an inspiration for serious thought, or a point of debate of parliamentary practice, procedure, tradition or future, sorely lacking, because the beauty of the content is obscured by the arrogance of the author.
It is well written and incredibly well researched with fine and interesting details.
Occasionally it becomes heavy sailing and sometimes i had to refer back a few pages because it was a little confusing.
However these are personal and minor niggles, if like me you want to understand our parliamentary history then stay with it.
There is so much to learn, not just in terms of laws and bureaucracy, but the colourful characters that litter our history, expressions and words that have entered the English language, all from the British Parliament.
Volume 1 takes you from the early days of the first meetings that were the forerunner of a structured system to 1800.
Volume 2 completes the history.
There is a lot of myth and misconceptions about our parliament and this book puts those to bed.
Remember this great institution affects every aspect of our lives, and will affect the lives of your children and grand children.
I do not know of any other books that are so specialised and comprehensive.
A permanent reference tome of immense usefulness that is also great value. Recommended.
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