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Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832 Paperback – 6 May 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (6 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610393783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610393782
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,165,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Kirkus Reviews""Engaging, elaborate and elegantly wrought."
"Evening Standard""A spirited attempt to bring the controversy and passion of the era to a new audience. Her prose is charming and fluent. She shows she has lost none of the touch that brought her fame as a popular historian."
"Telegraph""Antonia Fraser's superb narrative of the passing of the Bill, which, as well as providing incisive pen portraits of all the major protagonists, is expressive and elegiac of an age when, despite everything, enlightened rationality informed political discourse... The 1820s and early 1830s have all too often been seen as a historical backwater between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the start of the Victorian era that began with the queen's accession in 1837. With Fraser's erudite and acute portrait of this age of reform, it won't be thought so anymore."
"Shelf Awareness for Readers""Political gerrymandering as historical thriller: Who would have guessed? In "Perilous Question," Antonia Fraser makes precisely that leap--presenting the history behind Britain's Great Reform Act of 1832 in terms that are both historically thorough and deeply fascinating....With her usual perception and clarity, Fraser...draws life from a seemingly dry topic, turning political history into real story.""
The Spectator""The final chapters of the book read like a thriller...The book should be required reading for today's millionaire ministers who seem sadly lily-livered by contrast with Grey and his Whigs. This is history as it should be written: lively, witty and, above all, a cracking good read. I found it almost impossible to put down."
"The Express (UK)""Do children at school still learn about the Great Reform Bill of 1832? .... What I don't recall from school is how thoroughly entertaining it was. What a slice of human drama, how tense, how crucial and how very nearly it could have foundered, thereby propelling our nation into riot and revolution. Fors

"Kirkus Reviews"
"Engaging, elaborate and elegantly wrought."


"Evening Standard"
"A spirited attempt to bring the controversy and passion of the era to a new audience. Her prose is charming and fluent. She shows she has lost none of the touch that brought her fame as a popular historian."


"Telegraph"
"Antonia Fraser's superb narrative of the passing of the Bill, which, as well as providing incisive pen portraits of all the major protagonists, is expressive and elegiac of an age when, despite everything, enlightened rationality informed political discourse... The 1820s and early 1830s have all too often been seen as a historical backwater between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the start of the Victorian era that began with the queen's accession in 1837. With Fraser's erudite and acute portrait of this age of reform, it won't be thought so anymore."


"Shelf Awareness for Readers"
"Political gerrymandering as historical thriller: Who would have guessed? In "Perilous Question," Antonia Fraser makes precisely that leap--presenting the history behind Britain's Great Reform Act of 1832 in terms that are both historically thorough and deeply fascinating....With her usual perception and clarity, Fraser...draws life from a seemingly dry topic, turning political history into real story."


"The Spectator"
"The final chapters of the book read like a thriller...The book should be required reading for today's millionaire ministers who seem sadly lily-livered by contrast with Grey and his Whigs. This is history as it should be written: lively, witty and, above all, a cracking good read. I found it almost impossible to put down."


"The Express (UK)"
"Do children at school still learn about the Great Reform Bill of 1832? .... What I don't recall from school is how thoroughly entertaining it was. What a slice of human drama, how tense, how

"The New Yorker"
"Fraser writes energetically about the political wrangling, finding both humor and humanity in the struggle."
"Total Politics (UK)"
"Perilous Question is a cracking good read and should be on every parliamentarian's summer reading list."
"Kirkus Reviews"
"Engaging, elaborate and elegantly wrought."
"Evening Standard"
"A spirited attempt to bring the controversy and passion of the era to a new audience. Her prose is charming and fluent. She shows she has lost none of the touch that brought her fame as a popular historian."
"Telegraph"
"Antonia Fraser's superb narrative of the passing of the Bill, which, as well as providing incisive pen portraits of all the major protagonists, is expressive and elegiac of an age when, despite everything, enlightened rationality informed political discourse... The 1820s and early 1830s have all too often been seen as a historical backwater between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the start of the Victorian era that began with the queen's accession in 1837. With Fraser's erudite and acute portrait of this age of reform, it won't be thought so anymore."
"Shelf Awareness for Readers"
"Political gerrymandering as historical thriller: Who would have guessed? In "Perilous Question," Antonia Fraser makes precisely that leap--presenting the history behind Britain's Great Reform Act of 1832 in terms that are both historically thorough and deeply fascinating....With her usual perception and clarity, Fraser...draws life from a seemingly dry topic, turning political history into real story."
"The Spectator"
"The final chapters of the book read like a thriller...The book should be required reading for today's millionaire ministers who seem sadly lily-livered by contrast with Grey and his Whigs. This is history as it should be written: lively, witty and, above all, a cracking good read. I found it almost impossible to put down."
"The Express (UK)"
"D

The New Yorker
"Fraser writes energetically about the political wrangling, finding both humor and humanity in the struggle."
Total Politics (UK)
"Perilous Question is a cracking good read and should be on every parliamentarian's summer reading list."
Kirkus Reviews
"Engaging, elaborate and elegantly wrought."
Evening Standard
"A spirited attempt to bring the controversy and passion of the era to a new audience. Her prose is charming and fluent. She shows she has lost none of the touch that brought her fame as a popular historian."
Telegraph
"Antonia Fraser's superb narrative of the passing of the Bill, which, as well as providing incisive pen portraits of all the major protagonists, is expressive and elegiac of an age when, despite everything, enlightened rationality informed political discourse... The 1820s and early 1830s have all too often been seen as a historical backwater between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the start of the Victorian era that began with the queen's accession in 1837. With Fraser's erudite and acute portrait of this age of reform, it won't be thought so anymore."

Library Journal
"In Fraser's latest work on British history, she deviates from biography (Mary, Queen of Scots; The Six Wives of Henry VIII) to tackle the "perilous question" of the Great Reform Bill of 1832, seeking to get at the personalities involved in this historical moment and the reactions of people at the time... Fraser moves the narrative along at a quick pace in order to give, as she says, "a flavour of the times..".The book is recommended for Fraser's fans and for British history enthusiasts."
The Wharf (UK)
"Antonia Fraser captures the febrile times with a kaleidoscope characters who leap off the page in their eminence, silliness and eloquence. This is a particular slice of history demanding a particular reader but it is edifying and breathless stuff and there are many lessons that our current ruling class could learn if they could tear themselves away from their expenses chits to make the effort."

Shelf Awareness for Readers
"Political gerrymandering as historical thriller: Who would have guessed? In Perilous Question, Antonia Fraser makes precisely that leap--presenting the history behind Britain's Great Reform Act of 1832 in terms that are both historically thorough and deeply fascinating....With her usual perception and clarity, Fraser...draws life from a seemingly dry topic, turning political history into real story."
The Spectator
"The final chapters of the book read like a thriller...The book should be required reading for today's millionaire ministers who seem sadly lily-livered by contrast with Grey and his Whigs. This is history as it should be written: lively, witty and, above all, a cracking good read. I found it almost impossible to put down."
The Express (UK)
"Do children at school still learn about the Great Reform Bill of 1832? .... What I don't recall from school is how thoroughly entertaining it was. What a slice of human drama, how tense, how crucial and how very nearly it could have foundered, thereby propelling our nation into riot and revolution. For that we need impeccable historian Antonia Fraser, who invests such humanity in her huge cast of characters." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The two-year revolution that totally changed how Britain is governed. Abridged edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
Antonia Fraser says she wrote her latest book for herself. Many other readers will enjoy it too. The latest book is a fine addition to her earlier works on Cromwell, the wives of Henry V111, and Marie Antoinette. Like these books 'Perilous Question' is strong on depicting characters, and there are many ranging from bean-pole Earl Grey, Lord John Russell and the almost deaf irascible Duke of Wellington who believed any reform of the electoral system would bring the:'destruction of government in England'. Thanks to Fraser we learn about their gross gluttony (the King), physical problems, addiction to alcohol, mistresses and numerous bastard cildren. We also learn how Victoria very nearly missed becoming Queen.

Revolution was endemic in Europe between 1789 and mid 19th century. In 1830 revolution brought Louis Philippe to power, and many in England feared our monarchy was in danger. Fraser argues that the country was a tinderbox. She like many writers before believes that the reform of 1832 averted revolution.

In 1830 our electoral system was medieval. The old landed aristocracy monopolised poitical power. Corruption was widespread throughout the electoral system. Every schoolboy at one time knew about pocket boroughs, rotten boroughs and bought boroughs. There existed scandals like Dunwich that still returned two members to the Commons despite having fallen into the sea. Of course, everyone must know of Old Sarum. It should be note however that recent research has shown that the level of corruption while still significant has been much exaggerated.
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Format: Hardcover
The period surrounding the passing of the Great Reform Act 1832 is often overlooked due to its seemingly dull core of electoral administration and reform. However, as Antonia Fraser expertly shows in this work, nothing could be further from the truth.

Fraser's success in this work is threefold. Firstly, she describes with great aplomb the social upheavals and tensions which were taking place in the 1830s, and why the Reform Bill fuelled massive protests and helped spark the beginning of political parties and trades unions.

Secondly, she not only explains how the Bill worked and its passage through Parliament, but goes into intricate detail about the key players in this fight for reform:- the Prime Minister Earl Grey (he of tea fame), the leader of the opposition Tories, the Duke of Wellington (he of boot fame), King William IV and numerous others. By the end you feel you have not only read an account of the Reform Act but also detailed sections of these people's biographies.

Finally Fraser explains the impact the Act itself had on future generations. Personally I would have liked this bit slightly longer, and a few more links to today's political arguments would've been nice, but they aren't enough for me to take this from the 5-star mark.

This is an excellent book and anyone with an interest in history or politics will find it a fascinating read.
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 7 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I always look out for books by Antonia Fraser, as her writing always thrills as well as enlightens the reader. This book, on the Reform Bill of 1832, may sound rather prosaic, or even dull. But it is anything but. The drama, as the title of the book so rightly suggests, is present throughout. While it may seem strange to us today that in 1830, when William IV became King, only a small percentage of men had the right to vote, that "rotten" boroughs existed, that bribery and corruption, and the power of aristocratic landlords to nominate MPs to represent their landholdings and surrounding countryside, back then the undercurrent calling for Reform grew from small beginnings to a call from the "people" that could no longer be ignored by any incoming Government. With Europe in an uproar from revolutions and the overthrow of monarchies, the King and his Government needed to walk a fine line between reform that could threaten their own positions, and revolution that could topple them. The Tories and the Whigs fought their individual battles from their individual entrenched positions.

This book tells the tales of these men (and women), the growing Unions and agitators for reform, those who sought to better the lives of those in a large underclass in a growing industrial Britain, and those who read the signs of Europe and saw their own dooms written therein. This is great stuff; exciting, exhilirating, cutthroat politics at their best, and brought to the reader in this wonderful book by a masterful teller of such tales. Definitely recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Class is important in Britain. EP Thompson backed the working class The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin Modern Classics), FML the aristocracy ; Lady Antonia Fraser's work on the Great Reform Bill is about prominent people within the establishment, and the conflict between fathers and sons, or a class in complete disarray against itself.

As the 1832 Great Reform Act was the first of its kind in Britain, and the Georgian society is so different to our own, Fraser adopted a long, and medium term analysis to illustrate the oddities of the two societies with lengthy pen pictures of protagonists. Before the abolition of stamp duty on newspapers and such publications like Hello magazine came on to the stands, she wished to give readers a true humane flavour of this distant period, rather than electoral stats and swings of pendula which psephologists get a big fix on. So John Turner is in, as what was a real dandy.

This is followed by a short term day by day account of the original proposal first raised by Lord John Russell in the Commons in July 1830, the reactions from the opposition, in the Lords, around the country, the back room dealing's with the monarch, until the Bill was eventually approved on "Derby Day, in July 1832, without the King's physical presence or his actual distinguished mark.

In this narrative Fraser went beyond the well-known tales, almost stereotypes of the mound in a field in Wiltshire, Old Sarum, deserted since 1217, or Dunwich on the Suffolk coast fallen into the sea, with two MPs, while fast growing manufacturing towns in the Midlands and the North, like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield with none.
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