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on 24 September 2004
A fascinating book, made all the more fascinating because I read it immediately before taking a holiday on the Isles of Lewis and Harris; I wanted to find out more about Leverhulme's influence or (as it turned out) lack of influence on the islands. The start of the book is a little dry, with a lot of seemingly unnecessary historical baggage thrown in for good measure. But persist through the first 50 or so pages and the book will start to come to life. At first you feel sympathy for Leverhulme's aspirations for improving people's lives before realising that he was virtually ignorant in respect of the ordinary crofter's traditional way of life and the lack of progress on land reform in the years immediately prior to his proprietorship. I found the book absolutely fascinating, made more so towards the end by actually being on Lewis and seeing places referred to in the book, and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone considering a holiday on Lewis and/or Harris.
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on 4 December 2003
The story of the soap magnate, Lord Leverhulme, and his encounter with the crofters of Lewis and Harris is a lovely example of a (nearly) unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object. The former, Leverhulme, embodies the Victorian ideal of Progress while the latter is the islanders' determination to hold on to an ancientfcommmunal culture, largely indifferent to material betterment. Its not a simple matter of good v. bad, and the author manages to make us feel sympathetic to both sides. The characters spring to life - which is maybe what made the story (for me) so compelling. I recommend it highly.
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on 7 June 2009
This book is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to learn in greater depth about these marvellous islands than normal guidebook descriptions provide. Students of the social history of islands will find much to explain differences from mainland communities.
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on 15 September 2014
Sometimes one reads fact which seem stranger than fiction. Such is the story of Lord Leverhulmes failed attempt to run Lewis and Harris the way he had built up the commercial empire now known as Unilever. Lever started life as the son of a Bolton grocer. He became through his benign capitalism, a multi millionaire. He was also a megalomaniac who did not believe in compromise. Before he owned Lewis he had been unsuccesfull in persuading Solomon Islanders and Congolese that a cash economy was better than traditional life. He had not learned from these lesson and thought he could develop Lewis, with a population of 30,000 into an industrial economy of 200,000 people. He failed because the fishing industry on which he based his plans went into post war decline. He was also frustrated by the crofters who did not want Lever's industry, they did not even want to be owner occupiers. They wanted to continue with their subsistence crofting economy and have more land made over for crofting. ever never understood this. He even called their traditional black houses 'dwellings not fit for kaffirs'. It is a story in line with Burns' stanza, 'The best laid plan of mice and men gang aft agley, and leave us naught but grief and pain for promised joy'. But I doubt if Lever ever read much Burns. I spotted one factual error. Sir George Goldie did not in 1897 name 500,000 square miles of Africa, Nigeris. Nigeria was formed in 1914 when the protectorates of southern and northern Nigeria were joined by Lagos colony as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.
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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2014
A very interesting account of Lord Leverhulme and his life/career. It explains how his master plan to save Lewis and then Harris was thwarted by the returning troops looking for their little patch of land on which to croft. How the greatest of plans need the support of the people and how this man spent millions on some hair brain schemes.
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on 3 January 2014
the book is thoroughly well written as fiction, but i must say that, as my own ancestors, the thomas family, created sunlight soap in bristol and later sold to the levre bros, i am glad the book was not published as factual.
i have researched the soap industry in depth and very much enjoyed the read. indeed, i myself, mentioned the soap industry in the first volume of my own book, my mother warned me about me and describe the beginnings of the soap factory in bristol.
thank you for furthering my knowledge.
kind regards
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on 30 August 2013
I am struggling to get this going. So far it seems very much a list of events in history with a loose thread in. I'm only about a fifth in so time will tell.
I read The King of Sunlight, and wanted a bit more about the man.
I will possibly put it one side for a while, finish the other two I have going then read it by itself perhaps there is too much in it to be dipping back and to.
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on 11 December 2012
I really enjoyed this book. An utterly fascinating insight into Leverhulme's mind. A developing megalomaniac that thought he knew best for 30,000 people. I've recently read a few books on late 19th century industrialists from both sides of the atlantic and many of them have similar tendencies. The more powerful they become the more determined they are that they know best.
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on 10 June 2016
Read it while visiting Harris and Lewis and coming from Warrington also had Leverhulme interest. Fascinating story of how man with great visions could fail to achieve anything because of his own arrogance and failure to listen to the local people.
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on 10 October 2016
Excellent insight to Leverhulme's efforts good, bad or otherwise. Well written and detailed. you'd expect from Roger Hutchison.
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