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William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner Paperback – 5 May 2008
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'The author has produced a splendid read for which he deserves the utmost credit. He tells Wilberforce's story with such enthusiasm and narrative skill that, in this bicentennial year, his book seems assured of bestsellerdom. I put it down liking Hague as much as I was moved by his tale, one of the most remarkable in British political history.' Sunday Times
'An authoritative account of a remarkable life.' Sunday Times
'A fine, informative tribute.' Observer
'A superb biography.' Daily Express
'An enthusiastic and balanced portrayal of an appealing figure.' Sunday Telegraph
'Gripping…absorbing…the definitive biography.' Daily Mail
'Informed by a nuanced sense of what was and was not politically possible at that moment…lucid and convincing…gripping.' Daily Telegraph
‘William Hague has assumed from Roy Jenkins the mantle of Britain's foremost politician-biographer. This magnificent biography of William Wilberforce succeeds his good debut life of William Pitt…his achievement goes far beyond an attractive prose style and meticulously accurate historical re-recreation. The insights drawn from a wide parliamentary and political experience bring to life the genius of the great anti-slave trade campaigner in a wholly new and vivid way.’ Evening Standard
About the Author
William Hague was born in Rotherham in 1961. While at Oxford, he was President of the Union and of the University Conservative Association.He has been MP for Richmond, Yorkshire since 1989. He joined the Cabinet in 1995 as Secretary of State for Wales, and was leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to June 2001. This is his second book.
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Hague's book is superb. Satisfyingly rich in detail, with prose as smooth and tasty as good blended soup, and with insights from Hague's own experience of the life political, he gives a fine retelling and analysis of perhaps England's greatest backbench MP, and his epic struggle to end the slave trade.
An Evangelical myself, I was pleased and surprised to see how Hague took great efforts to see the world through Wilberforce's eyes. He understood how Wiberforce's Christian faith was the great unifying vision that held him together through a long life in politics, that made him nevertheless a fine husband and father, that made him a peacemaker even with natural political enemies, and in the end remained even when illness and age removed the politics from him.
His final chapter is a thoughtful summing up, worth the admittance money on its own. Wilberforce died happy and fulfilled because he lived and died for a cause; many politicians die unhappy and unfulfilled because they live and die for power. Interesting.
I loved this book. About the only error of judgement I spotted in the entire thing was Hague's decision to wear a lilac shirt for his author photo.
The same author has written a biography of Wilberforce's contemporary Willliam Pitt the Yonger, and with rumours of him leaving front-line politics after the next election, one wonders whom else he might turn to. He seems to have restricted himself to politicos called William, so that leaves him Gladstone (already the subject of a biography by another senior politician), or perhaps WIlliam of Orange or WIlliam the Conqueror. Either way, it'll be welcome.
It is exhaustive and , my only criticism, at times exhausting. A book like this with so much information and facts to absorb needs more pause points to give you chance to reflect and think. The chapters are very long and there are few internal pauses which lead me, at times , to brain fade. At the midpoint I had to break off and read something else for a rest before coming back to it.
Saying that I am glad I persevered as the end result is so rewarding.
His Christian conversion and the change it made in his life shows that he was truly born again in the full Biblical meaning of that phrase.
Hague is a gifted writer who has written an excellent biography.
Knowing nothing about Wilberforce before I began the book, I had pictured him as being a rather dry god-fearing man who "did good" as a matter of duty to his faith. God fearing, he may have become, but he was never dry and his dogged determination to abolish the slave trade came not from a sense of duty but from his very genuine and very deep sense of humanity.
A brilliant man, and a brilliant book that does great justice to its subject. A real page-turner that I found impossible to put down once I'd read the first page or two. Well done Mr Hague!
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