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The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War
The Cherokee Nation in the Civil War
by Clarissa W Confer
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars A useful examination of a neglected aspect of the Civil War, 3 Jun. 2012
For all of the attention the Civil War has received from historians and biographers, most of the works addressing the conflict cover only a narrow aspect of the war. Innumerable books on the fighting in northern Virginia and Tennessee tend to obscure the war that was waged elsewhere, such as the fighting in Missouri or on the seas of the world. Among the most neglected aspects of the war was its impact on the Native American communities, including those in the Indian Territory. Such an omission is disappointing, for as Clarissa Confer demonstrates in this book on the Cherokee nation and the war, the impact of the war on their communities was no less divisive and devastating as it was upon their white counterparts further east. Yet as Confer shows, the issues of slavery and secession overlay others unique to the nations, with the war serving often as a new chapter in a longer ongoing struggle.

Confer makes this clear early in her book with her description of the Cherokee before the war. For them the shadow of removal continued to loom large over their lives, with the divisions it created turning into political factions. "Half-breeds" pursuing assimilation clashed with full-blooded Cherokee who resisted the adoption of the white man's ways. Given their prior residence in the southeast and the presence of Texas and Arkansas on their orders, this included the adoption of slavery, as many Cherokee owned slaves and established plantations in their new home.

When war broke out, it was these pro-Confederate Cherokee who initially had the upper hand. Here they were aided by the neglect of the federal government, who left pro-Southern Indian agents in their posts and withdrew army units from the nearby forts at the start of the conflict. The Confederate government quickly exploited the opening, securing the allegiance of the Cherokee and several other tribal nations with the promise of weapons and other support. The Indian Territory was a minor front of the war for both sides, but for its inhabitants it soon dominated their lives. With neither side able to commit a large military force for a sustained period, both relied on local levies, who often fought a different type of war than the one fought further east. Confer compares the struggle to the fighting in Missouri, with hit-and-run raids replacing the staged battles typifying the war. The population on both sides suffered, with many people losing their homes, livestock, crops, and possessions to raiding parties and looters, the result being that few Cherokee were spared and the nation as a whole came out of the war in a worse position than they began it.

Confer's book provides a useful examination of a neglected front in the Civil War. She writes with considerable sympathy for her subject, offering a complex portrait of them that avoids the simplistic depiction of the Cherokee solely as victims or pawns in the conflict. Yet her work is disappointingly shallow, lacking any deeper analysis of the story she presents. Often her arguments repeat points from earlier chapters, or from previous paragraphs in the same chapters, and fail to offer the sort of in-depth study the Cherokee deserve. The result is a book the provides a capable enough introduction to her subject but one that fails to exploit the unexamined riches she hints at. Hopefully other scholars will build upon her work to provide the sorts of studies of the Cherokee her work proves they deserve.


Xeno
Xeno
by D. F. Jones
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Invasive species from outer space!, 23 April 2012
This review is from: Xeno (Paperback)
A United States Air Force jet fighter on a test flight vanishes from the California skies . . . and reappears four months later near Guam. Two years later, a Russian cargo plane experiences a similar disappearance, with its crew completely unaware that ten months have passed for them. As the American and Soviet governments investigate the parallel cases, a jumbo jet returning tourists to New York from Paris also disappears over the Atlantic Ocean, only to reappear over the continental United States weeks later. Though initially the people involved seem little affected by their disappearance, over time they begin to experience unusual cravings, then suddenly develop cysts and lapse into comas which signal the arrival of a new type of alien invader . . .

Best known for his 'Colossus' trilogy, Dennis Feltham Jones was a former British naval officer who authored over a half-dozen science fiction novels during a fifteen-year period. This, his penultimate work, exhibits all of his strengths and weaknesses as a writer within the genre. The concept at the heart of his novel, the emergence of invasive species, is eerily prescient to readers living in a world increasingly concerned with the consequences of exotic flora and fauna appearing in different habitats. Yet most of the characters remain stuck in two dimensions throughout the novel, often displaying a curious lassitude that negates much of the tension Jones tries to build. Most disappointing of all, though, is Jones's clumsy injection of religion into the book. What might have provided a refreshing take on the alien-invasion novel instead seems little more than a Cold-War era commentary on the emptiness of Soviet ideology. This cheapens rather than enriches his work, which is enjoyable enough but lacks the power that Jones seems to have wanted his work to have.


George B.McClellan: The Young Napoleon
George B.McClellan: The Young Napoleon
by Stephen W. Sears
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The smallness of "Little Mac", 13 Mar. 2012
George Brinton McClellan ranks as the most controversial general of the Civil War. Beloved by the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, his command of the Union's premier army during the early years of the conflict generated a storm of criticism and sparked debates still being waged by historians today. McClellan himself was an early participant in these debates, seeking to affix the blame for these failures where he felt it was most deserved - namely on everybody but himself.

In this debate Stephen Sears comes down firmly in the camp of McClellan's critics. His biography of the general provides a damming assessment of 'Little Mac''s failings, one more starkly illustrated by contrasting them with McClellan's many gifts. Ranked second in his class at West Point, McClellan was a rising star in the antebellum United States Army before leaving for a lucrative career as a railroad executive. Yet even early on his outsized self-regard generated disputes with his superiors, as he saw what was often reasonable arguments as the product of implacable opponents determined to destroy him.

These tendencies were only magnified by the pressures of war. McClellan's prewar reputation as a military thinker and early success in the west led to his appointment of the Army of the Potomac at the age of only 35. McClellan set out to build up a formidable fighting force, and Sears acknowledges his strengths here as a military administrator. Yet McClellan's arrogance and reluctance to commit the army prematurely soon fueled a mounting criticism of his inactivity. McClellan's own forays into politics (where he won more battles then he ever would as military commander) only exacerbated this, leading to charges that the general secretly harbored Confederate sympathies.

Had McClellan enjoyed success on the battlefield nothing would have come of this. His Peninsula campaign, however, was hobbled by McClellan's insistence on a deliberate pace and a perennial (and unfounded) fear that he faced an enemy superior in numbers. As a result, despite possessing the most formidable army the nation had ever assembled he was outfoxed and outfought by his Confederate opponents; in this sense the 'Young Napoleon' subtitle of this book is ironic rather than accurate. John Pope's defeat at Second Bull Run gave McClellan a chance at redemption and the famous 'Lost Orders' a priceless opportunity to defeat Robert E. Lee, yet Sears's assessment of McClellan's failure to take advantage of this is hard to deny. Though Lee withdrew to Virginia after the bloody battle of Antietam, McClellan's failure to follow up on this success led to his final dismissal as army commander. It was a testament to his stature that he soon emerged as a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1864, but the party's 'peace platform' deprived him of what Sears regards as a legitimate chance of defeating Lincoln that year, leaving McClellan to enjoy a prosperous and successful - if anticlimactic - postwar career as a businessman and a politician before his early death at the age of 58.

Drawing heavily on McClellan's letters and other documents, Sears offers a convincing assessment of McClellan and his military career. As one might expect, the main focus is on his Civil War service, as Sears spends only four of the book's seventeen chapters on McClellan life before and after the conflict that defined his historical legacy. The portrait that emerges is of a man who, for all of his ability was in the end brought down by his own pettiness as much as his other failings. It makes for a sad tale of a man to whom the nation once looked as their savior, yet who ultimately squandered the goodwill earned by his promise on recriminations over failures that were squarely his own.


Eisenhower in War and Peace
Eisenhower in War and Peace
by Jean Edward Smith
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A one-stop Eisenhower biography, 13 Mar. 2012
As both the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during World War II and as the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower has not wanted for biographers. The problem with most books about Eisenhower, though, is that, no matter how good they are, they tend to focus either on his presidency (such as Jim Newton's recent Eisenhower: The White House Years) or, more often, on his years in the military (such as Carlo D'Este's Eisenhower). The challenge of writing a single-volume biography of Eisenhower's extensive and varied life has eluded most biographers as a consequence, with the standard in the field, Stephen Ambrose's Eisenhower: Soldier and President, suffering from growing questions about the reliability of its research.

There are perhaps few writers today better suited for this challenge than Jean Edward Smith. As the author of several acclaimed biographies, including of Eisenhower's friend, Lucius Clay and Eisenhower's predecessor Ulysses S. Grant, Smith is well equipped to tackle both aspects of Eisenhower's illustrious career, and what he has produced more than rises to the challenge. His book offers a comprehensive portrait of Eisenhower, one that uses new research into the man to provide a fresh understanding of his life and times.

This readiness to reassess Eisenhower's life starts out with a new look at his early years. Born in Texas, Eisenhower grew up in a large family headed by a stern, distant father and a warm, loving mother. Smith notes that their straitened circumstances were due less to being swindled by David Eisenhower's business partner and more due to his own idiosyncratic behavior. Like his brothers Eisenhower escaped the family as soon as he could, winning a competitive position to West Point. In addressing Eisenhower's military career Smith attacks head on another persistent myth, demonstrating the Eisenhower was not a lax officer but enjoyed consistently excellent fitness reports throughout his military career.

Yet Smith notes that Eisenhower was not above pulling strings to ensure he received preferred postings. It was this mixture of ability and appeal that aided his ascent through the ranks of the military in the interwar period, showing him to be not an obscure officer but a rising star marked out by the Army's leaders. When war came his ascent went from rapid to meteoric, and he soon found himself commanding American forces in the European theater of operations. Though generally favorable to his subject, Smith does not shy away from criticizing Eisenhower here, complimenting his skills as a 'military statesman' while criticizing his adherence to a 'broad front' offensive that ignored the lessons of the war and which Smith suggests may have contributed to its prolongation.

Nevertheless, Eisenhower emerged as one of the great commanders of the war, one who was widely viewed as a leading presidential prospect. Here Smith shifts his narrative focus away from Eisenhower's military career (largely glossing over both his two-year tour as Army chief of staff and his time as Supreme Allied Commander Europe) and towards his budding political career. Though Eisenhower publicly dismissed such talk of a presidential candidacy, Smith notes that the general was careful never to rule out the prospect completely, eventually succumbing to the urging of his friends to enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Yet not all was smooth sailing, as Eisenhower had to fight the conservative Taft forces, then deal with Richard Nixon's stubborn determination to remain on the ticket in the aftermath of the"slush fund" scandal before winning the 1952 presidential election by a large majority.

Smith's coverage of Eisenhower's presidency takes up most of the final third of the book. Deriding the persistent image of Eisenhower as a affable nonentity as president, he endorses Fred Greenstein's 'hidden-hand' thesis, portraying Eisenhower as an active executive who worked largely behind the scenes to resolve the problems facing his presidency. Eisenhower's foreign policy occupies most of Smith's attention here, though due space is spent on politics and domestic matters as well. The key factor shaping Eisenhower's presidency, as Smith demonstrates, was his military background, which influenced everything from the organization of his administration to his decisions regarding the ongoing Cold War with the Soviet Union. Yet Smith's coverage of Eisenhower's presidency suffers when he addresses the president's civil rights record, as he leaves out some key details (such as Eisenhower's lobbying of Earl Warren prior to the Brown decision) in his attempt to rehabilitate Eisenhower's image here.

This is a minor complaint when set against Smith's overall achievement, however. With this book he has succeeded in providing a much-needed single-volume biography that encompasses the span of Eisenhower's many achievements. Fluidly written, it provides an readable overview that doesn't get bogged down in excessive detail. It would have been better still if it had been edited more diligently, as Smith's habit of repeating minor details throughout his text (often on the following page) can become annoying quickly. Yet in the end this does not detract from the book's value as a study of Eisenhower, one that encapsulates a varied life and career within its covers.


Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953
Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953
by Steven Casey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Public relations and the Korean War, 4 Mar. 2012
The invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces in June 1950 posed a multitude of challenges to the United States. Among these, one of the most difficult and persistent faced by the Truman administration was that of how to present the war to the American people. What might seem to be a fairly straightforward matter was in fact a far more complex problem, riven as it was by issues of domestic politics and overshadowed by the broader context of the Cold War. Steven Casey's book provides a detailed look at the problems the Truman administration faced, how they changed over the course of the war, and how they endeavored to navigate around or surmount the difficulties before them.

These problems emerged practically from the moment the president and the American people first learned of the invasion. From the start Truman sought a restrained rhetorical response to the conflict, out of a concern that intemperate language might exacerbate the Cold War. This decision, however, gave an opening to Truman's Republican opponents in Congress. Still smarting from Truman's victory in the 1948 presidential election, they took advantage of his failure to define the conflict early on by using it ti lambaste his administration's handling of foreign policy.

Their criticisms were sharpened in the short term by the course of events, as the poor showing of the first American troops thrown into combat served to underline Republican arguments about Truman's failings as president. Here Casey turns his attention to the other part of the story, the type and nature of the information flooding out from the Korean peninsula. The reporters rushed to cover the war faced a chaotic situation off the battlefield as well as on it, thanks in no small measure to General Douglas MacArthur's refusal at first to impose any sort of censorship on the articles being sent out. This left the correspondents open to criticism for indiscretions in their reporting, and soon they were at the forefront of calls for such guidelines. Yet when censorship was finally imposed, its strictness proved to be more restrictive than they bargained for fueling criticisms that MacArthur's public information officers were trying to withhold information that made their superior look bad.

MacArthur's dismissal as supreme commander in April 1951 had significant implications for both levels of public relations. His successor, Matthew Ridgway, proved far more diplomatic in his handling of the media, a task made simpler by the stabilization of the battlefront by the summer. For Truman, however, MacArthur's return to the United States heightened criticisms of his administration's handling of the war still further. Yet this proved in some respects to be a blessing in disguise, as it prompted his administration to provide a more forceful defense of their handling of the war. This plus the changing nature of the conflict finally pushed Truman into making the vigorous case for the war that had been absent for so long, only to find the static, drawn-out nature of the conflict limited the impact of his efforts. His successor as president, Dwight Eisenhower, faced similar public relations problems and repeated some of Truman's early mistakes, but the death of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin in March 1953 was quickly followed by concessions that made an armistice possible four months later.

Casey's book is a valuable study of an often overlooked aspect of war. With it he chronicles a government as it transitioned away from the assumptions involved in rallying public opinion in a "total war" and towards the challenges involved in doing so for the more limited conflicts that the U.S. has fought since World War II. Though it may not be as exciting as the subtitle implies, with only minimal coverage of the broader cultural propaganda tied to the war, it definitely rewards the time spent reading it. This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the history of the Korean War or in the broader topic of how governments manage the media and rally public opinion to wage war in our world today.


The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War
The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War
by Paul Addison
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The British political scene in wartime, 29 Feb. 2012
This is the rare book where its title tells you more about it than its subtitle. In recounting British politics from the late 1930s to the momentous general election of 1945, Paul Addison seeks to explain the transformation in British political attitudes that made the Labour Party's triumph possible. The dramatic nature of this transformation is demonstrated with the first chapter, which describes British politics in the years leading up to the war. This was an era of Conservative Party ascendancy, one aided by the political difficulties of their two main competitors. With the Liberal Party still recovering from their fracturing in the First World War and Labour striving to demonstrate its viability as a governing party, the Conservatives were able to win four of six general elections, either on their own or as the dominant partner of the 'National' governments of the 1930s, and Addison argues that they were poised to win the general election due in 1940 had the war not intervened.

Addison sees the Conservatives as disadvantaged by the conflict. While the beneficiaries of resurgent patriotism during the First World War, their political predominance in the 1930s ensured that they would receive the blame for the missteps and mistakes in the early months of the new conflict. Labour was the major beneficiary, and while the Conservatives retained their majority in the House of Commons, the travails of Neville Chamberlain's government gave Clement Attlee leverage. His refusal to serve under Chamberlain in May 1940 was the key factor in bringing about Chamberlain's resignation and his replacement as prime minister by Winston Churchill. Though Churchill maintained enormous popularity among the public throughout the war, it was Labour who benefited from an ideological shift leftward among the electorate during this period. Focused as he was on directing the war effort, Churchill conceded the initiative on domestic policy to the Labour minister; their championing of reports on postwar reconstruction and social reform left their party well positioned to appeal to reform-minded voters when the election was called after the end of the war in Europe.

Though originally published nearly four decades ago, Addison's book remains the standard history of British politics during the Second World War. This is largely because of its many strengths; well written and based on an extensive reading of both the relevant documents and related literature, it offers a compelling and insightful narrative of its subject. While some of the author's interpretations of the politics of the period have been challenged (by Kevin Jefferys in his book The Churchill Coalition and Wartime Politics, 1940-45, among others), this does not negate the book's value as a study of its subject. For anyone seeking to learn about the development of British politics in wartime, or how Labour won such a stunning electoral victory, this is the place to begin.
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Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War
Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources and Experts in the Second World War
by David Edgerton
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forcefully revises misconceptions about Britain in World War II, 20 Feb. 2012
When it comes to the Second World War, the British historical imagination is defined by the image of 1940: a plucky little island, standing alone against the Nazi juggernaut that had just rolled over western Europe. The underdog status suggested by this image magnified both the heroism of the Battle of Britain and the subsequent victory scored over Germany five years later. Yet such a view, as David Edgerton stresses, is wildly inaccurate. Contrary to the popular myth, Britain stood at the head of an empire of nearly half a billion people, with the resources to wage war quite easily. Moreover, it was a war waged with an advanced and heavily mechanized military effort, one even more so than that possessed by their enemy. Edgerton details all of this in his revisionist analysis of the war, one that takes a bulldozer to many longstanding misconceptions to give readers a better understanding of how the British waged, and won, the war.

Edgerton begins by describing the considerable economic resources Britain possessed during the war. Theirs was an imperial economy capable of tapping a range of resources from foodstuffs to oil, as well as the manufactures and skills provided by the colonies. This was connected to the home country by a merchant fleet which also gave Britain access to the economic might of the United States and which actually grew over the course of the conflict. Edgerton describes the good use to which these goods were put, noting the improvements in diet for millions and arguing, again contrary to the popular myth, that the war materiel produced was of equal or even superior quality to that of their enemies and often of their allies as well. All of this was managed by a state that gave considerable support to its scientists and technicians, many of whom developed the advanced weaponry which Britain used to win the war.

Forcefully argued and backed by a wealth of statistics, Edgerton's book provides a powerful corrective to many misconceptions about Britain's war effort. Yet in some respects Edgerton deploys his arguments too broadly, often glossing over or ignoring the flaws that served as the basis of contemporary criticisms about the quality of British weapons (such as in naval air, which is mentioned only once and in passing). Moreover, his analysis raises an interesting question that is left unaddressed: if the British war machine outclassed that of the Germans in both quality and quantity, then why did the war last as long as it did? Edgerton suggest Japan's entry (which deprived Britain of the resources of her east Asian colonies) as a key factor, but this is only a partial answer and begs further analysis. Such an examination would have added greatly to the value of this already important book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in British history or the Second World War.


The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1897-1909
The United States Navy in the Pacific, 1897-1909
by William R. Braisted
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The U.S. in East Asia at the dawn of the "American Century", 11 Feb. 2012
America's war with Spain in 1898 is generally viewed as inaugurating the emergence of the United States as a world power, as the acquisition of the remnants of the Spanish empire gave the nation a global presence for the first time. Yet while the annexation of Puerto Rico and the protectorate over Cuba were undertaken in a region where the U.S. had long asserted its interests, the acquisition of the Philippines posed a radical new challenge for American policymakers. This challenge and how the United States responded to it dominates William R. Braisted's book, which examines the role played by the U.S. Navy in shaping and carrying out America's foreign policy in East Asia at the turn of the 20th century.

For the Navy, the acquisition of the Philippines involved the assumption of a new set of responsibilities. Prior to the Spanish-American War, the Navy's mission in the western Pacific was a limited one, with the few vessels of the Asiatic Squadron primarily tasked with "showing the flag" in the ports of the region. The Philippines gave the United States a springboard from which they could establish a more dominant presence in Asia, though this came at a price. The base that permitted America to expand its naval presence also needed to be defended, requiring a far larger force in the region than before. At first, the balance of power between the European powers and Japan reduced the necessity for a substantial presence, but Japan's victory over Russia in 1905 and the reduction of the British squadron to concentrate the Royal Navy in European waters left the United States to face alone a dominant regional power. Exacerbating this problem was the pressure to maintain a powerful force in the Atlantic as well against the growing threat posed by Germany. Faced with demands for squadrons of battleships in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, President Theodore Roosevelt sent out the Great White Fleet to demonstrate America's ability to project their naval power anywhere it might be needed to protect it expanding interests, an impressive display that nonetheless papered over the challenges that the Navy was only beginning to address by the time Roosevelt's presidency came to an end.

Cogently argued and grounded in a thorough command of the archival sources, Braisted's book offers a perceptive study of the United States Navy as it assumed the role of a major power in the western Pacific. Throughout the book, he is generally laudatory of the Navy's success in handling its increased responsibilities, a success all the more notable given the limited amount of funding it received to accomplish its mission and the lack of proper coordination with both the Army and the State Department, both of which also played critical roles in this process. Yet Braisted never lets his overall admiration for the Navy deter him from offering critical assessments where they are deserved. It is this mixture of research, analysis, and judgement which makes this book even today an indispensable study of America's evolving role in East Asia at the dawn of the 'American century,' one that is necessary reading for anyone interested in the subject.
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Joyleg
Joyleg
by Avram Davidson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.06

2.0 out of 5 stars The Man who Pickled Himself, 10 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Joyleg (Paperback)
Though not ranked among the giants of the "golden age" of science fiction, Ward Moore produced some of the more memorable novels and short stories of the period. Perhaps best known for his seminal alternate history/time travel novella Bring the Jubilee, his tales emphasized humor and character development over scientific detail, and have endured longer than many of those of his contemporaries as a consequence.

Moore's reputation was hampered by his limited output, with his last two novels written jointly with other authors. This, his second to last novel, was co-authored by Avram Davidson, who was then transitioning from short stories to longer-form work. Though both were excellent writers, the novel they produced reflects upon them both poorly. It's premise is intriguing enough: provoked by the discovery that an $11 veterans' pension was being paid out as far back as records allowed, two members of the Tennessee congressional delegation travel to their state's backwoods to unravel the mystery. Their journey beings them to the cabin of Isachar Joyleg, a veteran of the American Revolution who has lived for over two centuries thanks to daily baths in moonshine. This remarkable discovery ignites a firestorm of curiosity, one that in the end changes the course of history itself.

Such a premise offers no end of interesting possibilities for a storyteller, and while Moore and Davidson do score some of satirical points off of it, their work ultimately suffers from poor plotting and unimaginative twists that squander its promise. After an intriguing buildup, the story follows a by-the-numbers development to its resolution, while the arc of the two main characters is predictable from the moment of their introduction. As a result, the novel fails to live up to the promise created by them names on its cover, with readers better off picking up instead one of the other, far better work, that these authors produced over their respective careers. It may make for enjoyable reading over a lazy afternoon, but in the end it serves as a pale reflection of what these authors were capable.


George Canning
George Canning
by Wendy Hinde
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid biography of a fascinating prime minister, 10 Jan. 2012
This review is from: George Canning (Hardcover)
Few British prime ministers have had as unlikely an ascent to the top of the greasy pole as George Canning. The son of an impoverished Irish gentleman and a mother who became an actress, Canning only escaped his potentially limiting circumstances with the aid of an uncle who became his guardian. His intellectual gifts were manifest at an early age, and he excelled at Eton and Oxford, where he befriended a number of important people. Drawn to politics, he befriended a number of Whigs but entered politics as a Tory thanks to the patronage of the younger Pitt. His ascent was rapid, as he soon drew together a loose group of supporters and entered office as a junior minister. Yet his gifts proved a double-edged sword, as his wounding wit alienated many unfortunate enough to be on its receiving end. With the death of Pitt and the rise of Lord Castlereagh, Canning's future politics seemed limited. Preparing to leave politics by assuming the Governor-generalship of India, he was catapulted back onto the center stage with Castlereagh's suicide, and after five critical years as Foreign Secretary he became Prime Minister upon Lord Liverpool's death in 1827, only to have his triumph cut short by his death four months later.

Surprisingly for such a magnetic personality and important politician, Canning has not attracted the biographical attention enjoyed by some of his counterparts. In this respect, it is fortunate that Wendy Hinde counts among his biographers. Her book is a detailed account of Canning's career, one that sets it in the context of the events of his time. Drawing primarily upon Canning's correspondence and speeches, she dispels many of the misconceptions surrounding his career, showing him to be a gifted politician whose greatest fault was a lack of awareness as to just how deep his verbal thrusts could cut. While the book suffers from only a passing effort to address the political following that was an important source of his strength in Parliament, this is nonetheless a solid work, one that nearly four decades after its publication continues to serve as the starting point for anyone seeking to learn about the life of this fascinating figure.
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