Top positive review
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Detailed, painstaking and scholarly.
on 27 July 2014
Lord Jenkins was a highly educated man of great ability and this comes through in this scholarly volume. I was a bit daunted by is length, but I took it bit by bit. Sometimes the words were challenging: clericy, valetudinarian, cicerone and immanent I could take, but I struggled with eleemosynary and manichaean to name but two. I also wondered at an obscure reference to Winchester 'notions'. In addition, the book is very detailed and I was glad I was reading it for pleasure rather than as an undergraduate, preparing, for example, for tricky questions on the various budgets.
I am not sure that I would have liked Gladstone. He comes across as priggish, long-winded and humourless, but his long career is a fascinating one. He also had a remarkable capacity for hard work, which resulted in various achievements, varying from reform of the University of Oxford, to electoral reforms, to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, though the ultimate goal of Irish Home Rule of course eluded him. However, I had not realised that it was a far more complex issue than "give it them but what about the Ulster Protestants?". For example, continued representation at Westminster and what powers should be devolved were matters of considerable import. Another curiosity is that in 1886 Gladstone was elected MP for two constituencies, Leith and Midlothian.
There are one or two oddities. The author on one occasion confuses daughters in law with step daughters. Also it is surprising that there is no mention of the Chartists, because Gladstone was certainly on the political scene when they were active. And the spin-off from the 'Alabama' incident is described, but not the details of the event itself.
Apparently Roy Jenkins "condemned big books that were too heavy to hold up in bed". This is ironic, because it certainly applies to the hard back version I bought. But it has been described as "elegant" and likely to attract history students, and this is certainly the case.