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Customer Review

on 1 October 2005
Gladstone - Roy Jenkins
Gladstone we are told would have chosen a career in the Church of England but his father wanted him to go into politics. Jenkins reckons him to be not only the oldest of prime ministers but also the greatest and the most committed Christian to hold that office.
I found this a fascinating study from which I learned much I never knew. Gladstone was a Scot by descent. His father made the family fortune in part from slave plantations in the West Indies. The great orator, Eton and Oxford educated spoke with a Liverpool accent and there are sound recordings of his voice. A great scholar and reader, he read over 20.000 books in his long life. They included the latest novels of the day.
Gladstone went from Tory to Liberal. This biography tells us much about the development of politics in Britain but I believe it would be improved by the inclusion of a time line relating events to the wider flow of contemporary history. Jenkins tells us little of contemporary events unless Gladstone was directly involved. I think Jenkins assumes the reader knows history and has a very extensive vocabulary. You need a dictionary as companion volume.
The one point where Jenkins is weak is in a sympathetic understanding of Gladstone's faith. But he can be memorable as in, "For Gladtsone, idolatry began at Calais".
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