Graham Goodlad Has Enjoyed Two Biographies of Towering 19th-Century Political Figures

By Goodlad, Graham | History Review, March 2011 | Go to article overview

Graham Goodlad Has Enjoyed Two Biographies of Towering 19th-Century Political Figures


Goodlad, Graham, History Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Palmerston: A Biography David Brown

*****

Yale University Press, 2010

555 pages, 25 [pounds sterling] hardback

ISBN: 978 0 300 11898 8

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Sir Robert Peel: The Life and Legacy Richard Gaunt

*****

I B Tauris, 2010

227 pages, 20 [pounds sterling] hardback

ISBN: 978 1 84885 035 4

Lord Palmerston was one of the dominant political figures of the nineteenth century. Foreign Secretary for 15 years and Prime Minister for almost a decade, he embodied British power at its zenith and at home played a key role in the emergence of the Liberal Party. His career has attracted considerable interest from historians yet a full-length life, based upon his private papers, has proved elusive. The late Kenneth Bourne published only the first of a projected two volume biography (Palmerston: the early years, 17841841, 1982) before his death. David Brown, who has already gained well-deserved attention for his 2002 study, Palmerston and the Politics of Foreign Policy 1846-55, has now admirably filled the gap. Palmerston: A Biography does justice to its subject, covering not only his long and varied political career but also his colourful love life and role as a landlord in England, Wales and Ireland.

One of the difficulties in writing about Palmerston has been his resistance to being pigeon-holed. Starting political life as a Tory during the Napoleonic Wars, he spent most of his career on the Whig-Liberal end of the spectrum. Unlike those magnates in whose Cabinets he served--Earl Grey, Lord Melbourne and Lord John Russell--he never truly belonged to the charmed circle of aristocratic Whig families. Often stereotyped as the philandering 'Lord Cupid', he was also remarkable for his powers of work. In the words of a bus driver whose route ran past Palmerston's office, "E earns 'is wages; I never come by without seeing 'im 'ard at it.' This comment also suggests another dimension of Palmerston's personality: his ability to attract the admiration of the masses, who saw him as a straightforward champion of Britain in his dealings with other powers. Yet as David Brown is at pains to emphasise, it is wrong to see Palmerston as a consistent exponent of 'gunboat diplomacy'. Only in two cases--the Don Pacifico incident of 1850 and the clash with China in 1857--did he resort to overt bullying in his relations with foreign states. Nor did Palmerston support movements for constitutional freedom on the European continent for their own sake. Brown sees him as a more subtle practitioner of foreign policy: certainly aware of the ways in which an assertive overseas stance could benefit his standing with the public, yet concerned above all with the maintenance of international stability, which he saw as vital for the preservation of British national interests.

Palmerston emerges from Brown's pages as a politician who was remarkably consistent in his underlying philosophy. A key influence on his later development was the time he spent as a young man at Edinburgh University, where he imbibed the Scottish Enlightenment values of his tutor, Dugald Stewart, from whom he derived his belief in government by a ruling class which both understood and guided public opinion. Brown views Palmerston as a child of his time--not, as some earlier writers have seen him, as a Regency era man about town who had incongruously survived into the world of mid-Victorian Britain. Nor does he wholly accept the thesis of E.D. Steele's 1991 study (Palmerston and Liberalism 1855-1865), which viewed its subject as a progressive figure who self-consciously prefigured the late Victorian transition to democracy Rather Brown portrays Palmerston as a politician with a commitment to moderate progress, who believed that power should remain in the hands of an enlightened aristocratic elite.

Brown has used archive material to good effect, for example in shedding new light on the reasons for his subject's unexpected decision to take the Home Office in the Aberdeen coalition of 1852-55, and in relating the complex manoeuvres which led to the formation of Palmerston's second government in 1859. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Graham Goodlad Has Enjoyed Two Biographies of Towering 19th-Century Political Figures
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.