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William Pitt the Younger Hardcover – February 8, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1ST edition (February 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040523
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040520
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Late-eighteenth-century politician William Pitt the Younger was the youngest (at 24) and longest-serving British prime minister. Beyond those facts, historical opinion varies--some scholars regard him as a reformer, and others as a reactionary, a debate that inspirits Michael Turner's Pitt the Younger (2003). Hague's biography differs from Turner's by muting interpretive issues and amplifying the day-to-day events in a life permeated by politics. Pitt's personal life remains enigmatic, and Hague acknowledges Pitt's elusiveness even as he attempts to ascertain whether he was an alcoholic or a homosexual. More certain is Pitt's ability as a leader and orator of the House of Commons, an institution the author himself knows well; he was the Conservative Party's former debating antagonist of Labour leader Tony Blair. Hague's experience adds convincing power to his account of Pitt's career, explaining how he remained ascendant for so long. A thorough biography, Hague's work is also an able contribution to British parliamentary history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Praise for William Pitt the Younger

"Mr. Hague covers Pitt's career with elegance and panache. . . [he] has written a very fine biography of this immensely important figure in British history." -- Martin Hutchinson, The Wall Street Journal


"William Hague's book is a model of orderly exposition and narration. . . Anyone really interested in British history or in politics ought to read it." --Frank Wilson, The Philadelphia Inquirer


Praise from England:

“Even if [Pitt] were a 15th book, not a maiden effort, it should rate admiration as a first-class work of history; informative, well written and captivating.” —Alistair Horne, The Times London

“A serious yet readable shorter life was much needed, and Hague has pulled this challenge off, making Pitt his own. He delivers not only a shrewd political biography, full of sharp analysis, but also a sensitive portrait of one of our most enigmatic heroes.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore, Daily Telegraph

“One of the most enjoyable biographies for years . . . In William Hague, Pitt has found the modern biographer he merits: the youngest Conservative leader of the last 200 years has written a fine biography of the youngest Prime Minister of them all. If you buy only one political biography this year, then make it this one. It will not be bettered.” —John Major, Mail on Sunday

“Hague has a competent understanding of the international background, a good eye for the revealing quotation, and knows how to keep his reader entertained.”
John Adamson, The Sunday Telegraph

“It is a substantial, handsomely illustrated work, primarily based on printed sources, but with a respectable amount of archival seasoning . . . What makes the book such an engrossing and stimulating read is the author’s passion for and understanding of politics, especially parliamentary politics.” —Brendam Simms, Sunday Times

“Hague’s description of how Pitt dealt with the knig’s episodes of insanity, and the avid expectations of the Whigs should George III become permanently insane, is one of the perceptive chapters in the book. Hague deserves an accolade for redressing [people’s] ignorance [of Pitt]. He has written a serious, detailed and thoughtfull study of one of Britain’s greatest prime ministers.” —Shirley Williams, The Guardian

"Very well written, and narrated with a finely attuned sense of the politically dramatic." --Andrew Roberts, The Evening Standard

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Customer Reviews

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It's such a well written and researched book.
DAVID MILLER
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I recommend it to anyone interested in the development of British politics.
Amazon Customer
Hague's prose style is precise and flows very smoothly.
Leonard Fleisig

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
From Which the World Should Note Something Particular. Shakespeare.

There was something astonishingly particular about William Pitt the Younger. The second son of the Earl of Chatham (Pitt the Elder) was a child prodigy. He was admitted to Cambridge at age 14, elected to Parliament at age 21 and appointed Prime Minister at age 24. Twenty-two years later, of which twenty were spent as Prime Minister, Pitt died at age 46.

William Hague was something of a prodigy himself. He gave his first major political address at a Conservative Party Conference in 1977 at age 16. Hague was elected to Parliament at age 28 and became the Conservative Party's leader at age 36, the youngest party leader in 200 years. Hague's rhetorical skills, like Pitt the Younger, are excellent. Some observers (not all of them Conservatives) believed that Hague regularly bested Labour P.M. Tony Blair in debates in the House of Commons. After a losing the 2001 general election and the leadership of his party Hague was asked to write his Memoirs. He indicated that an autobiography was approximately 40 years premature and sat down to write the biography of his idol Pitt the Younger instead.

Hague has done an excellent job here. Although meticulously researched this is a readable, popular biography. Hague's prose style is precise and flows very smoothly.

Hague quickly takes us through Pitts early years and the events surrounding his first election to Parliament. His impact on Parliament was soon felt and within two years King George III twice asked Pitt to form a new government. It was only when Pitt was certain that he could maintain control of a new government that Pitt accepted the King's offer when it was made for the third time.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Susan Smith on February 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
William Hague's biography of Pitt the Younger has excited much comment and interest in the UK because Hague was one of the youngest men ever to lead a major political party. As Leader of the Conservative Party in the UK he most certainly had his troubles but he did bring a breath of clean air by virtue of his freshness, commitment and youth. Therefore, it might be fair to say that his own perspective on Pitt would be of exceptional value.

However, he has succeeded in writing a very straightforward and excellently researched biography of Pitt without overlaying his own experiences and views. This is excellent because I wanted to read a biography, not a polemic.

Pitt was the son of one of the most famous politicians of the 18th or any century - William Pitt the Elder. As a young boy he was brought up in an environment saturated with politics and coloured by scholarship and academia. He became one of the most polished parliamentary debaters the world has ever seen and his success was down to a firm grounding in how to argue.

I am particularly interested in the period during which he served as prime minister: the 1780s to 1806. This was a time of great change in Britain: the industrial revolution, the end of the American wars, increased economic successes, the upheaval in France and the inevitable "world war" of Napoleon. Also, there were new liberal ideas coming forth: Catholic emanicipation, an Irish parliament, an end to slavery. Pitt's remarkable achievement was that his sound fiscal acumen allowed Britain to stay solvent, able to afford (just) the long, long Napoleonic wars, whilst at the same time keeping a lid on a fractious Parliament dominated by himself and the always fascinating Charles James Fox.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a rule, I believe that Americans would be better off if they read and understood more about history. It is important to read widely enough, both in breadth of scope and time, to provide a rich and useful understanding of how things have become what they are. While we cannot read everything, let alone retain it all in our memory, there are certain times, events, and even single lives that can provide valuable structure to our understanding of the world.

In my view, knowing more about the history of Great Britain can help Americans understand more about our origins as a nation, provide a richer context for our founding, get a better fix on our own place in the world through time, and how we grew into a dominant power in the world. This particularly fine biography of William Pitt the Younger concerns itself with the time immediately after Britain's American Colonies became the United States up to Pitt's death in 1806 in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars.

This is an especially rich time in history because everything was in flux and so much was at risk. The French Revolution of 1789 soon became The Terror. Great Britain struggled to recover from the blow of losing her American Colonies and putting herself forward as a still relevant global power. The United States actually benefited in many ways from the Europeans being so absorbed in fighting each other in these decades. However, that is a story for another time.

William Pitt the Younger was the extraordinary second son of the also extraordinary William Pitt. The father dominated the House of Commons for many years including the time during the American Revolution. He was universally loved as The Great Commoner and retired as a Lord.
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