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'Lively and entertaining... [Disraeli's Grand Tour] concentrates on one colourful episode, or sequence of episodes, in the young Disraeli's life: the tour through the Mediterranean and Near East which he undertook with the man who was intended to become his brother-in-law. On the way they were joined by raffish Wykhamist James Clay, a friend of Disraeli's brother, and also by Tita Falcieri, who had formerly been a servant to Byron. Indeed... much of the tour might almost be considered a Byronic pilgrimage of a kind... Lord Blake suggests that [Disraeli's] travels in the provinces of the Ottoman Empire inclined him, when in office many years later, to take a more favourable attitude to Turkish power than was common among Englishmen of his time. However, the author is more interested in tracing the effects of the visit to the Holy Land on Disraeli's view of his own position as a Jew converted to Christianity and an aspirant man-of-letters and politician.' Dan Jacobson, London Review of Books
In his preface Robert Blake writes, 'The title of this book is taken from a remark attributed to Asquith after he had attended Bonar Law's funeral in Westminster Abbey. ''It is fitting,'' he is reputed to have said, ''that we should have buried the Unknown Prime Minister by the side of the Unknown Soldier.'' I have used this phrase, not because I consider that Asquith's remark was either just or true, but because, however unfairly, it has come to be the verdict of most people today. Even in his own lifetime Bonar Law's origins, career, character, and the reasons for his success acquired something of an aura of mystery which the passage of time has done nothing to remove. It is my hope that this book may dispel that erroneous impression.' It does. Neither flamboyant nor possessed of the statesmanship of Lloyd George or Winston Churchill, Bonar Law nevertheless was a remarkably successful politician, especially a party politician. Before his brief Premiership in 1922-23, he had been the Leader of the Conservative Party for eleven years from 1911 and in that time had played a vital part in almost every political issue. During the 1914-18 war his role was crucial. It was his decision which brought about the first coalition of 1915 and the exclusion of Winston Churchill from the Admiralty. He was largely responsible for the withdrawal from the Dardanelles and the overthrow of Asquith in 1916. It was his support that allowed Lloyd George to become Prime Minister and it was the withdrawal of that support that led to the end of the Coalition Government in 1922. The fact that the Conservative Party survived the chaotic war years, unlike the Liberal Party, and survived with an outlook sufficiently enlightened to cope not inadequately with the problems of the post-war era, was the achievement of Bonar Law more than any other single person. By nature melancholy, this disposition was aggravated by personal tragedy: first his wife died and then his two elder sons were killed in 1917. For all that he remained someone who inspired affection in such otherwise diverse characters as Lloyd George, F. E. Smith (Lord Birkenhead), John Maynard Keynes, Edward Carson and Lord Beaverbrook.
First published in 1966, Robert Blake's biography of Disraeli is one of the supreme political biographies of the last hundred years. An outsider, a nationalist, a European, a Romantic and a Tory - Disraeli's story is an extraordinary one. Born in 1804, the grandson of an immigrant Italian Jew, he became leader of the Conservative Party and was twice Prime Minister. Famous for the 1867 Reform Act, his purchasing of the Suez Canal and his diplomatic triumphs at the Congress of Berlin, he was also the creator of the political novel and, in Sybil, wrote the major 'Condition of England' work of fiction. 'An outstandingly successful biography . . . Disraeli has never been brought so vividly to life.' Sir Philip Magnus, Daily Telegraph 'A huge, scholarly and remarkably readable work which makes us revise vast tracts of our assumptions about nineteenth-century politics.' Sir Michael Howard, Sunday Times 'A book that people will still be reading in fifty years' time and long after.' Times Literary Supplement
There was no more appropriate person to write this book. Robert Blake was the doyen of Tory historians being most famous for his unsurpassed biography of Disraeli (to be reissued in Faber Finds). His history of the Conservative Party was first published in 1970. It then went as far as Churchill. A subsequent edition took it up to Thatcher and the final edition, the one being reissued by Faber Finds, to Major. For the span it covers, it remains the definitive one-volume history. 'His consummate insight into the whole of the political scene, and his power to communicate the enjoyment of it, makes this exciting reading for anyone remotely interested in British political and social history, or even in the English character.' Sunday Times 'This book is full of insights and enriched throughout by sparkling commentary' Evening Standard 'An up-to-date history of the Party was wanted. Mr Blake supplies it with lucidity, scholarship and serene worldliness' Guardian
Winston Churchill is probably still the best-known Prime Minster of Great Britain. Born at Blenheim Palace, he joined the army after Harrow, but in 1899 resigned his commission to report on the Boer War. Elected to Parliament in 1900, he served in both Conservative and Liberal governments, and became Chancellor of the Exechequer under Baldwin, A period in the political wilderness was ended by the declaration of the Second World War and his appointment to the Admiralty; after Chamberlain's resignation in 1940 he led a coalition government. He worked closely with Roosevelt and to a lesser degree with Stalin throughout the war. He lost the election of 1945 but became Prime Minister again from 1951 to 1955. His last years saw a return to writing, including his memoirs of the Second World War.