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Pitt the Elder (British Lives)

por Jeremy Black

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This book offers a readable yet scholarly account of the life of one of the greatest statesmen of empire, William Pitt the Elder, First Earl of Chatham (1708-78). Chatham is seen as a political outsider who rose to direct British policy in the Seven Years War, the crucial struggle that gave Canada to Britain. A critic of domestic corruption, he was subsequently a champion of American liberties. Chatham's achievement was all the more remarkable for a politician who was dogged for much of his life by poor physical health and considerable mental stress. His position as an outsider was crucial: it helped make his reputation, and to make him an unsettling figure. It also caused problems when he gained office, but it ensured Chatham was and seemed, 'different'. He was a man with whom the national interest could be associated, not simply because he made the claim himself, but also because he seemed apart from the world of court and connection.… (mais)
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I got this book because I was hoping for insight on the English governments attitudes and positions on the American colonies, and wikipedia told me this guy was the in charge of them in the years preceding the American revolution. The stories I learned in school on the formation of my country don't match how I know politics really works - i was hoping the life of a key MP involved could give me some nice under the hood meat on what really went down. I read the whole book - maybe the last 40 pages had some elements of what I wanted.

The positives are I learned allot about the 7 years war, and the struggles between parliament and the crown on how to execute the war, which is something I knew almost nothing about, and which did directly cause/influence the American revolution. I got a ton on how slimy politicians manipulated one another in the 18th century, which was fun, the more things change the more they stay the same. I got a lot of info on how the end of the 7 years war was negotiated, which is fun to compare to WW1, WW2, the various Napoleonic wars that come later. Things were done differently back then and you can see the traps they set for themselves in the future.

The negatives are that Pitt is mostly described by his contentious relationships to other greater men who themselves are left mostly undescribed. If you have a good background knowledge of Pitt and the important people of his era I can see how this book would be a nice exploration of the man's reputation and how exactly he weaseled his way into all the 'great deeds' he is credited with by history. It is very academic and well researched which I appreciate but I wasn't looking really for the information in this book. Also a negative is that Pitt is quite hatable but somehow beloved, the details of which are explained but it can be a frustrating topic to read about.

Consider why you want to read this book - if its for leisure or as a survey of the times I recommend finding something else. ( )
  Giganticon | Dec 17, 2020 |
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This book offers a readable yet scholarly account of the life of one of the greatest statesmen of empire, William Pitt the Elder, First Earl of Chatham (1708-78). Chatham is seen as a political outsider who rose to direct British policy in the Seven Years War, the crucial struggle that gave Canada to Britain. A critic of domestic corruption, he was subsequently a champion of American liberties. Chatham's achievement was all the more remarkable for a politician who was dogged for much of his life by poor physical health and considerable mental stress. His position as an outsider was crucial: it helped make his reputation, and to make him an unsettling figure. It also caused problems when he gained office, but it ensured Chatham was and seemed, 'different'. He was a man with whom the national interest could be associated, not simply because he made the claim himself, but also because he seemed apart from the world of court and connection.

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