by John Bew
No British statesman of the nineteenth century reached the same level of international fame as Lord Castlereagh, or won as much respect from the great powers of Europe or America.
Yet no British statesman has been so maligned by his contemporaries or hated by the public. His career took him from the brutal suppression of a bloody rebellion in Ireland to the splendour of Vienna and Paris.
He imprisoned his former friends, abolished the Irish parliament, created the biggest British army in history, and redrew the map of Europe. At a time when the West turns from idealism to realism in its foreign policy, Castlereagh's reputation is being revived.
Yet neither his detractors nor his defenders have truly understood this shy, inarticulate but sometimes passionate man. In this book, John Bew tells the story of Castlereagh from the French Revolution through the Irish rebellion, the Napoleonic Wars, the diplomatic power struggles of 1814-5 and the mental breakdown that ended his life. John Bew paints a magisterial portrait not only of his subject but the tumultuous times in which he acted. Rather than the tyrant of legend, Castlereagh was a man whose mind captured the complexity of the European Enlightenment as much as any other.
His mind was conservative and enlightened at the same time - and no less the one for being the other.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 582 pages, 2 x 8pp colour plates
- Publisher: Quercus Publishing
- Publication Date: 22/09/2011
- Category: Biography: historical, political & military
- ISBN: 9780857381866
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Review by liamfoley
John Bew’s biography of Castlereagh details why he was so disliked by Whigs and Irish Nationalists alike but goes a long way to rehabilitating Britain’s greatest Foreign Secretary (and best Prime Minister She never had). Based largely on primary sources from PRONI this new biography portrays a man who possessed intelligence and education beyond what was portrayed by his political enemies, it portrays a man who was sympathetic to Catholic Emancipation which he felt the 1801 Union would have brought about. He is portrayed as a canny negotiator in international affairs and a good judge of men. He insisted on the promotion of Wellesley to command the Peninsula Campaign thereby launching the career of the other great Anglo Irish leader of the first half of the 19th Century. A very enjoyable book and essential reading for those who want to understand the era.