Castlereagh: The Biography of a Statesman

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9780857388407: Castlereagh: The Biography of a Statesman
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Hardly is a figure more maligned in British history than Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh. One of the central figures of the Napoleonic Era and the man primarily responsible for fashioning Britain's strategy at the Congress of Vienna, Castlereagh was widely respected by the great powers of Europe and America, yet despised by his countrymen and those he sought to serve. A shrewd diplomat, he is credited with being one of the first great practitioners of Realpolitik and its cold-eyed and calculating view of the relations between nations. Over the course of his career, he crushed an Irish rebellion and abolished the Irish parliament, imprisoned his former friends, created the largest British army in history, and redrew the map of Europe.

Today, Castlereagh is largely forgotten except as a tyrant who denied the freedoms won by the French and American revolutions. John Bew's fascinating biography restores the statesman to his place in history, offering a nuanced picture of a shy, often inarticulate figure whose mind captured the complexity of the European Enlightenment unlike any other. Bew tells a gripping story, beginning with the Year of the French, when Napoleon sent troops in support of a revolution in Ireland, and traces Castlereagh's evolution across the Napoleonic Wars, the diplomatic power struggles of 1814-15, and eventually the mental breakdown that ended his life. Skillfully balancing the dimensions of Castlereagh's intellectual life with his Irish heritage, Bew's definitive work brings Castleragh alive in all his complexity, variety, and depth.

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About the Author:


John Bew is Reader in History and Foreign Policy at the War Studies Department at King's College London. He is also Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence and runs the Foreign Policy Research Group at King's. He writes for the Irish Times, London Review of Books, Spectator, Parliamentary Brief, Standpoint and Times Higher Education Supplement. This is his fourth book.

Review:


"A magisterial guide to Castlereagh's life that should inform the general understanding of international politics today." --Brendan Simms, Foreign Affairs


"In a totally different genre, the best political biography of the year for my taste is John Bew's Castlereagh, a penetrating account of this supercilious and depressive Anglo-Irish nobleman who directed English foreign policy with consummate skill and intelligence in the final years and immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, making himself the most hated man in England and ending up by killing himself." --The Spectator


"Bew's book is not only unparalleled in its size and sweep; it is also drenched in the Irish dimension, enriched by the author's own Ulster heritage, as well as the sagacity, scholarship and charm that make this a Life so nearly complete that it need never be written again." --Ferdinand Mount, Times Literary Supplement


"In this well-researched and judicious book, John Bew successfully readjusts the picture...this excellent biography tells a cautionary tale."--Literary Review


"John Bew has some heavy lifting to do in this consciously revisionist take. It is a great testament to his skills as a scholar and writer that he manages to do so with such aplomb ...stellar." --Tristram Hunt, Daily Telegraph


"More than simply a biography of Castlereagh, it is a fascinating review of the war against Napoleon and authoritative assessment of the personalities involved in the Congress of Vienna and the issues they wrestled with in remoulding the face of Europe.... This is a book that offers insights not only into its subject but the nature and practice of diplomacy, statecraft,nationalism and internationalism." --Irish Independent


"In a formidable biography, John Bew has addressed the reputation of Castlereagh, one of the dominant political personalities of Regency Britain." --Rt. Hon. Keith Simpson MP, Total Politics Books of 2011.


"Monumental." --Mark D'Arcy, BBC Political Books of the Year.


"John Bew is the outstanding historian of his generation. His biography of Castlereagh displays a knowledge of character, a grasp of political intrigue and a talent for story-telling any writer would envy. He brings magnificently to life one of the most enigmatic, and influential, statesmen in Britain's history." --Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, UK Education Secretary


"Bew is above all a very fine historian, very thorough and an extremely good writer -- he tells a damn good story." --Rt. Hon. Stephen Pound MP, BBC Booktalk


"In a totally different genre, the best political biography of the year for my taste is John Bew's Castlereagh, a penetrating account of this supercilious and depressive Anglo-Irish nobleman who directed English foreign policy with consummate skill and intelligence in the final years and immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, making himself the most hated man in England and ending up by killing himself." --The Spectator


"[A] detailed and accessible biography." --Journal of Modern History


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