British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Salisbury: The 18th and 19th Centuries : Volume 1 book cover
1st Edition

British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Salisbury: The 18th and 19th Centuries
Volume 1

ISBN 9780367469115
Published September 24, 2020 by Routledge
446 Pages 32 Color & 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Dick Leonard’s British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Salisbury: The 18th and 19th Centuries surveys the lives and careers of all the 32 Prime Ministers from Sir Robert Walpole (1721–42) to Archibald Philip Primrose, fifth Earl of Rosebery (1894–95), in 32 succinct, informative and entertaining chapters.

Bringing to life the political achievements and personal idiosyncrasies of Britain's rulers over the 18th and 19th centuries, the author recounts the circumstances which took them to the pinnacle of British political life, probes their political and personal strengths and weaknesses, assesses their performance in office and asks what lasting influence they have had. Along the way Leonard entertains and informs, revealing little-known facts about the private lives of each of the Prime Ministers, such as who was suspected to be an illegitimate half-brother of George III, who was assassinated in the House of Commons, and who spent his evenings prowling the streets of London, trying to "reform" prostitutes.

This book can also form part of a two-volume set published by Routledge including the companion volume Modern British Prime Ministers from Balfour to Johnson.

This book will be of key interest to scholars, students and readers of British political history, the Executive, government and British politics.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Road to the Prime Ministership

PART I: The 18th Century

1. Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford: "All these men have their price"

2. Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington: "George II’s favourite nonentity"

3. Henry Pelham: Pragmatic heir to Walpole

4. Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle: Mighty Panjamdrum, feeble Premier

5. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire: "I have no motive but the King’s service"

6. John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute: The King’s "dearest friend"

7. George Grenville: Able Premier, undermined by his own prolixity

8. Charles Wentworth-Watson, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham: The conscience of the Whigs

9. William Pitt, the Elder, 1st Earl of Chatham: "I am sure that I can save this country, and that nobody else can"

10. Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton: Well-intentioned dilettante

11. Frederick North, styled Lord North: Outstanding parliamentarian, pity about the colonies…

12. William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne: Intellectual in Politics

13. William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland: Twice a figurehead

14. William Pitt, the Younger: Reformer Turned Reactionary?

PART II: The 19th Century

15. Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth: Better than his Reputation?

16. William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville: Not Quite 'All the Talents'

17. Spencer Perceval: Struck Down in his Prime

18. Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool: Keeping the Show on the Road

19. George Canning: In the Footsteps of Pitt

20. Frederick John Robinson, Viscount Goderich, 1st Earl of Ripon: Inadequate Stopgap

21. Arthur Wesley (Wellesley), 1st Duke of Wellington: Military Hero, Political Misfit?

22. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey: In the Footsteps of Fox

23. William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne: Mentor to a Young Monarch

24. Sir Robert Peel: Arch Pragmatist or Tory Traitor?

25. Lord John Russell, 1st Earl Russell: From Whig to Liberal

26. Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby: 'The Brilliant Chief, Irregularly Great'

27. George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen: Failure or Scapegoat?

28. Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston: Master Diplomat or Playground Bully?

29. Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield: Climbing 'the Greasy Pole'

30. William Ewart Gladstone: From 'Stern Unbending Tory' to 'The People's William'

31. Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury: Skilful Opponent of Reform

32. Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery: Seeking 'the Palm without the Dust'

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Dick Leonard is a journalist, author and former Labour MP. He was Assistant Editor of The Economist for 12 years, and has also worked for The Observer, the BBC, the Fabian Society, the Centre for European Policy Studies and the Publishers Association.


"A great resource for students, scholars and the general public alike. It contains essential information on the prime ministers as leaders but also as people: how they ended up in the role, their character, achievements and weaknesses … as well as providing fascinating insights into the broader political issues of their time." – Oliver Daddow, University of Nottingham, UK

"Dick Leonard's book on British Prime Ministers is an excellent account of the changing role of the premiership in UK politics, and the twists and turns of political life. The book is of great interest to the general reader, but also a fantastic undergraduate and postgraduate teaching resource." – Patrick Diamond, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

"A terrific read and also a major contribution to public debate." – David Marquand, University of Oxford, UK