Modern British Prime Ministers from Balfour to Johnson : Volume 2 book cover
1st Edition

Modern British Prime Ministers from Balfour to Johnson
Volume 2

ISBN 9780367469177
Published November 23, 2021 by Routledge
340 Pages 24 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Dick Leonard’s Modern British Prime Ministers from Balfour to Johnson surveys the lives and careers of all the 24 Prime Ministers from Arthur Balfour to Boris Johnson in succinct, informative and entertaining chapters.

Bringing to life the political achievements and personal idiosyncrasies of Britain's rulers over the 20th and 21st 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, for example, which two Premiers, one Tory, one Labour were taught by the same governess as a child? Who was thrashed at his public school for writing pornography and later donated one-fifth of his wealth to the nation? Who was awarded a fourth-class degree at Oxford and went on to father eight children? Who was described by his son as ‘probably the greatest natural Don Juan in the history of British politics'?

This book can also form part of a two-volume set published by Routledge including the companion volume British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Salisbury: The 18th and 19th Centuries.  

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


1. Arthur Balfour: Bob’s your Uncle

2. Henry Campbell-Bannerman: "a good, honest Scotchman"

3. H. H. Asquith: Not quite in the Gladstone mould

4. David Lloyd George: "a dynamic force"

5. Andrew Bonar Law: Tory Puritan

6. Stanley Baldwin: "a man of the most utter insignificance"?

7. Ramsay MacDonald: An ‘aristocrat’ among plain men?

8. Neville Chamberlain: A family affair

9. Winston Churchill: His Finest Hour

10. Clement Attlee: Quiet Revolutionary

11. Anthony Eden: Self-destruction of a Prince Charming

12. Harold Macmillan: Idealist into Manipulator

13. Alec Douglas-Home: Right man, wrong Century?

14. Harold Wilson: Master - or victim - of the short term

15. Edward Heath: Cheerleader for Europe

16. James Callaghan: Labour's conservative

17. Margaret Thatcher: Grocer’s daughter to Iron Lady

18. John Major: "Thatcherism with a human face"

19. Tony Blair: Fallen idol

20. Gordon Brown: Dominant Chancellor, uncertain Premier

21. David Cameron: The accidental architect of Brexit

22. Theresa May: "a bloody difficult woman"?

23. Boris Johnson: Statesman or Buffoon?

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Dick Leonard was a journalist, historian and Member of Parliament. He spent the last two decades writing biographies of all the British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Johnson. He was Assistant Editor of The Economist for 12 years, and also worked for The Observer , the BBC, and the Fabian Society. There is a detailed description of Dick Leonard’s work, life and legacy available at


"Dick Leonard is the doyen of the history of British premiership. No one has his grasp of the lives and records of the men and two women who have been Prime Minister. This book is a unique source of illumination and delight."

Anthony Seldon, Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, UK.

"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