Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832

Boyd Hilton
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The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November that 'The beginning of reform is beginning of revolution' to 7 June , when William IV reluctantly assented to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. Wider themes of Irish and 'negro emancipation' underscore the narrative. The book is character driven; we learn of the Whig aristocrats prepared to whittle away their own power to bring liberty to the country, the all-too-conservative opposition who included the intransigent Duchess of Kent and Queen Adelaide and finally the 'revolutionaries' like William Cobbett, author of Rural Rides.

These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid dramatic life. Lord Grey - the idealistic older statesman with his tight-fitting white pantaloons - emerges as an unexpected hero.

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The parallels with today are glaring and the lessons still only partially learned, the consequences as yet not fully redeemed. The brilliance of Fraser is that she sees everything first in human terms - this is history made by people for people and it's the people that dance, posture and rise with a moving grandeur off the page. Fraser draws them all with her usual deft hand and dramatic instinct.

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She does a wonderful job here, describing and explaining the events surrounding the Great Reform Bill of , which was Britain's belated response to the events of the French Revolution. It was far from perfect in terms of how many more people received the vote, but it almost certainly avoided a full-blooded insurrection. Antonia Fraser's work transforms our understanding of it. This is the best history book I have read so far this year. When you have read it, you will not only have grasped all the twists and turns of one of the great parliamentary adventures of history, you will also feel as if you have spent the most entertaining week at a Whig house-party.

What a slice of human drama, how tense, how crucial and how very nearly it could have foundered, thereby propelling our nation into riot and revolution.

For that we need impeccable historian Antonia Fraser, who invests such humanity in her huge cast of characters. David Lagercrantz.

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The parts which documented the wheeling and dealing to get the act through parliament were very good. Grey gave office to one son, three sons-in-law and two brothers-in-law, not to mention numerous cousins. Eric Lomax. Agatha Christie. Books by Antonia Fraser.

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May 3, A struggle, sometimes murderously violent, was fought for the reform bill. Is this study of it too aristocratic? By John Barrell. Editorial Reviews. Review. The New Yorker “Fraser writes energetically about the political.

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Perilous Question, by Antonia Fraser— review

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Would you like us to take another look at this review? No, cancel Yes, report it Thanks! The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November that 'The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution', to 7th June , the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill, under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country.

These events led to a total change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to life. By continuing to visit this site, you agree to the use of cookies for statistical purposes.