book-reviews

William Pitt the Younger

by Eric J. Evans

Rating: ★★★

This Lancaster Pamphlets publication covers the life of Britain's youngest ever Prime Minister, a figure who can in many ways be considered an archetypical troubled prodigy. Evans writes engagingly enough about his topic, but the coverage is more introductory than in-depth, and the book seems to be of more use as a starting point for the interested student.

There are many things such a student could follow up on. Operating in a time of political change as Pitt was, his biography touches on a number of broader movements which can be followed -- from the growing power of the political party to the rush of liberal radicalism provoked by the French Revolution. More closely, Pitt encountered a number of interesting characters in British politics, and their own biographies are suggested as appropriate further reading.

The sense of the man is one of a ideological moderate, preferred over others as a compromise, who was also capable enough to improve the effectiveness of Parliament. That said, the book more often talks of Pitt being plagued by failures and disasters than successful policies -- the war with France which negated Pitt's fiscal responsibility, and the hamstrung issue of Irish government. Evans tells us more than shows us that Pitt was a good leader.

As an introductory text for someone interested in the period or the man, this volume is highly suitable and readable. It lacks the detail that a serious student would expect, and the political rather than personal approach means it is unlikely to be interesting to someone not reading for historical interest.