The Whig World by Leslie Mitchell - review by Philip Ziegler

Philip Ziegler

Did They Matter?

The Whig World


Hambledon and London 211pp £19.95

The Whig world in the second half of the eighteenth and in the early nineteenth century is hardly terra incognita for the historian. Its most eloquent evocation is still to be found in the opening chapters of David Cecil's biography of Lord Melbourne; a sublime piece of writing the force of which is only slightly diminished by its questionable relevance to the subject of the book. It is now more than sixty years since Marjorie Villiers tackled the same subject in The Grand Whiggery, a book which still holds much of value today. Since then there has been a deluge of studies of Whigs and Whiggism, displaying in particular an almost obsessive interest in the goings-on at Holland House and Devonshire House. It is therefore greatly to Leslie Mitchell's credit that he has contrived to write a book which is original, intelligent and crammed with interesting and entertaining detail.

‘As very specialised animals’, writes Mitchell, the Whigs ‘needed a parliamentary environment free of democratic restraints.’ They had won their reputation, and, incidentally, acquired much of their vast possessions, by sticking up for parliamentary rights against a would-be despotic monarch. They had claimed for themselves the banner of progress and

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