Palmerston: 'The People's Darling' by James Chambers - review by Nigel Jones

Nigel Jones

The Potato Peer Who Knew No Fear

Palmerston: 'The People's Darling'

By

John Murray 564pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

IF BRITAIN WAS the global superpower of the nineteenth century, then Lord Palmerston was its Teddy Roosevelt - he spoke softly, carried a big stick, and if he needed to (he rarely did) was not afraid to use it. In our guilt-ridden, powerless, post-colonial days, Palmerston is, frankly, an embarrassment. The man most identified with the concept of gunboat diplomacy, who sent a fleet to blockade Greece's ports just because Don Pacifico, a Gibraltar-born Portuguese Jew with British citizenship, had had his house torched in a riot and claimed inflated compensation, is hardly a role model - or is he?

The great merit of James Chambers's wonderfully fresh and fluent biography is that, without turning our preconceptions and prejudices on their heads, he pulls Palmerston out of the lumber room of history, dusts the old boy down, and places him on a pedestal upon which we can consider him from

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter