Book in the news: Rees-Mogg's mind-bogglingly banal work of self-promotion

Book review: The VictoriansJacob Rees-Mogg makes little effort in this uninteresting and badly written run through of the usual Victorian suspects.


Twelve Titans Who Forged Britain

WH Allen (£20)

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Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, well known for his traditional views on contemporary issues, here attempts to provide "a reassuring narrative of past British greatness through the lives of 11 men and one woman", says Kim Wagner in The Observer. These "titans" include the "usual suspects" Palmerston, Pugin, Gladstone and Disraeli who are "entirely defined by the fact that they were first and foremost Victorians whose every thought and action was representative of what the author takes to be particular Victorian' virtues".

This claims to be a work of history, but it is more self-promotion, says AN Wilson in The Times. Rees-Mogg's determination to draw parallels with the present means that "Peel's decision to abolish the corn laws becomes a parable about the European Research Group's patriotic decision to face down the Tory wets". Similarly, the constitutional lawyer Albert Dicey is included solely because he thought he could stop home rule by an appeal to the "people" via a referendum.

It is "mind-bogglingly banal", says Dominic Sandbrook in The Sunday Times. Rees-Mogg's "potted biographies" lack detail, and are not even interesting to read as he makes "no effort to create a sense of colour, incident or momentum". Even the "recondite classical allusions, florid turns of phrase [and] witty asides in Latin" that you might expect are absent. There "have been many books on the Victorians, but surely none as badly written" as this.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

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