Castlereagh: A Life

. 2012. 720p. 978-0-19993-159-0. 39.95.
Bew (war studies, King’s College London) has written a complex text reevaluating Anglo-Irish politician Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, later Lord Londonderry. An architect of the 1801 Act of Union that formally bound England and Ireland, Castlereagh was a leading figure in European diplomacy until his death in 1822. Bew has plenty of interesting ideas that might have given his narrative form; unfortunately, most of these are lost in the details of the Napoleonic conflict. The narrative sometimes ranges far from Castlereagh; readers looking for personal details will not find them. Those hoping for a study of Castlereagh’s relationship to contemporary Ireland will also be disappointed. After an examination of the Union, Bew moves to an Anglo- and Eurocentric story. The text is occasionally confusing; for example, Bew seems to indicate that Waterloo was fought in 1814, not 1815. Readers willing to follow Bew’s tangents will encounter an engaging history of Castlereagh’s political world.
VERDICT Castlereagh is best suited for academic libraries or collections where there is strong interest in the history of this period. Helpful chapter endnotes, as well as an exhaustive bibliography and index, provide a resource for further reading.

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