Gladstone and the Logic of Victorian Politics

Gladstone and the Logic of Victorian Politics

By Ian St John

Anthem Perspectives in History

This book analyses the career of William Gladstone, charting the key stages in his political development and the ideas and influences that shaped his conduct.

Paperback, 464 Pages


November 2010

£12.99, $22.95

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About This Book

This book provides a thorough analysis of the political career of William Gladstone, one of the most intriguing and controversial figures in modern British history. 'Gladstone and the Logic of Victorian Politics' captures the incredible richness and range of Gladstone's political journey, tracing his evolution from idealistic Tory defender of a theocratic Anglican state, through his transformation into Peelite financial administrator, reforming Liberal Prime Minister, populist champion of the 'masses against the classes', and culminating in his strenuous yet schismatic attempt to bring Home Rule to Ireland.  Each stage in Gladstone's development is fully assessed in the light both of recent historiographical debates and Gladstone's own complex reflections upon his own actions.

Throughout, serious attention is devoted to the intellectual processes that shaped Gladstone's political practice. Gladstone was unique, not merely in the longevity of his career, but in his determination to reason through his responses to problems in the light of his extensive reading, his study of ancient literature, and his profoundly held religious convictions.  As such this book provides an ideal entry point into the Victorian world and Gladstone's thinking about such questions as financial policy, the relevance of morality to foreign policy, the claims of national sentiment, Britain's responsibility as an imperial power, and the role of public opinion in policy making.  The conclusions he arrived at cannot be ignored by anyone interested in nineteenth century history – or, indeed, the political challenges confronting Britain and the world in the twenty-first century.


‘A lucid and clearly presented analysis of the ways in which scholars have approached and interpreted the great Victorian.’ —Eugenio F. Biagini, ‘Victorian Studies’

‘…St John provide[s] a detailed examination of the multiple turns and twists in Gladstone’s 60 plus years in public life. In the course of doing so he provides a thorough evaluation of the recent outpouring of Gladstonian literature. St John does this with assurance and welcome clarity...’ —Russ Foster, ‘History Review’

‘The author provides frequent summaries and analyses throughout the text. One can read the work straight through, but readers can also go to specific sections and find them clearly laid out and summarized. In this regard, it would well serve any academic community. Recommended.’ —P. T. Smith, Saint Joseph’s University, ‘Choice’

'In this lucid, clearly-organised and engaging study, Ian St John explores the intellectual convictions, religious beliefs and powerful impulses which shaped the complex temperament and extraordinary career of William Gladstone, the dominating political presence of 19th century Britain. Drawing on the latest research, St John presents a convincing and compelling portrait of the Victorian statesman who defined the aspirations and anxieties of his age, thereby providing a valuable and timely guide for all students of the period.' —Dr Angus Hawkins, Director, Public & International Programmes, Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford, England

'Ian St John’s earlier work on Disraeli gave ample evidence that here was an historian capable of reconciling the demands of scholarship and accessibility, and ‘Gladstone and the Logic of Victorian Politics’ more than repeats the feat. Integrating an analysis of high political manoeuvre with the life of both Gladstone’s mind and spirit, St John has produced a substantial volume which will reward the ambitious sixth former and undergraduate alike.' —David Cooper, Tutor to the Academic Scholars, Tonbridge School, England

Author Information

Ian St John has taught history at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School in Hertfordshire since 2000. His chief research interests are in Victorian history.


Anthem Perspectives in History

Table of Contents

Introduction; The Young Tory; From High Tory to Reforming Peelite 1841-51; The Struggle for Peelite Finance 1851-1855; Years of Decision 1855-59; Gladstonian Finance 1859-1866; The Ascent to Leadership 1865-1868; 'I Ascend a Steepening Path': Prime Minister 1868-74; Gladstone’s Foreign Policy 1868-1880; Gladstonian Liberalism; Gladstone's Second Government 1880-1885: Foreign and Domestic Policy; Gladstone and Ireland 1880-1885; Gladstone and Irish Home Rule; Gladstone, 1886-1898: Raging against the Dying of the Light; Gladstone: A Study in Victorian Dialectic; Notes; Bibliography; Index


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