Shirley Williams: The Biography

Shirley Williams: The Biography

Hardback

By (author) Mark Peel

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  • Publisher: Biteback
  • Format: Hardback | 450 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 45mm | 755g
  • Publication date: 12 September 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1849546045
  • ISBN 13: 9781849546041
  • Sales rank: 704,003

Product description

For fifty years Shirley Williams has been one of Britain's best-known and best-loved politicians, admired for her warmth, sincerity, integrity and compassion. Hailing from an impeccable intellectual background, the young Shirley seemed destined for great things as she rose effortlessly up the political ladder. Yet for all the talk of her becoming the country's first female Prime Minister that accolade passed her by, her feisty independence earning her a career that has been anything but perpetual sunshine. In this first-ever biography, Mark Peel explores the dilemma that has faced Williams throughout the highs and lows of her political life: how to tread the line between firmly held principles and party solidarity. Drawing on his unfettered access to the family archive and conversations with Williams's colleagues, Peel skilfully teases out the contradictions at the heart of this remarkable character. Shirley Williams: The Biography reveals the surprisingly vulnerable figure behind the reassuring public facade. It uncovers the expectations placed on Williams by her highly ambitious parents, her guilt about her privileged background, and her often tumultuous personal relationships. The result is a touching, intimate portrait of one of the most complex and popular politicians of our time, a woman who through good times and bad has retained her essential humanity.

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Author information

After Harrow and Edinburgh University, where he read History, Mark Peel taught History and Politics at Fettes between 1983 and 2007, much enjoying the life of an all-round schoolmaster. His previous books include England Expects: A Life of Ken Barrington (winner of the 1993 Cricket Society Literary Award), The Land of Lost Content: A Biography of Anthony Chenevix-Trench; Cricketing Falstaff: A Biography of Colin Milburn; The Last Roman: A Biography of Colin Cowdrey and The Last Wesleyan: A Life of Donald Soper. A keen sportsman, Mark Peel runs the AllSorts Cricket Club.

Review quote

'Mark Peel has given the reader a most perceptive insight into the personality of someone who is probably the UK's favourite politician, but combined it with an equally comprehensive account of the political events which have shaped her career and her influence over them.' Sir Menzies Campbell MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats 'Mark Peel, an experienced biographer, offers fresh insights into Shirley Williams's public and private lives in a readable and perceptive account. He explains both her long-lasting popular appeal and also why she did not achieve more as a minister and politician.' Rt Hon. Peter Riddell CBE, Director of the Institute for Government 'Nearly everyone possessing an interest in British politics has a certain idea of Shirley Williams - a constant and distinctive presence in public life for half a century. They will know her far better once they have finished Mark Peel's fascinating, fine and sensitive biography.' Lord Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History '[An] Admirable biography.' Choice 'Mark Peel is a sensitive biographer, and this book is very good on the woman behind the public facade and the dilemmas she faced, not only as a mother and a wife, but also as a politician, and why she has never quite achieved what was expected of her.' The Good Book Guide "The author recounts a life which began in the shadow of her parents - and which proceeded through the bear pit of British politics while still maintaining her humanity." Cheshire Life "Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum." London Review of Books "Mark Peel's biography of Shirley Williams is sympathetic, well written and well researched." The New Statesman