free Curzon: Imperial StatesmanAuthor David Gilmour – Clinback.co
Gilmour has a difficult task Curzon was a paragon of the empire man of the 19th century British world It meant that he felt compelled to a life of state service, and while in India conscientiously did things that were for the 19th century progressively minded, married to and supported by an American heiress and father of daughters who were social stars one of them marrying Oswald Mosley, the others orbiting around him like moths For a modern reader, this is also a path that, in retrospect, is bigoted, backwards, imperial and behind many of the disastrous policies Britain pursued with the people it ruled Curzon, like his relative Kipling, had the experience of living through the height of the world for which he had been formed, and then seeing it crash on WWI and spiral into unstable democracies and moves to decolonize, snatching the final levels of promotion out of his grasp. Elegant Biography A Fast Moving, Entertaining, And Finely Written Story Simon Schama,The New YorkerGeorge Nathaniel Curzon S Controversial Life In Public Service Stretched From The High Noon Of His Country S Empire To The Traumatized Years Following World War I As Viceroy Of India Under Queen Victoria And Foreign Secretary Under King George V, The Obsessive Lord Curzon Left His Unmistakable Mark On The Era David Gilmour S Award Winning Book Is A Brilliant Assessment Of Curzon S Character And Achievements, Offering A Richly Dramatic Account Of The Infamous Long Vendettas, The Turbulent Friendships, And The Passionate, Risky Love Affairs That Complicated And Enriched His LifeBorn Into The Ruling Class Of What Was Then The World S Greatest Power, Curzon Was A Fervent Believer In British Imperialism Who Spent His Life Proving He Was Fit For The Task Often Seen As Arrogant And Tempestuous, He Was Loathed As Much As He Was Adored, His Work Disparaged As Much As It Was Admired In Gilmour S Well Rounded Appraisal, Curzon Is Seen As A Complex, Tragic Figure, A Gifted Leader Who Saw His Imperial World Overshadowed At The Dawn Of Democracy My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,I am a most superior person,My cheek is pink, my hair is sleek,I dine at Blenheim once a week.George Curzon was not a man who harboured doubts about his abilities He was a hugely able and talented man, but suffered from the imperial outlook common to many men of his background and time He saw Britain s status and future greatness as being inextricably linked to the fortunes of the Empire.Curzon was one of the three great British Proconsuls of the Empire at the turn of the century alongside Cromer and Milner In his younger days he travelled extensively through Afghanistan and Central Asia and was supremely well qualified for the post of Indian Viceroy.In the end he didn t have quite the successful political career that had originally been expected In many ways he seemed quite na ve and perhaps too straightforward to deal with the wily shameless machinations of politicians such as Lloyd George He was very abrupt and even though he tended to be right on many policy issues he upset too many people along the way.This biography is a bold attempt to resuscitate his reputation from the biographical hatchet jobs of earlier years 600 pages is probably about as much as one would want to read on this, but it is very well written and gives an interesting perspective on the workings of empire and the British government It works very well as a companion piece to Roger Owen s biography of Cromer.He seemed to share with some notable exceptions Kipling s essentialist East is East view of the populations he governed However, some recent US presidents and British Prime Ministers might have done well to lookclosely at the history of the British Empire and take heed of some advice from Curzon the normal Asiatic would sooner be misgoverned by Asiatics than well governed by Europeans. First, let me begin by saying that this is a well written and thorough biography of a crucial British political figure in the early 20th century That said Curzon was famous as a hard nosed, stubborn and brutal Viceroy of India for the British Empire He rarely got along with people, except for the numerous women he seduced and discarded, and ended up being politically neutralized within his own party for his gruff manner And this biography bends over backwards to rehabilitate Curzon s reputation, magnifying every encomium and contextualizing every spat Even worse the author has no recourse to Indian sources which probably says as much about the Raj as it does this biographer and no interest in those whom Curzon governed His rebellious and estranged daughters rarely make an appearance And the only servant to be mentioned is a drunken valet Born into the height of British aristocracy, Curzon floated above the world of people while administrating large portions of the globe And this biography, unfortunately, follows its subject through the clouds. Books rarely are ground breaking or reputation making or breaking, this one is.With so much original research and first hand accounts, David Gilmour, who is a fantastic writer and researcher, has saved from impeding obscurity the reputation of the man who was India s greatest Viceroy, the creator and overseer of the Delhi Durbar and the Remembrance Day Service as we know it today Even the lies of Lord Beaverbrook the media magnate have been dispelled, which in turn brings to light the poor journalism standards that saw successive writers and biographers malign Curzon based on what was said by Lord Beaverbrook, rather than doing their own research into the matter.The seminal Foreign Secretary with a vast knowledge of the world, I don t think the UK has had such an erudite and knowledgeable foreign secretary since The greatest Prime Minister the United Kingdom never had Possibly, done out by the Israel creating and Zionist supported Arthur Bloody Balfour who kept him from the top job It is about time Curzon is given his correct due Highly recommended. interesting read. I liked George Curzon and he didn t have it easy despite being born with a silver spoon in his mouth and expectations of greatness He was the victim of an appalling conspiracy by colleagues and friends in high office and he left his India position without the acclaim that was due to him I read this book slowly as I was reluctant to let him go as I liked him so much He stood head and shoulders over those around him and they took from him the positions he would have excelled in When he did get a chance to excel he did A wonderful biography of a man I liked a lot. Curzon is one of those typically British biographies of dead political figures Such biographies tend to go into great detail not just about the protagonist, but about long forgotten political issues fought among long forgotten men If you are interested in the protagonist, or the period, this can be excellent, as long as the writing is good, and Gilmour s is good But if you re looking for an objectively thrilling read, you should stay away.Before I read this book, I only knew vaguely of George Curzon, primarily for the so called Curzon Line, which is not even mentioned in this very long book The Curzon Line was the line proposed by Curzon after World War I as the border between Bolshevik Russia and newly reconstituted Poland But Curzon did a lotthan draw borders during his workaholic life He is today regarded, when remembered, as a man of tremendous early promise and gifts, undermined by perceived and real defects of personality, who never reached the heights he expected Curzon, among other offices, served as a highly successful Viceroy of India 1899 1905 , and was expected to be Prime Minister but never was.Gilmour explores all of these aspects of Curzon with a gimlet eye but with a fundamentally positive outlook on his subject Apparently in the mid twentieth century Curzon s reputation suffered greatly at the hands of biased biographies, and in large part Gilmour s book seems to be an effort to rehabilitate Curzon, while remaining realistic about his shortcomings.Like Winston Churchill, butso, Curzon was fundamentally an unreconstructed Victorian He lived from 1859 to 1925, but never really adapted to the new, shifting realities of British domestic policies During his career, from my limited understanding, leading British political opinion started to shift against Empire Not that anyone at that time advocated ending the Empire, but the old Kipling esque White Man s Burden was no longer universally accepted, and flexible, calculating men shifted and calibrated their positions in light of the need to reduce the Empire s commitments especially after World War I Curzon was incapable of such fluidity he was extremely knowledgeable and extremely used to being a leading debater on all issues about which he cared, but he tended to plow straight ahead in predictable ways, refusing to trim his position and rejecting political intrigue This did not always serve him well, and he was further harmed by a complete inability to appreciate the uses of press manipulation.Curzon was born on the same estate his family had owned forthan 700 years He did not regard this wholly as showing virtue as he said, No family could have remained in possession of the same estate since the twelfth century had they manifested the very slightest energy or courage And the family s motto, Let Curzon hold what Curzon held backs this up Curzon himself, though, showed nothing but energy and courage.He followed a typical course of the British aristocracy of the Victorian age Eton, followed by Oxford Balliol , followed immediately by government service Unlike most British aristocrats, however, he was fantastically well traveled, and regarded from a young age as the country s leading expert on the entire East While a young man, he traveled extensively throughout the Middle East Persia, Mesopotamia, Central Asia Afghanistan Russia Korea China Japan Among other achievements, he discovered one source of the Oxus River an ice cave in the Wakhjir Pass near the Chinese border, apparently Then he wrote numerous ponderous but very highly regarded books on the areas in which he traveled Not for Curzon limiting himself to a Grand Tour of Europe in fact, he visited Europe little, and Ireland, where he was a peer, not at all.Curzon s public career began in 1886 for fifteen years he served in Parliament and in a variety of foreign policy related government offices while simultaneously traveling and writing as outlined above What struck me most was Curzon s dealing, through his entire adult life, with notable physical disabilities, while at the same time working hours that would have killed most men As a teenager he suffered a back injury that required frequent wearing of a metal body cage to prevent collapse giving him a reputation for stiffness and exacerbating his reputation for being pompous He suffered from chronic insomnia, neuritis and phlebitis, each of which kept him sick in bed for weeks, if not months, every year Yet year after year he ground on, incapable of doing anything but working, and working at the very highest level of output.Curzon was convinced that all great men were detail men, from Alexander the Great, to Wellington, to himself He refused to delegate even the most trivial of matters and spent inordinate time while Viceroy doing tasks like re writing subordinates memoranda to fix their grammar and phrasing Doubtless much of this was not necessary Wellington, as Curzon knew, was a detail man in planning war, not in pedantry But Curzon s nature was, as he said, if you wanted a thing done a particular war the only plan was to do it yourself The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but closer to Curzon The idea that a truly great person can be primarily a delegator is a myth So, for example, Steve Jobs was a detail person, and a great businessperson Jack Welch was a delegator, and a grossly overrated man All, or nearly all, great entrepreneurs, and for that matter all great leaders in any context, are workaholic detail people I can t think of a single exception for example, Julius Caesar was criticized for his habit of dictating business correspondence during social dinners Such people may not be great company or great family men but they get things done.From 1899 to 1905 Curzon was Viceroy of India, in which role he was immensely successful, and widely respected if not always agreed with by both native Indians and British He demanded that criminal justice be equally applied, which was far from a universal British position He took a particular interest in restoration of Indian historical monuments, such as the Taj Mahal in fact, Nehru, not exactly a fan of British India, remarked After every other Viceroy has been forgotten, Curzon will be remembered because he restored all that was beautiful in India Ultimately Curzon was driven out as Viceroy, in the middle of his second five year term, by the intrigues of the odious and largely incompetent Herbert Kitchener, then Commander In Chief in India, with whom Curzon clashed on the degree of power to be accorded to Kitchener All this was played out in the British papers, which Kitchener played to the extent that Curzon was widely viewed as defective again, not helped by Curzon s habit of acting superior, and his inability to conduct his own press manipulation.Upon return to England, Curzon did not receive the honors traditionally accorded to any Viceroy, much less a successful Viceroy This was because of various shifting political sands and Curzon s inability to navigate them partially bad luck and partially bad management Although he joined the House of Lords, for nearly ten years he did little of political impact In 1915, however, he joined Asquith s government, serving under him, then Lloyd George and Bonar Law during and after the war, in a variety of foreign policy cabinet positions, in frequent conflict with Churchill over matters such as the Dardanelles and British policy in Mesopotamia In 1923, despite the widespread assumption that he would become Prime Minister upon Law s resignation, Arthur Balfour was instead appointed, effectively ending Curzon s career He died in 1925.The book spends a good amount of time on Curzon s personal life, which enlivens the book considerably Not that Curzon s personal life was lively in the sense of pleasant it was up and down, with lots of tragedy and conflict Gilmour only touches on it in lightly, but Curzon s children were a gruesome disappointment although he contributed to his own bad relations with them He had three daughters, all of whom were highly defective in the spectacular way of the declining British aristocracy after 1930 Two of them were involved with, and one married, Oswald Mosley, the British fascist leader And the rest of their lives were consumed with various dubious behavior that would have horrified Curzon.Like all good biographies, this gives a flavor of the times, and like all good biographies, in combination with other knowledge, this gives the reader the ability to analyze other situations better While aristocrats like Curzon are gone, self assured, highly knowledgeable men and women , keenly interested in public service as they see it, are still around though fewer than there used to be This book helps the reader understand them, the relations they had with others, and how they affected their times, and then to use that information to assist in understanding the world of today, and tomorrow. Like the many monuments he helped restore across the provinces of India, the figure of George Curzon 1859 1925 stands upon the pages of history striking, evocative, and somewhat the worse for wear Known as one of the most talented conservative British statesmen of his era Viceroy of India, Foreign Secretary, and Leader of the House of Lords the public record bears the imprint of his eloquent rhetoric, as well as his political and organizational accomplishments However, memory gives farvocal testament to the imperial arrogance of his manner, the merciless quality of his arguments, and the signal, bitter disappointments of his career most particularly, his failed battle with Lord Kitchener over the nature of the imperial administration in India and his failure to achieve the position of Prime Minister after World War I In this richly detailed biography, David Gilmour draws generously upon family papers, public archives, and recent scholarship to correct the image of Lord Curzon passed down to recent generations, distorted into a cartoon of imperial snobbery and inhuman arrogance Treating his subject sympathetically yet critically, Gilmour carefully traces those elements that contributed to Curzon s greatest successes his intelligence, his diligence and integrity He keeps a no less keen eye on those qualities that led with almost equal inevitability to his failures his air of perfectly infuriating and absolutely imperturbable conceit, and his combative, relentlessly critical approach to his colleagues that made little distinction between friend and foe Gilmour examines Curzon s great accomplishments of statesmanship such as the creation of the North West Frontier Provinces and the negotiations at Lausanne With perhapsenjoyment, Gilmour also gives ample reign to Curzon s complex personality, particularly his biting wit, such as his characterization of a senior member of the military department as an obsolete amiable old footler, the concentrated quintessence of a quarter of a century of departmental life In treating the conventional portrait of Curzon as caricature, Gilmour s approach readily lends itself to accusations of defensiveness if not subjectivity Yet the most skillful aspects of this work render up the reflection of an age through the life of this most imperial of men As Curzon himself noted in an eloquent plea for the restoration of India s monuments There is no principle of artistic discrimination between the mausoleum of the despot and the sepulcher of the saint What is beautiful, what is historic, what tears the mask off the face of the past, and helps us to read its riddles, and to look it in the eyes these, and not the dogmas of a combative theology, are the principal criteria to which we must look.