Puppet of the Politicians?
By Jeremy Black
Following closely on the heels of his recent biography of George III, Jeremy Black turns to the reign of his grandfather, George II, to set the record straight. In his new book he sets out to demonstrate the unfairness of charges that George II was a puppet king overshadowed by towering politicians such as Walpole, and later, Pitt.
For a king who ruled for so long (1727–60), the neglect shown by historians to George II is surprising. He was the last British king to lead an army into battle, at Dettingen in 1743, and his rule included the drama of Culloden in 1746 – the culmination of the war over British succession. The neglect is due chiefly to the lack of easily accessible source material: George II left no diaries, and was not a great letter writer. Black has instead exploited rich archival resources to piece together a figure who was the pivot in an often finely balanced – and sometimes dangerously unbalanced – fledgling political system.
In the process of revealing George II to us, Black goes further than biography, telling us much about the society and system within which the King functioned. In an era of successive wars between European states – in which George, as Elector of Hanover, was keen to ensure that Britain played a part – there is much here also relating to Britain’s role within Europe.
Preface, ix; Abbreviations, xi; Map, xiv; 1 The Role of Monarchy in Eighteenth-Century Britain, 1; 2 A New Dynasty and a Quarrelsome Prince of Wales, 1683-1727, 34; 3 The King's Realm, 56; 4 The New King, 1727-1731, 77; 5 Character and Concerns, 108; 6 George and Walpole: Double Act or King in the Shadows? 1731-1741, 140; 7 Turmoil and Crisis, 1741-1746, 169; 8 The Rule of the Pelhams? 1746-1754, 194; 9 Last Years, 1754-1760, 218; 10 George II's Reputation, 255; 11 Conclusions, 263; Notes, 273; Selected Further Reading, 293; Index, 295.
‘George II has been victim of some tepid biographies, but at last he has been rescued by Black’s welcome life.’ (BBC History Magazine, January 2008)
‘With recent scholarly attention turning to the Hanoverians and the Hanoverian connection, Jeremy Black’s new biography of George II is timely, for if the context of George’s reign is now more fully understood, there has been no recent study of the life of the king himself.’ ‘…a book that engages with recent scholarship, fills a gap in the literature, and yet is likely to appeal to a general readership…’ (Reviews in History, review no. 659, www.history.ac.uk)
‘What Black offers here is not a detailed vision… but an accessible overview’ ‘Black throughout writes with the assurance and inward knowledge drawn from thirty years’ research in the field.’ ‘here is the most complete guide in English’ (The International History Review, xxx. 4: December 2008)
‘Jeremy Black is pre-eminently well qualified to offer this new biographical study of George II. His skilful volume is all the more welcome as George II has been much neglected by historians. (History, Vol. 94, Issue 313, January 2009)
‘A re-evaluation has long been overdue, and is provided by Jeremy Black in forceful and convincing detail.
‘Black documents the King’s role more extensively than any previous scholar, and his use of a wide range of evidence from foreign diplomats accredited to the British court is a major strength of the book.’ (Philip Woodfine, EHR, cxxiv. 509, Aug. 2009)
Jeremy Black MBE is Professor in the Department of History, University of Exeter. He is one of the leading scholars in the field of British history.