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Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain Reviews

Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain by Paul Corthorn (Reader in Modern British History, Queen's University Belfast)

Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain

Paul Corthorn (Reader in Modern British History, Queen's University Belfast)

3.60 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 5 Sep 2019
ISBN: 9780198747147

Best known for his notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech in 1968 and his outspoken opposition to immigration, Enoch Powell was one of the most controversial figures in British political life in the second half of the twentieth century and a formative influence on what came to be known as Thatcherism.

3 stars out of 5
4 Oct 2019

"For a slim volume, Corthorn’s book is a scholarly one. Unfortunately, Corthorn never quite escapes the archives in which he has laboured."

[This] is not a conventional biography (Powell is already well-served with those) but an analysis of the ideas he articulated and applied in particular post-second world war political contexts. What can otherwise appear idiosyncratic, eccentric and extreme in Powell’s thinking gains a certain coherence when presented as a series of interventions in a long-running public debate about national decline... For a slim volume, Corthorn’s book is a scholarly one. Unfortunately, Corthorn never quite escapes the archives in which he has laboured. The bigger picture of Powell’s place in the constellation of postwar conservative thinking, his influence on British Euroscepticism, and his long-run political importance, remain largely unexplored. The book contributes important new insights to this wider appraisal of Powell, but it will be left to others to complete the task.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
26 Sep 2019

" It is a crisp and compelling piece of work. "

Biographies of Powell, many written by ardent fans, now run into double figures, the longest and most enjoyable, by Simon Heffer, standing at nearly a thousand pages. This latest study, by the Belfast lecturer Paul Corthorn, attempts something different: to follow the meanders in Powell’s thought and to unpick his abiding obsessions. It is a crisp and compelling piece of work. Corthorn does not give us much biography or background (Drucilla Cotterill is only named in a brief footnote, for example), but this gives him space to quote amply and tellingly from Powell’s speeches and letters. By halfway through, the reader is already baffled that Powell should ever have been mistaken for an icy, unbending man of principle. On the contrary, he was driven this way and that by volcanic passions, transformed by his eloquence into marvellous rhodomontade, sometimes persuasive and germane, sometimes fantastical to the point of delusion.

4 stars out of 5
Colin Kidd
28 Aug 2019

"[a] welcome and timely study"

Paul Corthorn’s welcome and timely study invites us to assess the continuing purchase of Powellism in Brexiteering Conservatism. But he is also firm in his injunction that Powell’s ideas should be viewed in context – as they developed piecemeal and haphazardly in response to the dissolution of empire and the British turn to Europe – and in their full strangeness... Notwithstanding Powell’s clarity of vision and penetrating intelligence, Corthorn indicates tensions and weak points in his arguments.