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.
Telling the story of Powell's political life from the 1950s onwards, Paul Corthorn's intellectual biography goes beyond a fixation on the 'Rivers of Blood' speech to bring us a man who thought deeply about—and often took highly unusual (and sometimes apparently contradictory) positions on—the central political debates of the post-1945 era: rejecting the Cold War emphasis on the Anglo-American relationship (and at one stage going so far as to advocate the idea of an alliance with the Soviet Union); promoting free-market economics long before it was fashionable, while remaining a staunch defender of the National Health Service; vehemently opposing British membership of the European Community; arguing for the closer integration of Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK; and in the 1980s supporting unilateral nuclear disarmament.
In the process, Powell emerges as more than just a deeply divisive figure but as a seminal political intellectual of his time. Paying particular attention to the revealing inconsistencies in Powell's thought and the significant ways in which his thinking changed over time, Corthorn argues that Powell's diverse campaigns can nonetheless still be understood as a coherent whole, if viewed as part of a long-running, and wide-ranging, debate set against the backdrop of the long-term decline in Britain's international, military, and economic position in the decades after 1945.
1: International Relations
5: Northern Ireland
"Contributes important new insights to [the] wider appraisal of Powell." - Nick Pearce, Financial Times
"Corthorn's rigour is impressive ... [this book is] a valuable guide to a figure who looms over Brexit Britain." - Christoper Kissane, Irish Times
"[A] welcome and timely study..." - Colin Kidd, New Statesman
"[A] superb new study." - Richard Toye, Times Literary Supplement
"The task of tracing the course of Powell's ideas in all their contortions and contradictions, and assessing their impact, is not easy. But Paul Corthorn accomplishes it admirably. His book is clear, coherent and concise. It is based on a vast amount of reading and research. All told, it is a model of scholarship." - Piers Brendon, Literary Review
"A crisp and compelling piece of work." - Ferdinand Mount, London Review of Books
"Enoch Powell remains the single most controversial politician in modern British history. Yet more than half a century after his most incendiary speech, his influence is arguably greater than ever. In this splendidly learned, astute and provocative study, Paul Corthorn invites us to look more closely at what Powell said and believed. With scrupulous care and attention to detail, he examines the roots and legacy of Powell's ideas, both placing him in his historical context and exploring his afterlives in British politics. Mercifully free from academic jargon and armchair moralising, this is a gripping and colourful read and a model of historical scholarship." - Dominic Sandbrook, author of State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974