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New Left Review 108, November-December 2017


John Newsinger

MUCH TO BE MODEST ABOUT

John Bew’s biography of Clement Attlee has been greeted with almost universal acclaim: enthusiastic reviews, usually with an eye to the book’s contemporary significance, appeared in the Financial Times, the lrb, the Spectator, the Times and the Observer, and Citizen Clem went on to claim the Elizabeth Longford Prize for historical biography and the 2017 Orwell Prize. [1] John Bew, Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee, Riverrun: London 2016, £30, hardback, 668 pp, 978 1 78087 989 5 Born in Northern Ireland, the son of historian-turned-Unionist peer Paul Bew, the book’s author now teaches at King’s College, London. Bew’s first books concentrated on his home region: a study of nineteenth-century Belfast unionism, and Talking to Terrorists, which purported to distil the lessons of the Northern Irish and Basque peace processes. These works were followed in 2011 by an admiring biography of Castlereagh, intended to rehabilitate the butcher of Peterloo, and in 2016 by Realpolitik: A History. Bew also built up a record of political engagement as a stalwart of the hawkish, Atlanticist Henry Jackson Society from its foundation in 2005, before moving on to another right-leaning think-tank, Policy Exchange. He writes regularly for the New Statesman, specializing in international affairs.

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