A NEW STATESMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020
'The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time.' The words of Sir Edward Grey, looking out from the windows of the Foreign Office in early August 1914, are amongst the most famous in European history, and encapsulate the impending end of the nineteenth-century world.
The man who spoke them was Britain's longest-ever serving Foreign Secretary (in a single span of office) and one of the great figures of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Statesman of Europe is a magnificent portrait of an age and describes the three decades before the First World War through the prism of his biography, which is based almost entirely on archival sources and presents a detailed account of the main domestic and international events, and of the main personalities of the era. In particular, it presents a fresh understanding of the approach to war in the years and months before its outbreak, and Grey's role in the unfolding of events.
outstanding ... Otte's colossal, learned and measured book presents a powerful case for the defence ... It is true that Grey failed to avert war, but probably nobody could have succeeded. As Otte's excellent book shows, he did his best.
No biography of Grey has ever been so thorough and scholarly as this
a magisterial account that is unlikely to be bettered
a very well written and comprehensive ... This scholarly, readable and objective book will be the standard biography of Sir Edward Grey for decades to come. It triumphantly gives him his proper desserts as an eminent Edwardian gentleman who did his best to save his country from what he knew would be a catastrophic war
In Statesman of Europe - the first full biography for half a century - T. G. Otte offers a sensitive and elegant portrait of our longest-serving foreign secretary (11 years on the trot): a politician whose principled pragmatism and sense of civic duty strike an appealing, if elegiac, note in 2020.
Thomas Otte, in this compendious and elegant biography, paints a portrait of a deeply moral, patient and conscientious figure who did not love the world of high politics, but felt it his duty to pursue a role in public life and did so for 48 years. ... Otte's is a rich and rounded portrait of Grey, whom he restore[s] to his place as a humane and dutiful Liberal politician of the old school
This book is a reading for our times. It is a stalwart defence of politics as the careful, sensitive and pragmatic management of constant change, and of political history as an education in these truths ... it makes a significant mark.
Otte has already made a name for himself with a series of books and publications on British foreign policy, and this biography, Statesman of Europe (2020), can be regarded as the provisional crown on his work.
Edward Grey belonged to an era when British foreign policy carried global consequences. Most importantly, in July 1914 he led international efforts to forestall war. In T.G.Otte, Grey has found a historian whose fluency, scholarship and empathy match his subject's principled and pragmatic diplomacy. Otte unravels Grey's enigmas - his marriage, his preference for rural life over politics and above all his thinking on war and peace. In Statesman of Europe, now much the fullest and most authoritative account of Grey's life, he has brought to the man the poise and balance that Grey sought for his country.