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Rufus Isaacs was the first commoner to rise to the rank of marquess since the Duke of Wellington. Born into a lively Jewish family engaged in the London fruit trade, he went on to become a brilliant QC, Lord Chief Justice, Special Wartime Ambassador to the United States, Viceroy oflndia and Foreign Secretary.
A stalwart of the Liberal Party, he first won a Commons seat in 1904 and was soon a Cabinet Minister, trusted by Asquith, and at the same time very close to the controversial Lloyd George. His life abounded in paradox: leaving school at fourteen, he was later to hold his own with the best minds in international politics; a rebellious child, he came to personify the grave majesty of the law; once a ship's boy, he ruled over the Indian Empire; 'hammered' as a stock jobber, he became a respected Liberal elder statesman; smeared during the Marconi scandal and subject to anti-semitic attack, he was promptly appointed Lord Chief Justice and raised to the peerage as Lord Reading.
In this scholarly and engaging biography, written with the full co-operation of the present Marquess of Reading and based upon many private papers, Dr Denis Judd has put Rufus Isaacs's complex and varied career in proper perspective and provides an overdue reassessment of one of the most outstanding - and underrated - public figures of the twentieth century.
The book has a good deal of new material: for example, on why Asquith shielded Isaacs during the Marconi controversy; on the part Reading took in helping to resolve the General Strike of 1926; and on his contribution, as an elder statesman, to the promotion of Liberal Party unity, and to the work of Ramsay MacDonald's National governments.
Reading was the man who prosecuted the poisoner Seddon, who tried Sir Roger Casement for treason and who defended George V against the accusation of bigamy. The man, too, who knew closely most of the great personalities of his age, from Lloyd George to Edward vn, from Lord Curzon to Gandhi, from President Wilson to the Duke ofWindsor, from Winston Churchill to Pierre Laval, and from Chaim Weizmann to Stanley Baldwin. A major biography of an important and controversial British statesman and jurist.