'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: A Life of Sir Edward Grey (Penguin, 2020) 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. Thomas Otte, Professor of Diplomatic History at the University of East Anglia, one of the leading, if not the leading historian dealing with 19th and early 20th century Diplomatic and International politics has written a thoroughly splendid book which will provide both the academic and the lay educated reader with a mine of historical information and insights. By all means do read a book which has been named the New Statesman’s book of the Year for 2020 and which Martin Pugh in the TLS calls ‘a magisterial account that is unlikely to be bettered.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.