Order from Chaos

Despite its popularity in France, the political memoir took a while to get going in Britain. It was Lord Clarendon’s epic attempt to make sense of the turbulent 17th century that slowly set the ball rolling.

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon as Lord High Chancellor, by Peter Lely, c.1666. Ⓒ Middle Temple London / Bridgeman Images.Each year a new crop of political memoirs appears, promoted by publishers who bank on their popularity. In 2016 Kenneth Clarke, Ed Balls and Nick Clegg all produced volumes, which will have sold thousands of copies, many of them unwrapped by political nerds on Christmas Day. Yet political memoirs are usually greeted with scepticism or boredom.

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