Jeremy Black takes a fresh look at the career and reputation of the 'great outsider' of Hanoverian Britain.
There can have been few British statesmen who were as complex and contentious as William Pitt the Elder, First Earl of Chatham. Acclaimed, both in his lifetime and subsequently, as a great warleader, in what can be justly claimed the first global war in which Britain was involved, the Seven Years' War (1756-63), indeed the great warleader, until Churchill's apotheosis in the Second World War, a peerless patriot, the Great Commoner, a man of determination, integrity and vision. Pitt was also castigated by contemporaries and by later historians as an arrant hypocrite, a man without balance or moderation, who would say anything to serve his purposes, a politician without honour. The arrogance, egotism and overweening ambition that contemporaries denounced have been subsequently portrayed as facets of psychiatric illnesses, notably manic-depression.