954: Curzon by David Gilmour

by Gerard


954.0355092: Gilmour, David. Curzon: Imperial Statesman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. 601 pp. ISBN 0-374-53024-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 950: History of Asia
  • 954: History of South Asia and India
  • 954.03: Period of British rule, 1785-1947
  • 954.035: Period of control by crown, 1858-1947
  • 954.0355: Governorships of 9th Earl of Elgin and Marquis of Curzon, 1894-1905
  • +092: Biography

George Nathaniel Curzon, the Most Honorable 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, was indeed a very interesting fellow. He was the oldest son of Alfred Curzon, 4th Baron Scarsdale, and educated at Eton and Balliol. While his father considered it a waste of time, he ventured off the homestead and explored Russia and most of Central and Southeast Asia. His explorations of the Amu Darya (Oxus River) granted him admission into the Royal Geographic Society. His travels and extensive knowledge of the geography and politics of India led to his appointment as Viceroy of India in 1899. Even with his aristocratic upbringing, he strived to earn the loyalty and respect of his subjects, and even took efforts to ensure a proper restoration of the Taj Mahal. After returning to England, he became the Chancellor of Oxford, sat in the House of Lords, and became Foreign Secretary. Unfortunately, he was passed over for the post of Prime Minister in 1923 and died just a few years later.

Gilmour’s writing is stiff at first but ultimately smoothes out. This book is as impressive as it is long. While Curzon is not a well known British figure in the United States, Great Britain and India celebrate his legacy and it was nice to get a glimpse of India under colonial rule. Curzon could have been a better Prime Minister than Stanley Baldwin, but the politics of the day were stacked against members of the House of Lords. In the end, he was a intriguing part of the intertwined history of Great Britain and India. Gilmour’s biography is, for the most part, balanced and sourced well. He defers greatly to others who have approached the subject before him, but thankfully had access to more complete resources and the advantage of a wider historical lens. A daunting but very interesting read.