Arena of Ambition (Hardback)

The History of the Cambridge Union

Stephen Parkinson

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Older than fourteen colleges and the Boat Race, the Cambridge Union has been an important part of university life at Cambridge since its foundation in 1815. Ex-Presidents have included John Maynard Keynes, Robert Harris, Arianna Huffington and Douglas Hurd – as well as an Olympic medallist, an Oscar nominee, and two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Generations of undergraduates have flocked to its celebrated debating chamber and spoken as equals with its distinguished guests; Prime Ministers like Baldwin and Churchill, Presidents like Roosevelt and Reagan, and controversial figures like Oswald Mosley and Enoch Powell. Stephen Parkinson, an ex-President of the Union, charts the history of the Union from its nineteenth-century origins, focusing particularly on the turbulent Second World War and post-war years; during which the Union building was hit by a German bomb and commandeered by the army, future Cabinet ministers fell out over bitterly contested elections, and controversies raged about the admission of women and the place of such an antiquated club in a modern university. It is the thrilling story of a student society like no other.

Stephen Parkinsongraduated from Cambridge in 2004, and was President ofthe Union in Lent Term that year. He spent two years in theConservative Research Department before becoming Directorof Research at the Centre for Policy Studies. In late 2007 hereturned to Conservative Central Office, where he works on theparty’s target seats campaign.

‘Stephen Parkinson has written a hugely impressive history of the Cambridge Union; scholarly, nuanced and well written, with a perceptible fondness for the institution. As a nursery for some of the most talented, witty, intelligent and cringe-makingly precocious of our future leaders, the Union Society chamber was consciously based on that of the House of Commons. As an insight onto the doings of our leaders before they were famous, this fine book will amuse and instruct. In a society that prizes debate more in the abstract than the action, it will remind us of what political discourse once was like, and ought to be again.’Andrew Roberts, Historian and author of ‘Masters & Commanders.’
‘At Cambridge you worshipped, you reviled or you ignored the Union – or it scared you (and me) witless. But you never learned about its origins and history. Stephen Parkinson has done this for us, producing a book that’s informative and respectful without being fawning or pompous. It’s a good read, as well as good history.’Matthew Parris

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ABOUT THIS BOOK

about this book

ISBN: 9781848310612

Price: GBP 25.00, CAD 50.00, AUD 59.99, USD 40.00

Pages: 432

Publication date: 14-05-2009

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