Raffles by V Glendinning

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Marvellously readable, personally illuminating and highly entertaining.


Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) was the charismatic and persuasive founder of Singapore and Governor of Java. An English adventurer, disobedient employee of the East India Company, utopian imperialist, linguist, zoologist and civil servant, he carved an extraordinary (though brief) life for himself in South East Asia. The tropical, disease-ridden settings of his story are as dramatic as his own trajectory - an obscure young man with no advantages other than talent and obsessive drive, who changed history by establishing - without authority - on the wretchedly unpromising island of Singapore a settlement which has become a world city. After a turbulent time in the East Indies, Raffles returned to the UK and turned to his other great interests - botany and zoology. He founded London Zoo in 1826, the year of his death.Raffles remains a controversial figure, and in the first biography for over forty years, Victoria Glendinning charts his prodigious rise within the social and historical contexts of his world. His domestic and personal life was vivid and shot through with tragedy. His own end was sad, but his fame immortal.

About V Glendinning

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Victoria Glendinning is the award-winning author of "Trollope" and "Vita: The Life of Vita Sackville-West", which both won the Whitbread biography award, as well as "Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Sitwell, Rebecca West", and "Jonathan Swift". She has also written three novels: "Flight, The Grown-Ups", and "Electricity". She was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in Somerset, England.
Published January 1, 2012 by Profile Books.
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences.
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Above average
Reviewed by Isabel Hilton on Dec 16 2012

Glendinning gives us a fascinating picture of the working life of this world-changing company, though Raffles remains an oddly enigmatic figure. He had many appealing traits: he was sociable and unpretentious...

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Reviewed by Bernard Porter on Dec 07 2012

Marvellously readable, personally illuminating and highly entertaining.

Read Full Review of Raffles | See more reviews from Guardian

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