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The Chief


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About the Author

Professor Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He is presently the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Visiting Professor at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. He has written or edited 19 books, which have been translated into 23 languages, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world. He lives in London with his wife and two children.


‘Roberts does a superb job of bringing [Northcliffe's story] alive… His pages fizz with character and colour...but at their heart is Northcliffe himself: charismatic, swashbuckling, admirable and appalling. His book is littered with affairs, tantrums and tirades, all of which add considerably to its attractions… Some of the most memorable scenes come in the early 1920s, as Northcliffe succumbs to all-out megalomania.’
*Sunday Times*

'With an experienced historian’s use of contemporary documents, Roberts makes Northcliffe’s eventful life a panoramic account of his times... [a] restrained, scholarly and very readable book.'

'Lord Northcliffe...was the daddy of all press barons...classless, dynamic and fearless. This compelling biography...leaves you exhausted by the sheer work that bred success. Northcliffe had his faults...but what an exciting man he must have been to work for.'
*The Times*

'The way Roberts persuasively tells it, not only did Northcliffe establish the template for British journalism ever since, but he also did much to win the First World War. You do finish The Chief utterly open-mouthed at all that Northcliffe got done in his 57 years.
*Daily Telegraph*

‘Towards the end of The Chief, his keenly researched biography of Lord Northcliffe, the Daily Mail founder and “Britain’s greatest press baron”, the historian Andrew Roberts observes: “Great men are seldom nice men.”…there’s no question that Northcliffe was indeed an exceptional character… His last months were spent in a state of delirium that manifested as extreme megalomania.’

'Long before Rupert Murdoch, there was Alfred Harmsworth. The original and probably the greatest UK press baron...the man who styled himself “the Chief” set a tone and style for popular newspapers that still prevails today. Roberts is keen to dispel myths of megalomania, until Harmsworth’s final short illness destroys his mind... While mostly friendly, the author is critical at times and unsparing about Harmsworth’s zealous anti-Semitism. It’s a pacy and enjoyable read.'
*Financial Times*

'Reading this energetic and hugely entertaining biography, you are trapped on a carousel in an insane fairground, whizzing round and round inside the head of “the Chief”. What hits you again and again is the absolute randomness of his inspired, sometimes loathsome, obsessions.'
*Times Literary Supplement*

'Lord Northcliffe - founder of the Daily Mail, inventor of tabloid journalism, the most significant media innovator of the early 20th century - ended up in Hell... This has long been the highbrow take on Northcliffe. Shovelling information and entertainment was Northcliffe’s business model. His conjuror’s trick was simple: give as many people as possible what they want. It is the megalomaniac perception of Northcliffe that Andrew Roberts seeks to rebut in a new and sympathetic biography. [Rupert Murdoch] took Northcliffe’s principles and dialled them up.'

'This intriguing biography...is sympathetic to its subject, Roberts does not gloss over the darker side of Harmsworth’s life and his foibles: his anti-Semitism, his quirky prejudices and his eventual descent into madness. Northcliffe died 100 years ago, and his legacy was the British popular press as we know it.'
*Irish Independent*

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