George III (2006)

Book Number: 22

George III: America's Last King

By Jeremy Black (1955-  )

Professor of history, University of Exeter

Commissioning Editor: J.J. Scarisbrick

Book Editor: Robert Baldock

Five years pass since the biography of Henry I in 2001 before the next new series title (The Yale George I and Queen Anne titles of 2001 were paperback reprints of existing books). George III has his moment in the 2006 Yale hardback and 2008 paperback. George III was followed in 2009 by Eleanor of Aquitaine, which we are observing here as a ‘Companion title’. The next series title was Edward II, in 2010. The subtitle of this book is interesting for the marketing potential - ‘America’s Last King’. It might also have been subtitled ‘Australia’s first king’, but being a smaller market for Yale’s titles...

George III is another king whose original English Monarchs series author did not complete a book. A book by Professor Carl Cone is listed as ‘In Preparation’ on the dust jacket of the 1972 Henry VII by S.B. Chrimes. Carl B. Cone (1916-1995) was professor of history at the University of Kentucky, and would have been the first American historian to have a book in the English Monarchs series if his biography on George III had been completed. It is not known when his work on this book ceased; he died in 1995 and the ultimate English Monarchs author, Jeremy Black, notes in his introduction that he was working on his book, at least the research phase, at the end of the 1980s. Cone’s most significant book seems to be the 1968 title 'The English Jacobins: reformers in late 18th century England'. He contributed a few journal articles on 18th Century topics.

George’s extraordinary sixty year reign is rarely matched in length or eventfulness. Unlike Andrew Thompson, the biographer of George II, Jeremy Black had six decades of documents to research and analyse. His task also was to tease out the many roles this king played in his long life. Black also consulted professional psychiatrist to understand the difficulties faced by George in the last years of his life and to describe his famous periods of mental illness.

Steve Poole (University of the West of England, Bristol) in The American Historical Review, Volume 113, Issue 2, 1 (April 2008) summarised the book, saying "Black’s book is by no means a cultural history of monarchy but a carefully argued political biography, and it takes only passing interest in issues of “spin” and the cultural construction of forms. In placing a single individual at its center and understanding the unfolding of events through his singular experience, the approach is largely a traditional one, unfolding a progressive narrative between the “first years” and “last years” of the reign. But in some ways it is refreshingly nontraditional, too. Black breaks up his chronology with a series of judicious and critical chapters on contextual themes”. He concludes, "This is not only a well-written biography from the restless pen of a prolific political historian; it is also perhaps the most thorough and meticulously researched biography of George III to date.”

Anthony Page (University of Tasmania) in History, Volume 93 Number 309 (2008) writes that "Black sees George's personal intentions and convictions as playing a central role in the causes and course of the American War of Independence...Black's impressive knowledge of eighteenth-century Europe informs the whole volume, enabling him frequently to bring the light of comparison to bear on George Ill's ideas and actions."

This is an important study of the Georgian period by one of England’s leading historians and scholars. Readers are urged to go to Professor Black’s web site to view the list of 90 titles he has published. His examination of topics is broad, from Britain to the the United States, from the 18th Century to James Bond. His books include political biographies and general histories. The inclusion of this title certainly maintains the gravitas of the English Monarchs series and, best of all, is a gripping read. It’s a common view that this king is not worth studying. Jeremy Black proves this is not the case.

Collectors of the Penguin Monarchs series will be keen to buy Black's 'George III' which is due for release in September 2020. Black is also a biographer of George II for the Exeter Studies in History series (Liverpool University Press, 2007) ISBN 9780859898072.

Professor Black is also one of Britain's most active media commentators, and shows by example that that there is nothing like an informed opinion - and as we know the British press have nothing like an informed opinion. Read Professor Black's blog page for commentaries and links to his published reviews on British and world history and politics, plus news of his latest books. His blog page can be found at this link here.

Yale, 2006 and 2008

and Kindle (UK)

Cover: This is an unusual cover. Close inspection shows that it is a composite picture, with the king in the foreground. The unnecessary background is a battle scene, added just in case readers missed the point of the book's subtitle.

The portrait of George III in his coronation robes is by Allan Ramsay c.1760, many copies of which were produced for distribution throughout the kingdom.

The battle scene is the 1786 painting 'The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill' by John Trumbill, and owned by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. This is the first of two similar paintings. The later version from 1834 is owed by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in  Hartford, Connecticut - not far from Yale in New Haven. It's a 50 minute train journey on an Amtrak or CTrail train on the Hartford Line.


Additional content:


You can watch Professor Black speak in detail on aspects of the American Revolution. This lecture was given at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia in 2016. His lecture starts just after the three minute mark.

Further reading

In 2016 Yale published a biography of Louis XVI, similar in every way to an English Monarchs title except for a French ruler. Louis XVI (reigned 1774-1791) was king of France in the middle of the reign of George III (1760-1820) and many of the points discussed by Jeremy Black from a British perspective are also covered by John Hardman from a French or European perspective. Interested readers will find additional value from their English Monarchs title by perusing the Louis XVI book.