Arena of Ambition

Arena of Ambition: A History of the Cambridge Union Society

by Stephen Parkinson

With a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales and recollections by a series of ex-Presidents including Douglas Hurd, Michael Howard, Norman Lamont, Arianna Huffington, and Peter Bazalgette.

"A hugely impressive history of the Cambridge Union; scholarly, nuanced and well written, with a perceptible fondness for the institution ... this fine book will amuse and instruct"

Andrew Roberts

"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

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, Douglas Hurd, Rab Butler, Robert Harris, Ken Clarke and Arianna Huffington - 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 Society, 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 apparently antiquated club in a modern university.

It is the story of a student society like no other.

Arena of Ambition is published by Icon Books and available now.