THE DIARIES OF SIR ALEXANDER CADOGAN: 1938-1945 by David -- Ed. Dilks


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Cadogan headed the British Foreign Office during the extraordinarily important period from 1938-45. As he himself observed before his death, there are no great revelations to be gleaned from these telegraphic day-to-day jottings, not because they are diurnal, but because of the limited way in which they refract the major issues, debates, and consensus. Rather Cadogan is chiefly concerned with advising, administering, and framing diplomatic tactics. He is incessantly ""getting through"" or ""clearing off"" work of an indeterminate or transitory nature. He comes through as a true old-fashioned public servant (or servant of the State, as he would put it) contemptuous of politicians (recording a bombing hit: ""I wish it had got most of the Members""), army ""blockheads,"" and faineant bureaucrats. What makes the diaries readable are his acid comments on other people -- ""that baby Dictator Winston,"" ""that old lunatic Hull,"" ""I said there was one bright spot -- there were lots of Germans and Italians in Madrid and therefore a good chance of [Samuel Hoare] being murdered,"" "". . . received the Russian Mission. Golikov seemed quite a live little man. The rest all looked like private detectives."" American readers in particular may wonder, however, at the absence of any reference to Foreign Office dealings on the subject of the Jews of Europe, given recent documentation of the F.O.'s failures and obstructions of rescue and train-line bombing. The editor, who also bypasses this question, has done a conscientious but bland and often shallow job with his transitional interpolations. There is a deadpan who's-who appendix but the average American reader will have difficulty keeping track of the characters and British alignments. And even students and specialists won't sit down and read it through as one might Nicolson, et al. They will use it for cross-references to Eden, Churchill and so forth. In sum, it will become a primary browsing source but little more.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1972
Publisher: Putnam