CHURCHILL AS WAR LEADER by Richard Lamb

CHURCHILL AS WAR LEADER

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A judicious if somewhat clotted popular history of Churchill's wartime leadership, by British historian Lamb (The Drift to War, 1991, etc.). Lamb is particularly adept at uncovering errors that have crept into the historical record because of the dominance of Churchill's own account of the war, which arose not only from his six-volume history but also from his insistence, after he became PM in 1951, that he approve all references in the official histories to his wartime decisions. There are, Lamb contends, many instances of Churchill's sanitizing references to his leadership, and of official historians refusing to consider critical drafts that they knew would anger the PM. ``Almost his biggest wartime error,'' says Lamb, was Churchill's refusal to accept the assurances of the French navy that it would not permit French ships to fall into German hands. His bombardment of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir was done against the advice of the Admiralty, turned most of the French forces against Britain, and led to significant British casualties. Another error that has received too little attention by historians was Churchill's insistence on the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. The fear felt by Churchill that any suggestion of negotiations might weaken British resolve or cause Stalin to make a separate peace seems inadequate when compared to the large additional casualties sustained by the Allies as a result of their refusal to contemplate terms. Overall, though, Churchill emerges here--for all his impetuosity and inclination to dissipate resources rather than to concentrate on important objectives--as the soul of British resistance, and his judgment, so often questioned, looks good even in the easy light of hindsight. A bit short on reflection and analysis, and containing errors likely to dismay an American audience (e.g., that Truman, who fought in France during WW I, had never been overseas)--but revealing at times, and covering a subject of enduring fascination.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-88184-937-5
Page count: 400pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993




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