July 24, 2015

Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015

Page 31


Christopher Baker, Michael L. Dockrill, and Keith Hamilton (eds.), Britain in Global Politics, vol. 1, From Gladstone to Churchill. Palgrave MacMillan, 312 pp., $92 (Kindle $73.60).

John W. Young, Effie G. H. Pedaliu, and Michael D. Kandiah (eds.), Britain in Global Politics, vol. 2, From Churchill to Blair. Palgrave MacMillan, 280 pp., $85 (Kindle $68).

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Britain in Global politics imageTwenty-seven scholars contribute to this two-volume, posthumous tribute to the late Cold War historian Saki Ruth Dockrill (1952 —2009) of King’s College, London. Between them, the two volumes cover events from the 19th through the early 21st century.

Martin Thomas’s essay in the first volume is one of the best, examining post—World War I western military coercion of colonial populations (Morocco, Syria, Iraq) via air power, which demonstrated Western technical superiority as well as revealing financial weaknesses. Air power’s ability to control Third World spaces was temporary at best—a timely reminder to western politicians who intervene with air power in places like Libya, Syria and Iraq.

The first volume contains several chapters on appeasement, revealing bizarre mental gyrations of presumably progressive academics attempting to salve the reputation of the anti-communist, pro-business Neville Chamberlain. B.J.C. McKercher, for example, argues that Chamberlain was competent but prone to poor judgment on foreign policy, while Jon Mailo believes Chamberlain’s 1940 defensive strategy was not incorrect, just unlucky—the German Ardennes offensive should never have worked! Many historians instinctively distrust Churchill’s accounts as self-serving— perhaps in part because he was a layman who penned historical works that were relevant, persuasive and lucrative.

Of interest to Churchill scholars is an excellent contribution to the second volume by Kevin Ruane about challenges to the “special relationship” in the 1950s. One such was a possible American attack on China during the Korean War that might have involved atomic weapons. Churchill resisted this, along with potential American intervention in Indo-China in 1954, concerned that a war with China would distract from defending Europe from the Soviets. Ruane also relates how Churchill and many British leaders since have often appeared to support American policy, while quietly working to change it.

Mr. Shepherd is Associate Archivist of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

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