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Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier [Paperback]

Keith Jeffery
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

24 Jan 2008
Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, an Irishman who in June 1922 was assassinated on his doorstep in London by Irish republicans, was one of the most controversial British soldiers of the modern age. Before 1914 he did much to secure the Anglo-French alliance and was responsible for the planning which saw the British Expeditionary Force successfully despatched to France after the outbreak of war with Germany. A passionate Irish unionist, he gained a reputation as an intensely 'political' soldier, especially during the 'Curragh crisis' of 1914 when some officers resigned their commisssions rather than coerce Ulster unionists into a Home Rule Ireland. During the war he played a major role in Anglo-French liaison, and ended up as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, professional head of the army, a post he held until February 1922.
After Wilson retired from the army, he became an MP and was chief security adviser to the new Northern Ireland government. As such, he became a target for nationalist Irish militants, being identified with the security policies of the Belfast regime, though wrongly with Protestant sectarian attacks on Catholics. He is remembered today in unionist Northern Ireland as a kind of founding martyr for the state.
Wilson's reputation was ruined in 1927 with the publication of an official biography, which quoted extensively and injudiciously from his entertaining, indiscreet, and wildly opinionated diaries, giving the impression that he was some sort of Machiavellian monster. In this first modern biography, using a wide variety of official and private sources for the first time, Keith Jeffery reassesses Wilson's life and career and places him clearly in his social, national, and political context.

Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (24 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199239673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199239672
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.4 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 814,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


a scrupulous, well-documented, and often witty contribution to imperial and military history. It is a tribute to thsi long-awaited, many-faceted, yet succinct biography that one is left craving for more. (David Fitzpatrick, English Historical Review)

About the Author

Keith Jeffery is Professor of British History at Queen's University, Belfast, having previously been Professor of Modern History at the University of Ulster. He has been Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and a Visiting Scholar at the Australian National University and the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On Monday 26 June 1922, the same day as Sir Henry Wilsons state funeral in London, a memorial service was held at the headquarters of the British forces occupying Constantinople (Istanbul) in the aftermath of the First World War. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good history book 17 May 2011
Excellent book. It is written in a very accessible style, by an authority on the period in question and one with an insight into the Irish angle.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A piece in the WW1 jigsaw 14 Oct 2012
By Aussie Bruce - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In my seemingly endless quest over the years to unravel the cause of WW1 the name of Henry Wilson kept coming up. This guy kept appearing. Seemingly committing the UK to war in talks with the French army without government approval. A key figure in the Curragh Mutiny of senior Army officers against UK Government policy on Irish home rule. Appears on French's staff in the 1914 British Expeditionary Force. Ends up a Field Marshall, apart from a mediocre performance as a Corps Commander having never commanded troops. He was on the British delegation at Versailles. I wondered if anything was written about Wilson so I consulted my favourite search engine and Amazon came up with Jeffery's 2006 biography.

The book is a fine piece of historical scholarship. Well written,well referenced and very readable. It takes one on a depressing journey of ordinary people deciding the fate of millions and fashioning the world we know today. The endless petty jealousy and squabbles that makes humans so endearing. Wilson was a man of his times, with attitudes and prejudices that was a product of the society he lived in.

Another piece of the WW1 jigsaw and, for the umpteenth time, I change my mind about Douglas Haig. Bumbling unintelligent butcher or architect of victory? I opt for the latter,for the moment at least.

The book is a must read for anyone intersted in this maddenly elusive part of history.
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