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The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939
The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939
by Robert R. Graves
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revisting Britain's "Long Week-end", 19 Oct 2003
"The Long Week-End" by novelist Robert Graves (author of the highly recommended memoir of WWI, "Goodbye to All That") and journalist Alan Hodge (with uncreditted research assistance by Karl Goldschmidt) is a kaleidoscopic survey of British life between the wars. First published in 1940, this highly readable, impressionistic history of the interwar years is based primarily on newspaper accounts and personal memoirs from the time. Arranged in chapters covering a range of topics making up modern life, from "Reading Matter" to "Sex", from "Post-War Politics" to "The Depression," Graves and Hodge capture the spirit of a time frozen between the two great disasters of the twentieth century.
As a social history, "The Long Week-End" dwells more on matters of manners and daily living; matters of more interest than of "historic" note, such as the rise and fall of Eurythmics, Golfinia McIntoshii, the Lookatmeter, Mr. Grindell-Matthews' death ray, and Colonel Barker the transvestite English fascist. If you want to learn about the significance of the Rapallo Agreement or the Stresa Conference you should probably look elsewhere. Here you can read about M'Intosh and Parer's almost forgotten flight from England to Australia in a broken-down WWI bomber bought for a few pounds. Or of Horatio Bottomley, who grew rich through successful, but crooked, lottery schemes and then lost it all. You'll learn more about the Archdeacon Wakeford case than the Four-Power Pact.
Reading the book brought up parallels to modern times, showing that the more things change the more they stay the same. Moralists attacked the immorality of the times, popular music, books and movies were blamed for the lowering of the standards of decency and culture, the older generation decried the lax mores of the young, the high brows decried the intrusion of American low-brow culture, etc.
"The Long Week-End" is written in a mock serious tone of an anthropologist describing the strange customs of some lost Amazonian tribe. "The Twenties did indeed,: the authors quip, "temporarily raise the mental age of the average theatre-goer from fourteen to seventeen." "...the early film-star," they observe, "usually grimaced at his audience like someone trying to convey news of terrific importance to a stone-deaf and half-witted child."
Graves, who originally thought "lull" (as in "lull between the wars") should be in the title, had entered into writing the book, in part, to provide some financial assistance to his friend Alan Hodge. Graves collaborated with Hodge in the same year on "The Reader Over Your Shoulder," a manual of style. The book benefits from a judicious use of quotes from newspapers. The "Authors' Note" lists a number of topics skipped over, leaving me wanting to know more about the Mannin Beg steeplechase for racing cars. The book reminds me of Otto Friedrich's book on Berlin in the 1920s, "Before the Deluge," which readers might want to also search out.


Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
by Gunther E. Rothenberg
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars While Napoleon was away..., 3 Feb 2003
Schneid, author of the excellent Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy (Westview, 1995), presents a brief overview of the campaigns in Italy between 1805 and 1815. This volume, unlike Schneid's previous book, is military history in the sense of focusing solely on campaigns and battles. Schneid looks at the chief military campaigns of 1805, 1809, 1813-14, and 1815 (Murat's last hurrah and Suchet's last stand in Savoy), covering the battles of Caldiero, Maida, Sacile, Piave, Raab, Mincio, and Tolentino.
What went on between campaigns is passed over lightly and the book presumes knowledge by the reader of the Napoleonic era as a whole. Political and diplomatic affairs are touched upon only as they affect military matters. Schneid tells us briefly what happened, where it happened and how it happened. He does not analyze the political or diplomatic reasons why it happened, nor does he look at the larger implications of these campaigns.
The title of the book is, of course, misleading. During the years covered, Napoleon was fighting in Germany and elsewhere. Campaigning in Italy was left to his marshals, Jourdan, Masséna, etc., or to his son-in-law and Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais. Schneid can be excused, on marketing reasons, for entitling the volume "Napoleon's" rather than "Eugène's" or even "Charles's Italian Campaigns." The campaigns in Italy during this period were largely a sideshow to battles occurring elsewhere.
Napoleon's 1805 campaign was perhaps his most masterful, so events in Germany overshadowed those in Italy. Masséna, less energetic than in the past and strategically "less than brilliant," still managed to fulfill his role of preventing the Austrian Archduke Charles from affecting the campaign in Germany. Schneid errors in presenting the Battle of Maida (1806) as a classic British line versus French column battle, following Oman, who in later editions admitted his error. For the 1809 campaign Schneid prefers Epstein's (Prince Eugene at War: 1809) more positive assessment of Eugène's performance to that of Macdonald and Pelet. For the 1813-1814 campaign Schneid unfortunately has to compete with the much fuller recent account by Nafziger and Gioannini (The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814, also by Praeger, 2002).
Schneid indicates that this book was written prior to his Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy, which was Schneid's doctoral dissertation, and laid aside for a number of years. I did find a number of errors that indicate the book might have benefited from another run through the editorial process (if books are edited these days). For instance, Schneid inexplicably refers to William Bentinck throughout (including the index) as William Bentick. One also finds occasional partial sentences, such as, "Neither he nor Bellegarde found prospect of a Bonapartist ruler in Italy appealing." (p. 141) In addition, the dating of some events, such as that of Murat's "treachery," is confused. Though not an error, Schneid mentions that by the time Metternich replied to Murat's advances in 1813, Murat was already on his way to Dresden, where he had been ordered by Napoleon. Schneid indicates that Murat did not respond to the Austrians' belated offers because Murat "was already on his way to join the Emperor." Nafziger adds the detail that Metternich's message was in cipher and Murat didn't have the key. Nafziger also adds that despite this, Murat kept a representative in the Allied camp who kept him informed of developments there.
The book lacks an analytical index that, because the book covers a number of campaigns, would have been helpful. Also included are orders of battle for the 1805, 1809, 1813-14 and 1815 campaigns (down to brigade and regimental levels). There are eight maps, seven of which are for specific battles and one of northern Italy. The maps, however, are not detailed and will probably disappoint most military history readers. The bibliography includes archival sources from France, Italy and Austria, as well as published memoirs, staff histories and secondary sources. By far, though, the majority of the footnotes refer to French sources.
Because Italy was a sideshow Schneid's book is a useful, if not essential, overview of an often-ignored area of Napoleonic history. While Schneid's account of the campaigns of 1805-15 comprise 160 pages of text, Nafziger and Gioannini give us 235 pages on the 1813-14 campaign alone (so if you buy your books by their bulk the Nafziger book will be your first choice). Epstein does a better job at elucidating the often stormy relationship between Eugène and Napoleon. Of use though are Schneid's descriptions of relatively in-depth such largely overlooked battles such as Caldiero. Schneid's account is chronological and his descriptions of battles are straightforward and relatively easy to follow, but rather dry and lacking in the "gunpowder and blood" that distinguishes a master military historian. The chief drawback to the book for the casual reader of military history will be its price.


Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
by Gunther E. Rothenberg
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars While Napoleon was away..., 29 Jan 2003
Schneid, author of the excellent Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy (Westview, 1995), presents a brief overview of the campaigns in Italy between 1805 and 1815. This volume, unlike Schneid's previous book, is military history in the sense of focusing solely on campaigns and battles. Schneid looks at the chief military campaigns of 1805, 1809, 1813-14, and 1815 (Murat's last hurrah and Suchet's last stand in Savoy), covering the battles of Caldiero, Maida, Sacile, Piave, Raab, Mincio, and Tolentino.
What went on between campaigns is passed over lightly and the book presumes knowledge by the reader of the Napoleonic era as a whole. Political and diplomatic affairs are touched upon only as they affect military matters. Schneid tells us briefly what happened, where it happened and how it happened. He does not analyze the political or diplomatic reasons why it happened, nor does he look at the larger implications of these campaigns.
The title of the book is, of course, misleading. During the years covered, Napoleon was fighting in Germany and elsewhere. Campaigning in Italy was left to his marshals, Jourdan, Masséna, etc., or to his son-in-law and Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais. Schneid can be excused, on marketing reasons, for entitling the volume "Napoleon's" rather than "Eugène's" or even "Charles's Italian Campaigns." The campaigns in Italy during this period were largely a sideshow to battles occurring elsewhere.
Napoleon's 1805 campaign was perhaps his most masterful, so events in Germany overshadowed those in Italy. Masséna, less energetic than in the past and strategically "less than brilliant," still managed to fulfill his role of preventing the Austrian Archduke Charles from affecting the campaign in Germany. Schneid errors in presenting the Battle of Maida (1806) as a classic British line versus French column battle, following Oman, who in later editions admitted his error. For the 1809 campaign Schneid prefers Epstein's (Prince Eugene at War: 1809) more positive assessment of Eugène's performance to that of Macdonald and Pelet. For the 1813-1814 campaign Schneid unfortunately has to compete with the much fuller recent account by Nafziger and Gioannini (The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814, also by Praeger, 2002).
Schneid indicates that this book was written prior to his Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy, which was Schneid's doctoral dissertation, and laid aside for a number of years. I did find a number of errors that indicate the book might have benefited from another run through the editorial process (if books are edited these days). For instance, Schneid inexplicably refers to William Bentinck throughout (including the index) as William Bentick. One also finds occasional partial sentences, such as, "Neither he nor Bellegarde found prospect of a Bonapartist ruler in Italy appealing." (p. 141) In addition, the dating of some events, such as that of Murat's "treachery," is confused. Though not an error, Schneid mentions that by the time Metternich replied to Murat's advances in 1813, Murat was already on his way to Dresden, where he had been ordered by Napoleon. Schneid indicates that Murat did not respond to the Austrians' belated offers because Murat "was already on his way to join the Emperor." Nafziger adds the detail that Metternich's message was in cipher and Murat didn't have the key. Nafziger also adds that despite this, Murat kept a representative in the Allied camp who kept him informed of developments there.
The book lacks an analytical index that, because the book covers a number of campaigns, would have been helpful. Also included are orders of battle for the 1805, 1809, 1813-14 and 1815 campaigns (down to brigade and regimental levels). There are eight maps, seven of which are for specific battles and one of northern Italy. The maps, however, are not detailed and will probably disappoint most military history readers. The bibliography includes archival sources from France, Italy and Austria, as well as published memoirs, staff histories and secondary sources. By far, though, the majority of the footnotes refer to French sources.
Because Italy was a sideshow Schneid's book is a useful, if not essential, overview of an often-ignored area of Napoleonic history. While Schneid's account of the campaigns of 1805-15 comprise 160 pages of text, Nafziger and Gioannini give us 235 pages on the 1813-14 campaign alone (so if you buy your books by their bulk the Nafziger book will be your first choice). Epstein does a better job at elucidating the often stormy relationship between Eugène and Napoleon. Of use though are Schneid's descriptions of relatively in-depth such largely overlooked battles such as Caldiero. Schneid's account is chronological and his descriptions of battles are straightforward and relatively easy to follow, but rather dry and lacking in the "gunpowder and blood" that distinguishes a master military historian. The chief drawback to the book for the casual reader of military history will be its price.


Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
Napoleon's Italian Campaigns 1805-1815
by Gunther E. Rothenberg
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars While Napoleon was away..., 20 Jan 2003
Schneid, author of the excellent Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy (Westview, 1995), presents a brief overview of the campaigns in Italy between 1805 and 1815. This volume, unlike Schneid's previous book, is military history in the sense of focusing solely on campaigns and battles. Schneid looks at the chief military campaigns of 1805, 1809, 1813-14, and 1815 (Murat's last hurrah and Suchet's last stand in Savoy), covering the battles of Caldiero, Maida, Sacile, Piave, Raab, Mincio, and Tolentino.
What went on between campaigns is passed over lightly and the book presumes knowledge by the reader of the Napoleonic era as a whole. Political and diplomatic affairs are touched upon only as they affect military matters. Schneid tells us briefly what happened, where it happened and how it happened. He does not analyze the political or diplomatic reasons why it happened, nor does he look at the larger implications of these campaigns.
The title of the book is, of course, misleading. During the years covered, Napoleon was fighting in Germany and elsewhere. Campaigning in Italy was left to his marshals, Jourdan, Masséna, etc., or to his son-in-law and Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais. Schneid can be excused, on marketing reasons, for entitling the volume "Napoleon's" rather than "Eugène's" or even "Charles's Italian Campaigns." The campaigns in Italy during this period were largely a sideshow to battles occurring elsewhere.
Napoleon's 1805 campaign was perhaps his most masterful, so events in Germany overshadowed those in Italy. Masséna, less energetic than in the past and strategically "less than brilliant," still managed to fulfill his role of preventing the Austrian Archduke Charles from affecting the campaign in Germany. Schneid errors in presenting the Battle of Maida (1806) as a classic British line versus French column battle, following Oman, who in later editions admitted his error. For the 1809 campaign Schneid prefers Epstein's (Prince Eugene at War: 1809) more positive assessment of Eugène's performance to that of Macdonald and Pelet. For the 1813-1814 campaign Schneid unfortunately has to compete with the much fuller recent account by Nafziger and Gioannini (The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814, also by Praeger, 2002).

Schneid indicates that this book was written prior to his Soldiers of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy, which was Schneid's doctoral dissertation, and laid aside for a number of years. I did find a number of errors that indicate the book might have benefited from another run through the editorial process (if books are edited these days). For instance, Schneid inexplicably refers to William Bentinck throughout (including the index) as William Bentick. One also finds occasional partial sentences, such as, "Neither he nor Bellegarde found prospect of a Bonapartist ruler in Italy appealing." (p. 141) In addition, the dating of some events, such as that of Murat's "treachery," is confused. Though not an error, Schneid mentions that by the time Metternich replied to Murat's advances in 1813, Murat was already on his way to Dresden, where he had been ordered by Napoleon. Schneid indicates that Murat did not respond to the Austrians' belated offers because Murat "was already on his way to join the Emperor." Nafziger adds the detail that Metternich's message was in cipher and Murat didn't have the key. Nafziger also adds that despite this, Murat kept a representative in the Allied camp who kept him informed of developments there.
The book lacks an analytical index that, because the book covers a number of campaigns, would have been helpful. Also included are orders of battle for the 1805, 1809, 1813-14 and 1815 campaigns (down to brigade and regimental levels). There are eight maps, seven of which are for specific battles and one of northern Italy. The maps, however, are not detailed and will probably disappoint most military history readers. The bibliography includes archival sources from France, Italy and Austria, as well as published memoirs, staff histories and secondary sources. By far, though, the majority of the footnotes refer to French sources.

Because Italy was a sideshow Schneid's book is a useful, if not essential, overview of an often-ignored area of Napoleonic history. While Schneid's account of the campaigns of 1805-15 comprise 160 pages of text, Nafziger and Gioannini give us 235 pages on the 1813-14 campaign alone (so if you buy your books by their bulk the Nafziger book will be your first choice). Epstein does a better job at elucidating the often stormy relationship between Eugène and Napoleon. Of use though are Schneid's descriptions of relatively in-depth such largely overlooked battles such as Caldiero. Schneid's account is chronological and his descriptions of battles are straightforward and relatively easy to follow, but rather dry and lacking in the "gunpowder and blood" that distinguishes a master military historian. The chief drawback to the book for the casual reader of military history will be its price.


The Long Weekend: Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
The Long Weekend: Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
by Robert Graves
Edition: Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Revisting Britain's "long week-end", 9 Dec 2002
"The Long Week-End" by novelist Robert Graves (author of the highly recommended memoir of WWI, "Goodbye to All That") and journalist Alan Hodge (with uncreditted research assistance by Karl Goldschmidt) is a kaleidoscopic survey of British life between the wars. First published in 1940, this highly readable, impressionistic history of the interwar years is based primarily on newspaper accounts and personal memoirs from the time. Arranged in chapters covering a range of topics making up modern life, from "Reading Matter" to "Sex", from "Post-War Politics" to "The Depression," Graves and Hodge capture the spirit of a time frozen between the two great disasters of the twentieth century.
As a social history, "The Long Week-End" dwells more on matters of manners and daily living; matters of more interest than of "historic" note, such as the rise and fall of Eurythmics, Golfinia McIntoshii, the Lookatmeter, Mr. Grindell-Matthews' death ray, and Colonel Barker the transvestite English fascist. If you want to learn about the significance of the Rapallo Agreement or the Stresa Conference you should probably look elsewhere. Here you can read about M'Intosh and Parer's almost forgotten flight from England to Australia in a broken-down WWI bomber bought for a few pounds. Or of Horatio Bottomley, who grew rich through successful, but crooked, lottery schemes and then lost it all. You'll learn more about the Archdeacon Wakeford case than the Four-Power Pact.
Reading the book brought up parallels to modern times, showing that the more things change the more they stay the same. Moralists attacked the immorality of the times, popular music, books and movies were blamed for the lowering of the standards of decency and culture, the older generation decried the lax mores of the young, the high brows decried the intrusion of American low-brow culture, etc.
"The Long Week-End" is written in a mock serious tone of an anthropologist describing the strange customs of some lost Amazonian tribe. "The Twenties did indeed,: the authors quip, "temporarily raise the mental age of the average theatre-goer from fourteen to seventeen." "...the early film-star," they observe, "usually grimaced at his audience like someone trying to convey news of terrific importance to a stone-deaf and half-witted child."
Graves, who originally thought "lull" (as in "lull between the wars") should be in the title, had entered into writing the book, in part, to provide some financial assistance to his friend Alan Hodge. Graves collaborated with Hodge in the same year on "The Reader Over Your Shoulder," a manual of style. The book benefits from a judicious use of quotes from newspapers. The "Authors' Note" lists a number of topics skipped over, leaving me wanting to know more about the Mannin Beg steeplechase for racing cars. The book reminds me of Otto Friedrich's book on Berlin in the 1920s, "Before the Deluge," which readers might want to also search out.


Bonaparte's Warriors (Alain Lausard Adventures)
Bonaparte's Warriors (Alain Lausard Adventures)
by Richard Howard
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars While waiting for Flashman, 17 Oct 2002
Bonaparte's Warriors is the fourth book in the "Bonaparte" series, the previous volumes being Bonaparte's Sons, set in the Italian Campaign, Bonaparte's Invaders, taking place during the Egyptian Campaign, and Bonaparte's Conquerors, in the Marengo campaign. Each of these chronicles the adventures of Alain Lausard, a sergeant in the French dragoons. In a conscious reversal of the formula followed in Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" series, Lausard is a former aristocrat who had turned thief in order to survive the ravages of the Revolution. "Dragooned" out of prison with a rag-tag group of fellow inmates-thieves, murderers and rapists-Lausard and company are trained as cavalrymen and sent to reinforce Napoleon's army in Italy. Lausard's squadron includes a motley gang of former prisoners and outcasts: Bonet, the former schoolteacher; Giresse, the horse thief and ladies man; Delacor, the rapist; Roussard, the forger; Rostov, the Russian; Karim, the former Mameluke slave; the religious fanatic, Moreau; and others. This cast of characters has remained fairly constant throughout the series.
Bonaparte's Warriors opens with the dragoons enjoying an uneasy peace and Lausard chafing from inactivity in the camp at Boulogne. He and his hard-bitten band of former prisoners are given, by Napoleon himself, a special assignment: penetrate neutral territory and kidnap the ci-devant Bourbon prince, the duc d'Enghien. Completing their task our merry band of what Wellington would have called the "scum of the earth" kick their heels in Paris until war inevitably breaks out. Lausard and the French army march against Austria and Russia and the book culminates with the battle of Austerlitz.
Richard Howard manages to work many military details into his stories, from the number of paces per minute the infantry marches to a detailed description of a cavalryman's tack. The artillery doesn't just fire canister shot, it fires "four-and-a-half-ounce balls." This exposition of military detail is, however, not always accomplished seamlessly. The author emphasizes the hardships and brutality of war, but perhaps to too great a degree. No one just dies in one of Howard's novels, they are ground under horses' hooves, smashed in the mouth with teeth flying by heavy cavalry swords, or turned into pulp by grape and canister. By over-emphasizing the violence and brutality, yet having the brutality occur to the novel's anonymous cannon fodder, Howard dehumanizes the suffering more than he shines a spotlight on it. One of Howard's weaknesses is that he seems so enamored of his cast of characters that he is loath to kill any of them off. This immortality amid the horrors of war lessens the impact of the battle scenes. We know Lausard will survive to fight another battle, but by making all the characters seemingly invulnerable there is little tension as to who will survive by the novel's end.
In fact the lack of fully delineated secondary characters such as those with which Cornwell peopled his "Sharpe" series is a definite weakness. There is no Harper. Lausard has no love interests. There is no villain running through the series or even for each individual volume. The only other fully developed character in these books is Napoleon himself. Howard does a creditable job reflecting the ambiguities of Napoleon's soldiers toward their emperor. Grumbling on campaign and at peace, yet awed in his presence. Even the cynical Lausard can't help crying "Vive l'Empereur!" when Napoleon rallies his troops. Howard's Napoleon is a flesh and blood creature, not a "marble man." Yet I can't help thinking that the many episodes in the book with Napoleon would be better spent developing Lausard. The frequent scenes with Napoleon explaining his actions to his staff may be a short-handed way of filling in historical background, but ultimately Howard would be better of having this background revealed through the thoughts and actions of his protagonist.
Lausard has none of the motivations to rise through the ranks as Sharpe had and I wouldn't be surprised if Lausard remains a sergeant to the bitter end. Cornwell always managed to set a goal for Sharpe in each of his stories; Howard is content to just let his hero be pulled along on Napoleon's coattails, going from historic event to historic event like a tourist. Lausard's sole motivation is to expiate his supposed sin of letting his family die on the guillotine, not having taken action to save them or dying himself. But Howard doesn't dwell much on the psychology of his hero; he seems content telling a fast-paced tale of adventure.
These criticisms aside, Howard has produced a series which affords the reader a quick, night or two read, but with little substance. These books are perfect to take to the beach or to read on a plane trip. Even the knowledgeable reader can more than likely enjoy the rousing action if he can refrain from nit-picking the military details. While the Alain Lausard books are not up to the level of Fraser's "Flashman" series (the ne plus ultra of these types of novels) or even of the "Sharpe" series, they do make for a quick, entertaining read.


1939, the Alliance That Never Was
1939, the Alliance That Never Was
by Michael J. Carley
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two Cheers for Appeasement!, 30 Sep 2002
Carley recounts the diplomatic story of 1939, the nadir of a "low, dishonest decade." Its characters are "Guilty Men" and "Gravediggers," whose "clever hopes" consisted mainly of appeasing Hitler. He reveals the failed negotiations to forge an alliance that "never was" with Russia which might have prevented war; the fear and short-sightedness that doomed that alliance; the ideological blindness that feared a victory that could lead to the spread of Communism more than a defeat that would spread Nazi terror. The book is a corrective to those who have blamed Russia and the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact for the outbreak of the war, ignoring the 5 years of efforts by the Soviets to form an effective anti-German alliance.
There are few heroes in this story. France, divided internally, found it easiest to follow the British. France wouldn't move to save Eastern Europe without Britain, and Britain wouldn't move. What the Russians wanted was an ironclad military alliance, with precise and concrete terms, staff talks and passage rights through Poland so that Russia could come to grips with Germany. Poland could not hold the eastern front against Germany alone. Without such an agreement Russia's options were to stay neutral or come to terms with Germany. One Foreign Office official in May 1939 summed it up, "The Russians have for years past been pressing for staff [talks]...and the French at our instigation have always refused them." Gen. Gamelin as early as 1936 told the French Staff that the only real help against Germany had to come from Russia and Russia needed passage rights to come to France's aid.
If the British and French were suspicious of Russian motives, the Russians were equally suspicious. They felt that the Allies would be happy to see Germany and Russia destroy each other. Chamberlain wrote that he was so "skeptical of the value of Russian help that [the Allies' position] was [not] greatly worsened if we had to do without them." (France estimated Britain had two divisions to send to its aid, Russia 100 divisions.) The British wouldn't fight to save the Baltics, but wanted Russia to fight to save Belgium.
Despite their awareness of this fundamental problem, the Allies couldn't see their way to a solution even after five years. Litvinov, the chief proponent of collective security, was finally replaced by Molotov as Russian frustrations grew and war neared. The British considered Molotov "totally ignorant," "an ignorant and suspicious peasant" with a peasant's "foolish cunning." In July 1939 Chamberlain was still arguing that the Allies did not need the offensive might to defeat Germany, only defensive forces to prevent a German victory.
When the Allies made a last ditch effort to string the Russians along it sent a delegation on a slow merchant vessel with instructions so vague as to be "almost useless," lacking written credentials and told to avoid discussions of passage rights. No wonder the Russians were suspicious. In the end the Russians signed a non-aggression pact with Germany; Poland, "an aggressor in 1938 and a victim in 1939," was partitioned. Even then, a month into the war, Chamberlain was still suggesting that Britain might have to unite with Germany "against the common danger."
Carley blames chiefly the British and interwar anti-communism for the failure of the Western Powers to form an alliance with Russia that might have prevented WWII. Using extensive research in French and British archives, Carley focuses narrowly on the diplomatic "dance" going on among the British, French and Soviets, other broader issues are only touched upon as they affect this diplomatic activity. The politics and diplomacy of the smaller Eastern European states is largely ignored as Carley concentrates on the "big picture."
The narrative bogs down in the middle as the British and the French repeatedly try to wiggle out of making any firm commitments to Russia. British and French obstinate un-Realpolitik grows tedious, but demonstrates the growing frustrations of the Russians. A frustration that had already driven the Italians onto the side of Hitler. Exceptionally well-researched, "1939" presents an important interpretation of the events leading to WWII.


Napoleon (Lives)
Napoleon (Lives)
by Paul Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Napoleon, The Father of All Our Ills, 9 Sep 2002
This review is from: Napoleon (Lives) (Hardcover)
This small book by Paul Johnson sees Napoleon as the precursor of the wars and totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. To Johnson Napoleon begat Lenin, Stalin, Hitler Mao, Kim Il Sung, Castro, Peron, Saddam Hussein, Ceausescu, and Gadhafi. In fact Johnson facilely evokes Hitleresque and Stalinesque imagery repeatly throughout the book. Bt as Pieter Geyl warned, comparisons of Hitler with Napoleon could only benefit the former.
The book seems almost to have been written from memory. Mistakes abound--Lucien Bonaparte is repeatedly referred to as the King of Holland, Betsy Balcombe becomes Betsy Briars, the Napoleonic electorate was "smaller than the one that produced the...lower house under the ancien régime," Napoleon's artillery drowned 2,000 Russians by firing "red-hot shot" into frozen ponds, Charles XII was king of Sweden during this period and Wellington's Peninsular army was made up of British troops and "Spanish auxiliaries." Johnson retails rumor like a gossip columnist-Napoleon's mother had a "leisurely affair" with Marbeuf, Napoleon was a bad lover.
Johnson's writing style also produces strange turns of phrase that imply things that are just not true--the Directory followed the Terror; Napoleon instituted conscription, the metric system and the secret police (or that the Revolution had instituted the prefectorial corps); Napoleon is blamed for massacres in Switzerland while he was cut off in Egypt; or Johnson's comparisons of casualties between the French armies fighting in 1805-1809 and Wellington's Peninsular campaigns. It is hard to say whether these are deliberate distortions or not. According to Johnson, Wellington wore is hat "fore and aft" because he, unlike Napoleon, whose hat was worn from "side to side," liked to "raise his hat, out of courtesy and return salutes." Johnson contends it was "British efforts to circumvent Bonaparte's Continental System [that]...eventually drove the United States into war with the British Empire." According to Johnson the three most important men in Napoleon's administration were Talleyrand, Fouche and Vivant Denon!
Johnson proposes in his introduction to examine Napoleon's life "unromantically, skeptically, and searchingly." I guess two out of three isn't bad. He certainly has removed all the "romance" from Napoleon's career, and he is skeptical. But as a biography "searching" for the real Napoleon, I think it fails. Johnson's characterization of the "bad" Napoleon is as much of a cardboard cutout of the "Man" as the worst hagiographies that Johnson derides. There is a place for an intelligent, modern "pricking" of the balloon of Napoleonic myth and legend, but Johnson, like Schom, seems to have merely run wild in the nineteenth century "Napoleon as Ogre" school of historiography. Lacking any fresh insights, with no new ideas, retailing a mixture of hoary nineteenth century myths, the book is superficial at best. Considering the final product, the price tag seems high for such a lightweight book.


The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon's Forgotten Soldiers 1809-1814
The Prisoners of Cabrera: Napoleon's Forgotten Soldiers 1809-1814
by Denis Smith
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Napoleonic Death Camp, 2 Oct 2001
For five years, from 1809 to 1814, a tiny sun-baked rock in the Balearic islands off Spain served as a prisoner of war camp for some 9,000 French (and allied) soldiers. The soldiers had surrendered to a Spanish army in one of the more humiliating French defeats of the Napoleonic wars. While the incident has received little attention in English-language accounts of the Peninsular war-this is the first, full-length account of the dramatic story of Cabrera in English-a number of the survivors left memoirs of their internment on this desolate islet. Now Canadian author Denis Smith tells the story of the prisoners who lived and died on this dry, barren rock.
When Napoleon heard of the surrender of Dupont's army at Bailen he was enraged at the blow to France's aura of invincibility and wrote, "I do not suppose that it is necessary to make great preparations at Rochefort, because the British will surely not let these imbeciles pass, and the Spaniards will not give back their weapons to those who have not fought." Napoleon was right.
On landing on Cabrera, most of the prisoners were stepping foot on solid land for the first time in four months. There they found no buildings except for an abandoned fort, no sign of human habitation and little more than scrub brush, lizards and rocks. 4500 French, Polish, Swiss and Italian conscripts were left to largely fend for themselves. Supplies arrived, in theory, every four days, while Spanish and British warships stood guard. There was a single spring of fresh water that dried up in the height of summer. The few goats and rabbits which shared the rocky islet with the French were quickly hunted down and eaten. By the end of the first month 62 men had perished (an annual equivalent death rate of 20%). Between May 1809 and Dec. 1809 approximately 1700 soldiers had died. By 1810 only 17 men from an Imperial Guard unit that had numbered 75 still lived. The unit's highest-ranking officer wrote that "they were all virtually naked, pale, and gaunt: left so long without provisions, they resembled skeletons." During one four-day period when food supplies were cut off more than 400 men died.
Finally in May 1814 word came that the war was at an end and freedom at hand. "An incomparable happiness seized everyone," wrote one observer. "Some seemed to lose their minds...Others embraced, crying..." Search parties had to scour the island for hermits who were hold up in caves like troglodytes. Of the almost 12,000 men who had been imprisoned, any where from 4,000 to 10,000 (the later figure including those who had died at Cadiz) had died, their graves unmarked.
The Prisoners of Cabrera is written in clear, scholarly prose. Smith does not overly sensationalize a story that really needs no such embellishments. Nor does Smith exhibit a false sense of outrage. It is incredible to me that the story of Cabrera has never received full-length treatment before. Such a dramatic story would seem a natural topic for a book. Denis Smith is to be commended for bringing the story of Cabrera to an English-speaking audience. Smith does a credible job in fully recounting the events of the Spanish "death camp." Even-handed in its treatment, Smith spreads the responsibility for the affair among the Spanish who imprisoned the, the British who aided and abetted but kept their hands clean, and Napoleon who sent the soldiers to Spain in the first place and who could have done more for their relief.
Events elsewhere at the time are only touched upon briefly by Smith, who focuses on the fates of the imprisoned men. Little space is devoted to the wider conflict in Spain and elsewhere except where it touches upon what was happening on Cabrera. A detailed understanding of these outside events, while helpful, are not necessary to appreciate Smith's narrative. The real story of Cabrera is that of the men imprisoned there. Men like Henri Ducor, the French sailor who scrounged an infantry uniform to be sent to Cabrera in the hopes of being repatriated, and Louis-Joseph Wagré, the "Corporal of the Spring," and Louis Gille, who managed to get himself sent to England along with the officers. As well as, Robert Guillemard, who used the island's theatrical troupe to effect an escape, and Bernard Masson, who escaped twice from Cabrera and even organized a private rescue attempt after his successful escape. The true hero of the book is, perhaps, Don Antonio Desbrull, the liberal Spanish commissioner for Cabrera who almost single-handedly did what he could, often at the risk of his life an fortune, to alleviate the sufferings of the prisoners.


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