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Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom)
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The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Young Woman's Odyssey In Iraq., 27 May 2015
The book tells the story of a 35 year-old single British Council worker from a problem family who decided to go to Iraq amidst the turmoil once the reconstruction began in order to join that blighted effort. She learned to love the Iraqis and admire the US soldiers. They reciprocated her feelings. Emma Sky, however, earned their respect not by agreeing their every action but by at times calling a spade a shovel. She was based mainly in Kirkut in the north. An important oil place located between the Kurds and the Arabs. She eventually became embedded in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In all, she spent ten years in Iraq. Her story ends with the takeover of one third of the country by the Islamic State thugs.

Sky became a political advisor to Paul Bremer and then to General Odierno. Her intelligence and Oxford degree coming in handy. She never hesitated to say unpalatable things to him or to visiting politicians like Blair. She was also known as a jester, and the book is replete with examples of her jokes. Sky soon made it clear that her deep concern for the Iraqi people was sincere. This set her apart from many westerners whose claimed concern was utterly false. Sky criticises the security forces for looking like and in fact being 'an occupying army'. Many other critics have made the same point. Like them she remarks on the abysmal ignorance of Iraqi culture and the lack of Arab linguists.

The author obviously enjoyed her time in Iraq despite the turmoil and bloodshed she witnessed. Her account is an uplifting one. She makes no pretence of being able to offer any solutions to the immense problems the west faces when it tries post-conflict reconstruction. In spite of Iraq and Afghanistan we still seem to think we can parachute democracy into lands where tribal loyalties reign supreme; "nations who have never ever tasted liberal western values, and probably have no wish to ever do so. Will we ever learn?

The book is essentially a tale of unintended consequences, both of Bush's attempts to impose democracy and of Obama's detachment. That is, action and the reverse. Sky demonstrates like many recent books the problems of nation building and how when an authoritarian regime falls it so often results in state collapse and internal conflict. She rightly reminds us that the power of armed foreigners to influence events is severely limited. In numerous cases those we empower use the nation's resources to further their own ends, and subvert the fledgling democratic institutions. Again a common tactic is to use the security forces we have trained and equipped at great expense to threaten their opponents. The case of Nuri al-Maliki is all too typical. Sky makes some interesting comments about the Arab Spring and the rise of IS.

The author says that the Iraq war lacked legitimacy from the outset. Many Iraqis blame the west for destroying their country. Shy pleads for an honest debate about what took place in Iraq in order the better to appreciate what went wrong and why. In a final chapter she examines why things fell apart. It ought to be mandatory reading for all politicians.

Highly recommended for all concerned about a Middle East in flames.


More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First
More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First
Price: £10.44

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timely Reminder That We Are Not Just Taxpayers., 23 May 2015
Steve Hilton is a former columnist for the Observer. He was a campaign manager for John Major's successful 1992 election. He has also run campaigns for other leading politicians around the world including David Cameron.

In this, his latest book, he argues for a change in how we measure success and how we value what is most important in our lives. He argues for a more human way of living and suggests ways of achieving this. Anthony Seldon says the book is a 'powerful manifesto of sanity'. Hilton urges us to fight for policy-making that makes things work on a specific human level. The author offers a number of prescriptions to recognise the crucial importance of people in all organisations. Not everyone will agree with every one of these. One example quoted by Hilton that refers to rude and aggressive behaviour by the cabin crew of a jetBlue flght towards a passenger flying from New York to Boston will be all too familiar to those who have used this airline.

Hilton believes that bad behaviour is not the natural order of things. He argues it stems from the circumstances they are in and the structure of the world around them. Echoes here of certain Greek philosophers and Edmund Burke. Hilton is convinced that social, economic and political problems are building ' a world that is inhuman'. In particular, he believes that big business has become ' dominated by a detached and unaccountable global elite'.

He criticises technology for becoming 'unhealthily fetishised as an end in itself'. He agrees that 'big' is not always bad or that small is always beautiful. However, we are losing sight of the main purpose, namely to make the 'world more human'.

The chapters in this stimulating book deal with: government, politics and policy making; education and its current failings; health care; food; corporate bureaucracy; the role of capitalism; poverty and inequality; the needs of children, and the world around us. Some might argue he takes on too many topics.

For two years Hilton worked in 10 Downing Street as Senior Advisor to David Cameron. In the previous five years he helped to develop the Conservative Party's political strategy and policy programme. Prior to that he spent many years working on environmental and social issues. He wrote a book about his firm Good Business and how it tackled these issues. He acknowledges the learning experience gleaned at the prestigious Stanford University in California. His time in Whitehall was not a success.

In Whitehall the author admits he found lfe full of frustration. He fails however to elaborate on this. He clearly has a disdain for civil servants. Their comfort zone annoyed him. Neither has he much time for those heads of regulatory bodies who leave only to join the bodies they have supposedly been regulating. Grand establishment figures fare no better. Hilton writes they 'seem to think they are better than all that ( Russia's kleptocracy) . They're worse. At least in Russia the corrupt elites aren't hypocrites as well'. His successor, Lynton Crosby, adopted a much more conventional approach-unlike Hilton he kept his shoes on at work. It was Crosby who devised the brilliant strategy that resulted in David Cameron returning to Downing Street. Crosby is known as the Wizard of Oz.

A key observation of the book is there is too much measurement of economic output. Like systems analysts, government tends to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

The book, despite lots of cliches and a few very odd sentence constructions, is replete with radical proposals. After reading it you have no doubts about what Hilton likes and dislikes about modern society. In Whitehall his temper was well known, he was described by one politician as a libertarian deregulator. He is anti EU. He has described the Commission and European Parliament as ' a vast, stinking cesspit of corporate corruption'. Even Farage has not gone that far.

This account by a volcanic character who upset an awful lot of people in Whitehall stimulates thinking. It deserves a wide readership. It will undoubtedly upset some. This 46 year-old son of an Hungarian immigrant now works at Stanford. Silicon Valley will suit his personality fine, and they won't mind if he pads aboout in his socks.


Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble
Ardennes 1944: Hitler's Last Gamble
Price: £11.40

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Operation Autumn Mist: Hitler's Last Major Gamble., 21 May 2015
The author is a fine military historian. I knew him when he was an officer cadet at Sandhurst where his interest in military history was nurtured. After a short spell in the army he began a career as a writer. While on the staff of the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham, I invited him to give talks at the annual Summer School devoted to International Relations and War Studies. He is an excellent speaker. Previous books on, for example, the Spanish Civil War, Berlin, the Second World War and Stalingrad won him wide and justifiable acclaim. He writes with verve and clarity. One of his notable attributes is the ability to detail small but nevertheless important events that are often missed by other battle historians. This book contains many such examples.

The Ardennes or Battle of the Bulge ( Senior German Officers using Bridge terminology called it Grand Slam) has attracted numerous books and hundreds of articles in several languages. It is highly unlikely that new startling evidence will emerge to alter what has been known for many years. Hence, those familiar with the battle will learn nothing new. Newcomers to the events of Hitler's last gamble, a gamble reminiscent in some ways of the German Spring offensive of 1918, will find here an excellent narrative of why Hitler plotted this battle, how it developed, who did what to whom, the atrocities committed by both sides, the crucial role played by the hilly, wooded nature of the ground ( the roads are exceedingly narrow), the weather, the bravery and courage of the Allied forces, mainly American forces ( who Hitler disparaged), and, above all else, logistics. The latter, so often ignored by writers, were crucial.

In all, there were some 160,000 casualties. Beevor does not overlook poor generalship, or the pivotal role of the Soviet forces or the importance of the Allies failure to open the recaptured port of Antwerp. Of particular interest is his mention of the battle of Elsenborg Ridge, an important engagement that has suffered because of the focus on Bastogne. Undoubtedly, there was intelligence failure on the Allied side. Some historians still believe that some of the intelligence that indicated an iminent German offensive was delberately kept from front line commanders in order to allow the Germans to come out from behind the Siegfried Line, a wall of steel and concrete that the allies had long been trying to penetrate.

The German offensive was conducted by three armies on a 60 km front. A key aim was to take Antwerp. Beevor believes, as do many historians, that while the battle was futile it was not pointless. By diverting two Panzer armies away from the Eastern Front to the Belgium frontier, Hitler opened the way for the Red Army's final massive offensive into Germany. An offensive that was crucial to ending the war ( Putin likes to remind the West of this). It is worth noting that the battle witnessed the greatest surrender of US troops in the Second World War.

By 12 January, 1944, the Wolf's Lair where Hitler had plotted the offensive was a pile of rubble. Hitler's own generals had believed the gamble had only a 10 per cent chance of success. Given the fate of those Generals suspected of supporting the attempt on Hitler's life they dared not say so. Those of us who have walked the battle area and studied the events on a map support this pessimistic view. The problems facing the Germans were horrendous even without the vagaries of the weather. Also, even if Hitler had succeeded in splitting the Allied forces it is highly unlikely the outcome would have been any different, given the logistical problems and the millions of Soviet forces waiting to pounce.

The battle caused severe tensions between Eisenhower and Montgomery whose all too typical arrogance upset the American generals. A brilliant tactician who, unfortunately, could be insufferable. Later studies have suggested that much of Monty's behaviour was due to being autistic. The evidence for this is not yet conclusive.

Another excellent book by the author. Like the Great war, this battle is now in danger of overkill. Two more accounts are due out before Xmas. As the annual conference of Historians concluded recently, military hittorians are beginning to run out of major battles since 1914 to investigate and write about.

In the latest issue of the BBC History Magazine there is a record of a recent interview with Anthony Beevor in which he discusses aspects of his new book.

For those wanting more detail I recommend: ' Snow and Steel' by Peter Caddick-Adams, published in 1914.

Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 24, 2015 10:06 AM BST


Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet
Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet
Price: £15.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Is Not All Doom And Gloom., 16 May 2015
Members of the Green Party will not like this absorbing book by Professor Helm. Helm is an economist and as such is open to criticism from Greens who, wrongly, believe economists are heartless money grubbing vandals.They are deemed to be opposed to natural assets. Quite untrue of course.

This book ought to demolish such bias. In it Helm demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to have economic growth without destroying planet earth. As an energy economist of the first rank he is not anti-green. His key point is that we need to focus on renewable resources. Hence, forests and birds and fish should be our main concern not fossil fuels. He uses some excellent examples to support his views.

As Rachel Carson argued many years ago nature is being violated by humankind. Poets have lamented also. If the world's economic growth continues and expands at around 4% p.a., then it will be around sixteen times larger than it is now by 2099. China is is doubling its economy evert ten years. Helm focuses on why this is happening and, in particular, how it can be moderated and eventually reversed. As he says, ' Doom and gloom make good headlines,but they do not get us very far'. His main argument is that only by putting the environment at the heart of the economy can there be much hope of addressing the scale of the destruction that will otherwise happen. As he says the solutions lie 'squarely in the allocation of scarce resources-in other words, with economics'. This is hardly anti Green.

Helm admits that some of this is happening already; he wants more to be done. His arguments are at times over exaggerated. For example, he fails to mention that in some of our rivers otters and red kites are back. In severa third world countries such as Indonesia, and in parts of the Amazon basin, forests are once more increasing. In our seas there are reports of an increase in whales. Polar bears are said to be on the increase, also seals. These facts are out there. Unfortunately, they are not publicized sufficiently.

Helm's key point is we need to harness technology to improve the planet. Perhaps the weakest part of an otherwise stimulating book is his failure to acknowledge the excellent work of other economists who have also put forward similar views in the past decade or so. These deserve mention.

Helm shows we do not have to abandon economic growth to improve the state of natural capital. What he is certain of is we must have sustainable growth. His book explains what this means, how natural capital can be measured, the need to tax pollution, how to pay for natural capital, and the need to compensate for damage.

An important book that ought to have a wide readership.


The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
Price: £7.59

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have The Guts To Eat A Healthy Diet., 14 May 2015
This diet book by Tim Spector provides new insight into why we should be very careful what we put in our mouths. It is an important book that deserves a wide readership.

Spector is Professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College, London. A prestigious university. He has written hundreds of scientific papers on nutrition and biology. He is the man behind the British Gut Project. This is part of an international project to find the relationship between health and the bacteria inside our body.. As he and others have pointed out healthy eating is not just about the amount of fat, sugar, salt and the number of calories we consume-a common misconception. It's about the bacteria in your gut. These affect metabolism and the ability to counter disease.

There is nothing new about the idea of friendly bacteria. They feature in Biology books for students and in many diet books. What is new is the importance of the symbiotic relationship between us and the trillions of microbes in our bodies. They need us for nutrients, in return they aid indigestion, make vitamins, and ward off nasty invaders. In brief, they regulate everything from inflammation to fat metabolism. There is also growing evidence that they play a key role in weight control. Research indicates that obesity may be contagious.

Bacteria make up 90 per cent of the cells in our body. They weigh almost 2kg . They are thought of as an extra organ called our 'microbiome'. Small changes in it can affect our immune system, metabolism, weight, mood and may cause diseases like Chrohn's disease, IBS, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Every individual has a unique mix of thousands of different species of bacteria. Some mixes are healthier than others. Also the more species you have the better. Bacteria love fibre from fruit, cereals,and vegetables. That is why we are told to eat plenty of these each day. There is still much to be learned from the Gut Project but enough is known to make it very clear that bacteria in our gut play crucial roles. Hence, we should, as the author says, look after them. Spector issues a warning, avoid killing these friends in our gut with unnecessary antibiotics.

You can sign up to the Gut Project at britishgut.organisation. Remember that whatever your bacterial make-up, you are born with a sterile gut that is seeded by bacteria from. your mother. Eating probiotic yoghurt and drinking probiotic liquids has become common in recent years. It is true they contain good bacteria but unfortunately there is no conclusive evidence that they have a significant effect on health. Spector advocates looking after what you've got in your gut by healthy eating.

An excellent book that puts scientific research way above a great deal of misguided advice on diet fostered by those intent on making money out of our desire to be healthy. Over the past thirty years every component of our diet has been labelled the villain by some so-called expert or other. Yet globally our diets continue to worsen. There are over 30,000 books promoting different diets and, of course, supplements. Some are dangerous some crazy.. Many display a worrying ignorance about basic biological matters. Spector examines some of these. As he says, the ritual of dieting has become an epidemic. 20% of the UK population is on a diet, yet obesity is on the increase. An average male and female now has a 38-inch and a 34-inch waist. Obese people are now a very common sight. Obese children are particularly worrying. For many, it reflects parental inability or unwillingness to monitor what their children eat. They should realise that they are sending their children into adulthood with a significant increase in the likelihood of bad health. There is also growing research evidence that obesity begins in the uterus. An obese mother gives birth to a child who becomes obese as an adult and then in turn has a child who has a strong likelihood of becoming obese., and so on. This research indicates that the diet a child follows is far less important than whether or not its mother is obese.

This book demolishes many myths about diet . Read it.


First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill
First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill
Price: £6.17

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Resurrection Of Winston's 'Rock'., 14 May 2015
This is an enjoyable read aboutt a woman of whom Winston said was his 'rock' during the war years. He was not an easy man to live with owing to his bouts of depression but Clementine never wavered or let him down. On their fortieth wedding anniversary, 12 September 1948, Winston wrote to his wife from Cap d'Antibes saying thank you for giving me so much happiness ' in a world of accident and storm'.

In 1944 Clementine was one of a select group who knew that D Day was planned for 6 June. She understood better than anyone the pressure and strain her husband was under. She had sustained him through the disaster of the Dardanelles campaign of 1915 and the horrors of his time on the Western Front. On the eve of D Day Winston told her that by tomorrow morning ' twenty thousand men may have been killed'. Only Clementine was able to protect her husband from the challenges he faced then and later. In 1944, Churchill was in his sixties, ailing, a heavy drinker and cigar-smoker. He needed emotional support and his wife provided it.

As Sonia Purnell points out the beautiful Clementine was overlooked for much of her life, and has been forgotten in the past decades. She, like Winston, put the national interest above her own health and family. Unlike her husband she was capable of great empathy. As a hostess she was renowned across the world for her hospitality, and diplomacy. She was admired by de Gaulle and the Americans. She could also be somewhat domineering, giving orders to her maids while in the bath.

Her marriage was a constant whirl of excitement, and crisis. She sometimes found arguing cabinet members in their bathroom. Winstone and Clementine had frequent arguments. Once or twice she threatened to leave him. An opinionated lady she never hesitated to reprimand her husband. Nevertheless, she loved him for his compassion. He doted and depended on her. Many have asked what could Winston have done without her? The author attempts to answer this question.

Purnell's aim is to write a portrait of a shy girl from a racy background who was related to our most glamourous aristocratic family but was looked down upon by her mother and distained by the key political dynasty of her day. She hated casinos, and struggled to bond with her children. It is a story of how she came to marry the ' largest human being of our times'.

Purnell draws fascinating comparisons with Violet Attlee, Clarissa Eden, among others on both sides of the Atlantic.. Arguably, no other premier's wife has played such a pivotal role in her husband's government. And yet there is no job description for such a role. How different to the First Lady in the White House. Clementine had no official staff, or guide book. She had to invent her role from scratch. In 1945 soon after the war had ended the American Ambassador Gil Winant wrote that Clementine's ' service to Great Britain will finally be given the full measure it deserves'.

Clementine devoted herself to Winstone's success with zest and elan, and became a formidable politician in her own right. She has been described as Clemmie, Queen of the First Ladies Club. The influence of today's political wives, described by Purnell as slick show ponies, is simply no match for that of Clementine Churchill. She guided her husband, chided Stalin, increased morale on the home front and was not afraid to use sex to woo a reluctant America into the war. She condoned affairs between her own daughter and the US Ambassador, and between her daughter-in-law and another American presidential envoy, in the interests of state. Unlike Sarah Brown, Cherie Blair and Norma Manor, she never lost her poise in front of the cameras.

Sonia Purnell has succeeded in attempting to give Clementine that full measure. A delightful account that resurrects a very remarkable lady from obscurity. Her contribution to wartime victory was incalculable.

Highly recommended.


Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up
Creative Schools: Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up
by Ken Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.91

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Educational Evangelist., 12 May 2015
This book advocates a system of teaching that is the reason why our schools are in decline. Why since the 1980's we have slipped further and further down world league tables, and why some 26% of ten year old have a serious weakness in English and Maths.

Creative schools believe in teachers being facilitators. Robinson says there are eight competencies that schools need to facilitate. They are: curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure and citizenship. How attractive. He clearly has never taught lower levels in our state secondary schools where the key competency needed is discipline.

A teacher's main job is to explain and impart knowledge not wander around groups at round tables. His examples of how failing schools have been turned around by inspirational teachers are true but he gives the wrong cause. The real reason for improvement was a new Head with leadership qualities plus consistency.

His argument that the traditional system was used to trick the working classes. Is straight out of Marx. It is knowledge that frees not, his ludicrous example, of learning maths by dismantling a car. Of course, the latter is fun whereas learning maths traditionally requires concentration and perseverance, things loathed by many children today.

Robinson pretends he is a radical while in fact he simply is copying mainstream ideas running riot in our schools today. He fails to explain, because he can't, why the system he attacks was so successful before the avalanche of spurious left-wing nonsense hit us in the 1970's. The problem in our schools today, and it is a very serious problem, is Robinson's solution. As a result we are turning out teachers who cannot teach, and over 35% of whom leave after five years,

This so-called progressive orthodoxy has eviscerated traditional teaching methods. The result is that thousands of children leave school lacking fundamental facts and knowledge. I know because I have to try and teach them when they arrive at university - and remember these are the best of those who have been subjected to ill-conceived teaching replete with learn without facts methodology.

This book should have a health warning. Avoid.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2015 10:51 PM BST


The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible
The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible
Price: £3.59

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book, Even For The Non Believer., 12 May 2015
The author's purpose in writing this engaging book is to persuade people to read the Bible. It is cast in semi-fictional form . He explains why. L is a friend, real or imagined. The book is a 'guide' to the Bible . It takes the form of seven chapters devoted to the search for a historical Jesus; the Prophets; the Book of Job; the Gospels, and the idea of the Bible as a Book of the People. In the last chapter Wilson visits Ghent to see and discuss the famous Altarpiece.

The title of this book has been chosen because the Bible has affected human life. Wilson points out that before the Bible became a book available to all, thanks to Luther, its contents were familiar as images carved in stone or painted on glass. Once it became known as a book there began the accusation it was not true. Today, he rightly says the Bible is unfamiliar to many. He argues that one reason for this is that there has been a tendency since the Enlightenment to think of the 'Bible in fundamentalist ways'.

The Bible, it has been said, is very subversive and iconoclastic. It clearly appeals to the author who enquires into what the Bible is, what it means and how it works. He argues that the plodding fundamentalists of both atheist and religious persuasions are hopelessly wrong.

As Wilson explains the Bible was written by thousands over centuries .The stories often contradict each other. He attacks those who argue the Bible is a 'shopping list of bossy assertions'. A sort of Koran to tell us what we must do and when. The Bible he says could not be more different. It does not give answers. Instead it 'nudges the imagination'.

Wilson regards the Book of Job as a 'stupendous work of literature'. This chapter is a gem. He calls it the Bible in miniature. Given its unique beauty, Wilson is puzzled as to why the well-read and educated in the West have decided that the Bible is not worthy of their attention. In the book he says his friend L believed it was in part laziness. He quotes Dawkins as saying that the Gospels are ' ancient fiction'.

This is an excellent, thought-provoking book that explores the power and beauty of the Bible. Not everyone will share the author's opinions but they should make the effort to understand them. A wonderful imaginative journey. Read it.


Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics
Price: £11.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economics In The Real World., 11 May 2015
When studying for my first degree in Economics I had the temerity to suggest in a seminar that the dismal subject would benefit from an injection of psychology. I can still picture the look of horror on my tutor's face. Now that idea has been increasingly embedded in what is known as Behavioural Economics, the subject is the better for it.

Some 109 years ago Pareto wrote that psychology was the foundation of political economy and of every social science. How right he was. This book joins many in explaining what psychology brings to economics. It is clear, witty and informative. The author is welll known for his previous books, particularly the popular 'Nudge'. Here he describes the history of how behavioural economists have and are challenging traditional economlcs. In addition, he tells readers about his contribution to this development. His account is a very useful work of social science as well as being attractive for the general reader.

Behavioural Economics emphasises the importance of assumptions for economic analysis. It looks at, for example, how we make choices in the real world, why incentives matter, satisficing versus maximising, the effect of emotions on decision-making, the avoidance of loss, the role of social context in decision-making, economic efficiency, how we optimize and economic bubbles. Only if these are considered can we build models that are realistic and are able to predict well . The role of maths is examined. Over the years Economics has become increasingly maths oriented. Behavioural Economics does not decry maths but it does emphasise the importance of logic and that assumptions are drawn from reality. One of the many things that Behavioural Economics has shown is that preferences are by no means always stable and consistent. Saving for retirement is one of many examples of this.

In brief, Behavioural Economics is about making our economic models more rigorous and realistic by building them on solid empirical foundations. It uses psychological, sociological, neurological and institutional factors to achieve this. As a result, economic analysis is given added breadth and depth. At last, analysis is based on actual human behaviour. It shows that we frequently behave in ways that are deemed irrational. It recognizes that people are different. They have different tastes, wants, desires and bargaining power, and these influence choice.

Thaler makes a powerful case for Behavioural Economics. He explains how our mind works when we make decisions. He does this by, for example, examining trading, finance between 1983-2003, and the Stock Market. It is an engaging book on a vital subject. It deserves to be widely read.


1864: The forgotten war that shaped modern Europe
1864: The forgotten war that shaped modern Europe
Price: £3.29

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Short Messy War., 10 May 2015
The war of 1864 has only been forgotten by the general public. All history students ought to be aware of Prussia's military victories in the 19th century, although sadly many arrive now at university knowing only a bit, often wrong, about Hitler and Stalin. These military wins were an essential part of Otto von Bismarck's plan for German unification. Given Prussia's military might, her superior planning staff and technology, the outcome of these wars was never in doubt.

Although the Duchy of Schleswig belonged to Denmark, it was wanted by Prussia. Prime Minister Palmerston once said only three people really understood the Schleswig-Holstein matter. One was dead, one was mad and the third had forgotten all about it.

The Schleswig-Holstein Question was a very complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 19th century from the relations of the two duchies to the Danish crown and to the German Confederation. In 1848 the large German majority revolted in support of independence from Denmark. Prussia intervened and drove Danish troops from the two duchies in the First Schleswig War of 1848-51. The second War began on 1 February, 1864. Denmark again fought Prussia and Austria. The key reasons for war were the ethnic controversy in Schleswig and the conflicting political systems within the Danish unitary state. It ended on 30 October, 1864 when the Treaty of Vienna caused Demark's cession of the two duchies to Prussia.

The author of this book believes the war of 1864 was of great importance to the course of European history. Why? Because he argues there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. King Frederick V11 had died suddenly in 1863. His people were in a state of shock at the loss of their beloved King. What happened next was a miltary disaster that led seven years later to German Unification once Austria and France had been defeated.

Few countries could have been so ill prepared for war as Demark. Christian de Meza, the C in C was an eccentric. He hated cold air and wore a Fez. He decided after very little planning to make a stand against the Prussian forces at fortress Dannevirke which was believed to be impregnable. It had been built with 20 million red bricks. Unfortunately, the Danes were ignorant of advances in artillery. In addition, her troops were badly trained, poorly led and lamentally equipped. After only a very few days they broke and fled some 60 miles North to Dybbol.

The canny Bismarck had long viewed Schleswig as a rung on the ladder to unification.General Stosch was not the only one who thought Prussia needed 'a baptism of fire'. The final Prussian assault was set to music played by a 300 piece orchestra. On 18 April, 1864 the assault began. It entailed use of bayonet, fists, as well as rifle fire. Dybbol finally fell after some four and a half hours. For Denmark it was a disaster. Schleswig was abandoned.

Buk-Swienty, a Danish writer, describes the battle with verve and detail. It was a very chaotic and messy affair fought at close quarters. Many of the Danish army were peasants, bakers, teachers, noblemen and theologians. There was little in the way of military expertise. Strategic planning was poor and the effect of railways, and the telegraph on miltary communications was overlooked.

For this reason, the book although weak on strategy and tactics is an enjoyable read. Although being a translation from Danish means that at times the meaning is somewhat unclear. No doubt some readers will be aware the book has been turned into a drama by the BBC. It begins on 16 May.


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