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Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom)
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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18
Price: £10.04

5.0 out of 5 stars How The Great War Bred Two Classics., 30 Jun. 2015
By December 1914 the combatants in the Great War had suffered over 800,000 losses plus many more wounded or missing. In spite of this, the result of savage fighting, on 29 December the famous Xmas truce occurred. Hymns were sung and enemies became brothers.It was not planned or ordered. The truce took place along hundreds of miles of defensive positions. It was says Loconte: ' an extraordinary outbreak of humanity'. The Christmas spirit defeated the battlefield.

Within 48 hours what proved to be one of the most destructive wars in history recommenced. The war to end all wars destroyed a continent and the lives of a generation. Aldous Huxley wrote: ' it was a gruesome kind of universe' that emerged in 1918. The causes have been researched in an avalanche of writings. It has still not been agreed if it was futile or meaningful.

The war altered the political and cultural landscape of Europe, America, and the West. It became the 'axis on which the modern world turned'. For many it destroyed faith. This excellent book shows that for two men however, J. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the war deepened their faith and spiritual search. Both served on the Western Front. Tolkien fought at the Battle of the Somme. He used the experience to create The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, books that proved to be among the most influential books of the twentieth century. Lewis became famous for the Chronicles of Nannies series of seven superb children's books ranked as classics. He said the war haunted his dreams for years after 1918. The author of this book says these books may never have been written had their authors not fought in the Great War a war that resulted in some nine million dead and thirty-seven million wounded. Approximately 6,000 died on average every day.

Loconte who teaches politics and civilisation, tells the fascinating story of how these great novels were forged out of misery and death on an industrial scale. It is a remarkable story. After the war ended both Tolkien and Lewis went to Oxford University to teach English Literature. They first met in 1926. Tolkien played a key role in converting Lewis to Christianity. They became staunch friends influencing the other's writings. Many writers wrote angry anti-war novels and poems after the war. Many became cynics. Yet these two believed war could inspire 'noble sacrifice for humane purposes'. Hence, their writings embraced guilt, sorrow, grace and consolation. As Loconte says they reintroduced a 'Christian vision of hope in a world tortured by doubt and disillusionment '. In so doing they incurred the criticism of many. A common accusation was that their writings were a form of escapism. Lewis once said that nothing could be further from the truth, adding that one of the books that shaped his writings was the 'Aeneid', a tale of myth and violence. He displayed this influence in his 'Chronicles'. Their work sought not escapism but he real world which had a heroic and mythic quality.

Tolkien revealed that one of the heroic figures in The Lord of the Rings is based on the men who fought in the trenches. Neither man, emphasises Loconte, welcomed war. Neither romanticised it. The Great War served to 'frame the sensibilities of both'. The author believes we need a new appraisal of the spiritual calamity of the war. Studying the writings of Tolkien and Lewis can help us to better understand the moral and spiritual results of a terrible conflct for an entire generation. Both writers offer us an understanding of the human story that is tragic yet hopeful. Both firmly believed that war can point the way to a life restored and transformed by grace. It is a challenging thesis. Both decried the waste of war as well as the pacifism that can result from it. They both shared the view that the latter can cause wars. Both writers recognised the evil world they lived in. Loconte suggests we study the character of Faramir, the Captain of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings. He has humility and courage. He dislikes battle. Loconte says he epitomises the need sometimes to take up arms in order to defeat those who would destroy us. An apt message for our times.

A unique book In many ways. It is a very welcome addition to the numerous studies devoted to the Great War. Written with verve and clarity it deserves to be widely read. Highly recommended.

Also recommend John Garth's book: ' Tolkien and the Great War'. And Alistair McGrath's book: ' C.S. Lewis ' in which he reveals some of the shade in that writer's odd life.


Lucie Aubrac: The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied the Gestapo
Lucie Aubrac: The French Resistance Heroine Who Defied the Gestapo
Price: £4.68

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She Twice Sprung Her Husband From Gestapo Custody., 28 Jun. 2015
Numerous books have been written about the French Resistance movement during the Nazi occupation of France. Only recently, however, have accounts been able and willing to reveal what that movementi did and what it achieved. Historians have demonstrated that the story of the French resistance was murky. In parts its achievements have been twisted and exaggerated. Michael Burleigh, for example, has also shown how stories of resistance have resulted in the degree of voluntary collaboration being covered up. Involved in that collaboration were some well-known French celebrities. Maurice Chevalier being one.

This book focuses on the heroic exploits of one Lucie Aubrac and her 12-member action group that included her husband. Aubrac was the last and most enduring of Lucie's many identities. The name was adopted as the family's legal name in 1950. It is said the name is known by every French schoolchild. Some 100 schools, nurseries and hospitals are named after the Aubracs. Both Lucie and her husband were given state funerals. As the author relates there was, however, shade as well as light in the Aubrac's story.

By the 1970's the comforting myths of mass resistance began to collapse. Many resistants came under severe scrutiny. The Aubracs included. Evidence of wrongdoing began to emerge.

In 1943, Klaus Barbie, the notorious 'butcher of Lyon', was the Gestapo officer who tortured Raymond Aubrac. In 1983 Barbie was extradited to France. During his trial he accused the Aubracs of being double-agents. The result was dramatic. The now elderly community of resistants turned on the Aubracs and on each other. Jealousy and cowardice were two of the motives. The Aubracs were pilloried in the press and many friends spurned them. Fortunately, after much investigation the charges against them were found to be false, and once more they became national heroes.

Lucie died in 2007, her husband in 2012. Today, as Rees says, researchers continue to uncover evidence of both heroism and treachery. The emphasis has moved to the deportation of Jews, and the role of a resistance movement that we now know was not the sole preserve of the Communist Party.

This excellent book reveals the blend of circumstances, childhood and chance, which created the character who became 'Lucie Aubrac'. It is a fascinating story of a very remarkable woman. She was born Lucie Bernard in 1912. Born into a very poor family she put herself through the Sorbonne. In 1939 she married Raymond Samuel, a middle class Jew. She was an insatiably social young woman, a talker who joined not only the Communist Party but also a group run by Quakers. The diversity of views and beliefs fascinated her. What attracted her also was friendship and solidarity as well as politics. No one group had the right to her exclusive loyalty. Lucy was not afraid to embellish the truth now and again.

During the occupatIon she taught in the local lycee as a cover. Her home became a place for resisters to hide, regroup and plan. She printed and distributed anti German propaganda, and helped to plan sabotage attacks. Her energy was amazing.
Among her heroic acts were engineering two escapes for her lover.

This fair and gripping book is not just about a very remarkable woman, it is also about the many problems France has faced in coming to terms with the four dark years of German occupation. Even now, the cloud of suspicion and mistrust has not fully dissipated.

Those of us who have never suffered occupation by an enemy need to be very careful before passing judgement on those who have. Rees' account passes this test with flying colours.

Recommended


Law, Liberty and the Constitution: A Brief History of the Common Law
Law, Liberty and the Constitution: A Brief History of the Common Law
Price: £15.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Common Law And Its Enemies., 27 Jun. 2015
Much nonsense has been talked recently about the merits and effects of Magna Carta. Leading historians of the period have rightly pointed out that we had to wait a very long time before the freedoms promised materialised. There was a very great distance from promise to delivery.

This excellent book by Potter points this out and reminds us that the search for law and justice began around the time of King Aethelbert. Thereafter the journey proved to be messy, and very long. Potter says the law has a life of its own.

The author reminds us of the work of judges and courageous jurymen. In 1670 the latter were locked in the jury room without food or water in order to persuade them to return a verdict of guilty against Quaker preachers. The ploy failed. Potter relates the history of habeas corpus, the rights of prisoners to be represented, and the resulting adversarial system. It makes for fascinating reading.

We also learn about the evolution of the common law, and some rather gruesome cases that, for example, led to the law that you can't commit cannibalism to stay alive and remain above the law, It is Potter's opinion that the common law is far superior to Roman law because it is more flexible and more likely to protect the liberty of the subject. In brief, he places the jury system above an inquisitorial one.

Disturbingly, Potter shows how our hard won freedoms are being chipped away by parliament. Security obsessions, are only one reason why this is happening. He demonstrates also how the many myths surrounding freedom and liberty can, nevertheless, affect the way we think and feel.

Potter's admirable book is an important reminder that our common law has come about over many years by a succession of trial and error. Statutes like Magna Carta have, of course, played an important role but on their own would have been insufficient to create the common law legal system which Potter rightly argues is a great system for preserving liberty.

Highly recommended.


Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year
Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year
Price: £15.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Gleefully Grim Stories., 25 Jun. 2015
This book provides in part a bit of light relief . It is extremely funny in many instances. A wry almanac of the more negative episodes in human history. However, note that some of the events deal with atrocities like 9/11 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.There is one event for every day of the year.

Read about, for example, the flood of molasses that caused panic in 1919. What about the investor who withdrew from Apple; he lost millions.

A very interesting and unusual read.


Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?
Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?
Price: £6.99

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Credo Of Free Speech Is In Reality Posturing., 18 Jun. 2015
The recent case involving Sir Tim Hunt is a prime example of what Hume's book is about, namely the lip-service that is paid to free speech, the most fundamental of all freedoms as political philosophers have argued over the ages. Hunt was hung out to dry by a lynch mob at UCL. He was not even given a chance to defend himself. And this crucifixion was carried out by an institution that is supposed to be a Guardian of academic freedom. Many other Nobel Prize winners are said to be outraged. I hope they swamp the university with demands to reinstate Hunt. Many graduates like me have already written to UCL expressing our anger over its actions.

The Nobel Prize winner made some silly remarks about female scientists. He did want them banned from the laboratory. His wife after all is a distinguished immunologist. Instead of laughing it off the usual female groups pretended they were outraged. A baying witchhunt was unleashed among our thought police. There was a frenzy of mob-rule self-righteousness Clearly many today have no sense of humour. . As a result the professor has lost his job at UCL, London University, a place where I regret to say I earned two postgraduate degrees. This unwarranted action has been condemned by many well known academics, female and male. However, the Guardian newspaper described the hounding of Hunt as ' a moment to savour'. A distinguished scientist is sacked for making silly comments and a newspaper says it is a time to 'savour' someone's personal misery.

UCL'S reputation has suffered greatly over the mishandling of this incident. It's Council must reinstate Sir Tim. Let us hope that the several distinguished women on that Council have common sense as well as brains. Rumours abound that Hunt's reported comments are inaccurate, and that it was clear he was joking. It was light-hearted banter. Hunt has always been known as someone who supports women becoming scientists.

We live at a time where clearly numerous people live on twitter and facebook social media praying, yes praying, that someone will utter an innocent remark that will send them into frenzies of pretend anger. Many love to be offended on behalf of others. Such sad creatures have caused several decent people to lose their livelihood as a result. Do these twitters react in the same way to, say, antisemitic remarks, child abuse or hate remarks by our enemies? No. Only a comment about, for example, women or climate change or, in particular, phobias,the latter now pervades our society, provokes overreaction. Yet academia readily accepts huge sums of money from Saudi Arabia, a country that treats women as third class citizens unable to drive a car or leave the house without a male relative in tow. This apparently is acceptable.

Everyone supports free speech but unfortunately not speaking freely. You can say what you like within the law as long as you do not UPSET or offend anyone. But many people simply love being upset, or pretend to be. The many fine speeches by politicians following the appalling Charlie Hebdo massacre were always followed by the qualifier 'but'. In recent years the police have often behaved like vigilantes actively seeking people to arrest for infringing someone's rights. Yet oddly. those uttering abhorrent hate against our soldiers have escaped unscathed.

Liberals are supposed to believe in diversity of thought and belief. Today, however, there is an alarming level of intolerance among liberals towards those who express views that do not conform to the liberal worldview. There is an aggressive passion for silencing. You must not deviate from liberal sacred cow issues. Only your view matters. Any rival interpretation is howled down. So, for example, don't dare try to explain who actually instigated the slave trade, or that Isis is linked to Islamic beliefs.

This excellent and timely book exposes the cant and humbug that pervades the notion of free speech. Qualifications to it are manifest. The theory is wonderful, the practice more difficult. We must not upset gays, women, Muslims, and numerous other groups. Why? Because out there thousands are determined to be offended, even by silly question innocuous remarks like those uttered by Hunt.

Hume's book discusses the yawning gulf between the principle and the practice. As he points out, the main source of the cultural and political attacks upon freedom of speech is left-wing or liberal. These people have no desire to debate the issue they just want arguments to cease. Hume says we cannot have genuine free speech if we are only allowed to say nice things. He is particularly critical of many students . On campus after campus there is a ban on free speech, as many visiting speakers have discovered. Clearly, and regrettably, London University does not support free speech. Bastions of free speech have now joined those who wish to curtail it. Apparently, it,like so many, has become terribly sensitive to free expression. Dissent from liberal orthodoxy is cast all too often as racism, misogyny, or bigotry. In America, Colleges have to provide 'trigger warnings' on syllabi to prevent students from stumbling upon a piece of literature that deals with controversial issues that could upset them. In California recently a number of students claimed to be suffering from PTSD as a result of hearing something they found upsetting. When asked what it was they replied passages in one of the greatest novels ever written, 'The Great Gatsby'. You couldn't make it up.

Hume argues that the right to free speech has been used to pursue all manner of ends over many years. It must, he says, not be limited save in the most exceptional circumstances. The moment you make people afraid to open their mouth you are on a slippery slope to dictatorship of the Stalinist or Nazi kind.. You are approaching a society that is sanitized of anything that offends. We should remember George Orwell's remark that:'Threats to freedom of speech, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen'.

When Charlie Hebdo was murderously attacked two crimes were committed not one. These were mass murder and mass free speech fraud. It soon transpired that Western support for free speech was not as solid as first appeared. Some politicians within days even said Charlie 'had gone too far'. In other words publishing cartoons deserved being murdered. And this of course is exactly what the extremist fanatics wanted to hear. Propaganda supporting their evil deeds was handed to them on a plate. Our politicians are terrified of upsetting Muslims by condemning outrages because too many of them depend on their votes to survive in the next election. So look the other way, pretend it isn't happening.

Phone hacking to obtain information for publication is a clear infringement of your life but the compensation awarded recently to some celebrities has been ludicrous. Most in any case thrive on scandalous behaviour. Hypocrisy doesn't end there. The prime minister said after Charlie Hebdo: 'there is a right to cause offence'. Yet at the same time the government was arresting people for posting jokes on line, jokes that did no one any harm. This book demonstrates all too clearly how this country has lost much of its long-standing support of liberal values, particularly freedom of speech. Thomas Jefferson said: 'freedom of speech guards our other liberties'. How true.

Long before Voltaire, Cicero wrote: 'Those who try to close our mouths are the true enemies of the state'. Free speech needs far more than a just legal system. It requires the 'spirit' of freedom. As J.S.Mill said: ' how can the answer be known to be satisfactory, if the objectors have no opportunity of showing that it is unsatisfactory?' Today, the reverse of what Voltaire said is common among the digital lynch mob. These people will defend to their dying day the right to hate what you say and will do their level best to stop you saying it.

Of course those who advocate unfettered free speech have to face some of the problems this can produce. For example, given the likelihood of more terrorist atrocities fueled by Isis the government will almost certainly want to bring in more security legislation over and above current public order acts to ban hate speech. This presents a dilemma. Should hate speech no matter how abhorrent be permitted in order to combat it with counter arguments or should it be totally banned and made a criminal offence because the content is so vile? Everyone must make up their own minds on this.

Hume's book ought to be compulsory reading in all secondary schools. He argues rightly that debate on public issues and personal views should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open. Until it is reputations and jobs will continue to be damaged and lost. Those who deny free speech are robbing us of a fundamental democratic ideal and replacing it with a very disturbing type of dogma. Twittering has become a prime source of group think. As Hume says, tweeters are zealots at loose in a playground. They do not represent genuine public opinion. Their actions, however, often lead to people like Justine Sacco and Jonah Lehrer being hounded out of their jobs. Hunt is one of all too many who have suffered serious loss as a result of these zealots who like to pretend they occupy the moral high ground.

Public shaming, on the basis of instant, uninformed reactions through social media, has become a weapon that can indiscriminately ruin lives and careers. It should cease.

Read this important book and be offended. If you still doubt Hume's thesis may I recommend. ' The Silencing' by Kirsten Powers. A superb expose of what is happening in America, particularly on the campus.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2015 12:15 PM BST


Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Price: £10.99

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremism Cannot Be Justified In God's Name., 16 Jun. 2015
The author of this timely and important book is a former Chief rabbi. He is also a philosopher and writes religious articles for the Times. His aim in this book is to examine the links between religion and extremism, particularly political Islamic extremism. He paints an accurate and very disturbing picture of the barbaric atrocities committed by Isis and al-Qaeda offshoots in various parts of the world. He argues persuasively that to invoke God as a justification for terrorism is blasphemy.

Sacks also examines the dramatic reduction of Christians in the Middle East as a result of persecution and murder. The same treatment has been meted out to Buddhists and Copts. His chapter about the revival of antisemitism in many European states is alarming. Muslims are the main culprits in places like France Jews are being attacked on a regular basis and their graves vandalised. Discrimination is widespread.

Yet it is worth remembering that the victims of jihadi terror did not begin on 9/11. Long before this tens of thousands of Muslims and Arabs had been murdered in the Middle East. This is why some observers argue we should not call what is happening a clash of civilizations.

Sacks discusses the fate of those who dare to criticise Islamic extremism, for example Charlie Hebdo's employees, and Theo van Gogh. It is a sobering analysis. The author believes that only ideas will defeat extremism. Military measures will not do so on their own. He argues that we need to study closely the thirty-years war, 1618-48, to see how that bloody conflict was ended by the ideas of, for example, Hobbies, Milton, Lock and Spinoza.

This book is a mine of thoughtful incisive thinking about one of todays most crucial problems. In asymmetric wars today the weaker side is winning far too often. Sacks says we need to combat politicised religious extremism by identifying the roots causes and exposing their false dogma. God, he argues, can be the solution as well as the problem.

The book ought to be compulsory reading for all MP's. Unlike so much political debate on the issues raised here, Sacks never shirks from facing the truth about what is happening around the world. His mission is essentially to wake us up and face reality.

There remains a major problem which Sacks fleetingly acknowledges. The objectives of the extremists are not subject to being quelled by negotiations or compromise. They involve objectives too extreme to leave anything to negotiate. Powell's recent book, for example, singularly fails to recognise this. Much of the terrorists motivation is fuelled by emotion and pure hate as well as political calculation.

What is also clear, and Sacks admits this, is that Islamist extremism is on the increase. There is no sign of weakening. Indeed, there is a disturbing widening of participation in this type of terrorism. Decentralisation makes dealing with this very difficult. Sacks mention, therefore, of Brafman and Beckstrom's book: 'The Starfish and the Spider' is very apt. Read it.

A most important book. Very highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2015 11:30 AM BST


Election Notebook: The Inside Story Of The Battle Over Britain's Future And My Personal Battle To Report It
Election Notebook: The Inside Story Of The Battle Over Britain's Future And My Personal Battle To Report It
Price: £8.03

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robinson Says That Without My Voice I Am Nothing., 15 Jun. 2015
There is a golden rule in Fleet Street that reminds young new journalists that their prime job is to report the news without burnishing their own image. Self-effacement is the name of the game, or use to be. . Many fail to abide by the rule. Robinson is not one of them. As political editor of the BBC he has reported objectively and fairly for many years. A remarkable achievement given the political bias of that vast organization. His job was once described as being like the Commons Speaker. If thay means unbiased and lacking in pomposity then it is a useful comparison. His job gives him privileged access to politicians of all parties. Trust, he points out, is of paramount importance on both sides. He is a firm believer of the view that off the record means off the record. In his earlier tome: 'Live from Downing Street' he spent some time discussing the importance of impartiality, and how politics is reported. He emphasises here also the need for journalists to report on politics impartially. The book describes events month by month from May 2014 to May 2015.

He began to keep a notebook on 8 May 2014 when he realised that Miliband's time as PM could be coming to an end. He did not know another journey, from GP to surgeon , would form part of the record. The book records his impressions of 'the longest, most unpredictable, most surprising general election in decades'.

In this book he tries and on the whole succeeds to convey the excitement and drama of a general election campaign. Not easy considering that ours is humdrum compared to an American one. Robinson tells readers how he spends a great deal of time fending off spin doctors. He reveals what happened when he wrote about his lunch with Tom Baldwin -Miiband's press advisor-and the latter's comparison of the story about Tory donors to the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. It is an unedifying story. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon.

There is a lot in the book about teams. They abound page after page. No one contacts the author except a member of Team so and so. It is at times irritating but no doubt typical of journalistic-speak.

Part of this book covers Robinson's battle against lung/thyroid cancer. It's removal plus lymph glands unfortunately affected his vocal chords. A speech specialist has helped him to regain his voice although he admits it is still a bit 'scratchy'.He admits that he found the chemo treatment dreadful. It is a sober moving account.

Robinson comes over as a very decent man who is as fair-minded as this book. This is not an outstanding examination of British politics but it is interesting, informative and balanced.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 30, 2015 3:57 PM BST


Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace 1814--1852
Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace 1814--1852
by Rory Muir
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Soldier-Statesman., 13 Jun. 2015
This is the second and final part of Muir's excellent biography of Wellington. It covers the period 1814 to 1852. The first part dealt with the Duke's time as a general, this book examines his time as a politician. Muir's account is balanced, informative and written with flair. After reading this book you know a great deal more about Wellington than hitherto.

Of the 30 chapters only the first four deal with the period 1814 to 1815. The topics thereafter covered include: peacemaking; the radical challenge; the Queen's Affair; Verona and Spain; his time as MGO; P M in 1828-30; Catholic Emancipation; out of office from 1830 to 1841; the 1832 Reform Bill; leading the Lords; back in government 1841-52; and C-in-C 1842-52.

Wellington was a pragmatist . His pragmatism was however tempered by flexibility. The Duke had no time for ideology. When formulating policy he asked two key questions: was it necessary, and would it work. He hated the raucous hurly -burly of party politics because he believed it hampered efficient government. He also disliked the press saying it was only tolerable as it was necessary for liberty.

Wellington was in politics during a very turbulent time . He had to deal, for example, with an attempt to murder him and the cabinet, the 1832 Reform Act, violent protests over the demand for more electoral reform, Queen Caroline's divorce, the question of reparations after 1815-which he handled with compassion and generosity, Catholc Emancipation, and the repeal of the Corn Laws. In almost all cases the ex general handled them with dispassionate judgement. In brief, he acted as a true statesman, something that is rare in politics.

Strangely, Wellington has never been fashionable. There has been much debunking starting after his funeral in 1852. This was lamented by Tennyson. Peterloo, unfortunately, has long overshadowed the success of Waterloo. He was also a notorious philanderer. The attraction of Muir's book is that it redresses the balance. Since Longford's great biography some 40 years ago new evidence has been discovered about Wellington's life and times. Muir makes good use of this. He shows how the harsh image of the 'Iron Duke' has been greatly exaggerated. It is true that his political record is marred by errors but he governed with integrity. He never tried to rule like Cromwell or Napoleon. Wellington demonstrated that in Britain the military are subordinate to civilian authority. Only a Wellington could have obtained Catholic Emancipation against stiff opposition in the Lords and in Buckingham Palace. He even fought a duel over it.

Muir's superb biography demonstrates that the Duke was the right man in the right place at the right time.

The bibliography and notes are sound. The maps and illustrations are excellent.

Read it.


Blair Inc - The Man Behind the Mask
Blair Inc - The Man Behind the Mask
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a Rogue., 12 Jun. 2015
I would not trust Tony Blair to help me across a pedestrianised road. This man does not know the meaning of the word truth. His lies over Iraq led to needless deaths, military and civilian. American publications have long since revealed the secret agreement between him and Bush to twist the facts about WMD. We do not need a disgracefully delayed Chilcot report to know this. When Blair lied to the Commons he committed one of the the worst crimes an M P can commit yet got away with it. I have a transcript of one of his multidollar speeches in the US after retiring. It is replete with cliches, banalities, platitudes and gross exaggerations. It is a mystery why anyone would pay huge sums to hear such drivel. He has no shame.

His catalogue of lies precedes him becoming a politician. He even lied about his attachment to a soccer club, and stowing away in a plane ! He is a consummate actor who believes he is a messiah. The minute he says 'Look', look out the lies are coming. He shamelessly supported Bush and the neoconservative over Iraq in order to curry favour with them knowing he would before too long be on the US lecture gravy train. It also helped his son's internship . Tony needs to be loved. Today he is universally hated.

His so called ME peace envoy job which he has just relinquished was a farce. Note how he is not being replaced. The M E has burst into flames while he was keeping the peace. This book also exposes his very cosy connections with some of the world's nastiest rulers. All have lined his pockets. His property portfolio is now eye watering. His wife's legal affairs have also come under scrutiny recently.

He is persona non grata in the Labour Party . He was never a socialist. He won three elections by being a light blue conservative. Read this book to understand the depths this 'regular guy' has sunk to. Meanwhile his Israeli connections keep his bank balances healthy.

Recently rated as one of the least admired P M's in history.


Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World
Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World
Price: £6.64

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Sort Of Superpower Should America Be?, 12 Jun. 2015
The author is the respected founder of the Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm.. He is the author of 9 books, lectures widely and writes for Times magazine, where he is editor-at-large.

In recent years America has faced a foreign policy crisis, one that stems from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The crisis has been exacerbated by President Obama's apparent lack of interest in foreign affairs, and his clear disinclination to engage in foreign ventures. The Arab Spring that has turned into an Arab Winter has served to encourage many influential American politicians and academics to question America's role in a rapidly changing world. This has reverberated throughout Europe and Asia resulting in great concern over how America will respond to the new and complex challenges she faces.

Foreign policy is back in vogue in American political life. Washington has criticised Britain about its low defence expenditure and reduction in army numbers. As Bremmer points out it is American leadership, or lack of leadership that is on the line. He explains the uncertainty about which conflicts America should choose in an uncertain age, and how this is causing fissures among her allies.

The US invaded Iraq to depose a dictator. The result was disappointing. It intervened in Libya without ground troops and again the outcome was poor-although strangely Bremmer thinks it was a success, It refused to get involved in Syria and the result has been disastrous. Bremmer says what America urgently needs is a sense of direction. It requires a sense of those core values and principles that it is willing to shed blood for.

In the past 25 years says Bremmer America has behaved as if it was getting stronger. He says, ' We're not, and our foreign policy should reflect that'. His advocacy of a major withdrawal from conflcts is a reminder of the isolationist period after the Great War. He believes however it would be a different kind of isolationism. No troops and no shuttle diplomacy should be the order of the day.

His thesis is highly controversial but nevertheless incisive. Should America, he says, concentrate on its national interests, its values or its domestic needs? His arguments may not reflect yours but they will make you think. It is an original contrbution and an insightful one. He recognises, if only others would, that the international system is in transition. Roles must therefore change. His clarity of thought shines through this short account. It is to be hoped that the presidential contenders read it.

The book begins by asking readers to answer ten multiple choice questions . For example, What is freedom, and a question about China. They are designed to see how you view America's role in the world. The book is all about what you think about America's role in tomorrow's world and the choices that must be made.

His chapters cover: America's limits; the incoherence of her post-Cold War foreign polcy; the three major choices for the future; three conflicting arguments on the role America should play; what he calls Independent America; indispensable America, and question mark America. In each case he objectively examines the pros and cons of each argument. He never asks you to agree his arguments. He does not shirk from addressing why there is much anti-American anger in many European states.

He favours Independent America, that is minimal intervention. This plan avoids expensive strategies and maximizes the possibility of prosperity. It is an option that the public clearly want, or so it seems. But is the American public happy to see a rampaging Isis continue on its

I dtected one boob. Bremmer argues that France will not support tough sanctions against Russia for too long because she wants to sell warships to Russia. But France has cancelled the contracts ! Also his point that Obama provoked the invasion of Ukraine by agreeing the expansion of Nato is not true. America never promised Russia way back in 1989 that Nato would not be enlarged.

A brilliant provocative book that fits today's circumstances. Whether it will next year is another matter. . Anyone interested in the future should read this book.


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