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Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom)
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Violence: A Modern Obsession
Violence: A Modern Obsession
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have We Become More Or Less Violent?, 2 May 2015
Professor Bessel has written a fascinating and absorbing account of violence. Violence is defined as war, rape, murder, assault, even verbal aggression, threats and intimidation. The latter means it is not necessary to lay a finger on someone in order to commit an act of violence. In brief, today violence is no longer just something physical. The World Health Organisation has recognised this in its 2002 definition. This change is very important because it is very difficult , of course, to measure non physical violence The perception of violent behaviour has now become imore and more important. Not everyone perceives an action in the same way. Violence is now in the eye of the beholder.

This shift in the definition of violence has, as the author points out, led to a heightened sensitivity towards violence. Empathy is now seen as very important if we wish to analyse violence. Empathy is the enemy of violence because it means we can envisage the feelings of others. Empathy can also be an inhibitor. To understand violence we need to be able to empathise with the victim. Recent work on the victims of the Shoa has increasingly focused on this.

It is only in the past few decades that historians and social scientists have undertaken the systematic study of violence. The flood of recent writings has, surprisingly, come mainly from people whose lives have been rather peaceful. Violence has become a preoccupation in almost inverse proportion to its presence in our lives. This paradox is a key frame for Bessel's book. His aim is not to document or to quantity violence, but rather to understand its causes and effects. As he points out, the study of violence has become an obsession in western society. It is very different elsewhere in the world.

Numerous books by eminent author's have argued that the twentieth century was the bloodiest of all. They argue what seems to be the obvious that the century was one of extraordinary violence. Two world wars, genocides, the Korean war, atrocities galore make this seem abundantly obvious. It is said our world is more violent than ever. Mandela, Gerlach, Tilly, Bastian, and Ferguson, to name only a few scholars, have all made this argument. These writers argue that the previous century was an age of unprecedented violence, not only in terms of quantity but also of its quality. Many books have titles like, A Bloody Century. Civilisation, it is said , has been undermined as a result. Of course, it can be argued that such a view ignores the 30 years war and the French and Napoleon's wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

However, this view has been refuted by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. In his excellent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues that an examination of the data shows that we are today living in the 'most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth'. He argues we are becoming less violent, not more. Such views may seem hallucinatory, even obscene yet other studies point to the same conclusion. The problem of course is who is 'we'. An inhabitant of Syria at the moment may find it hard to agree with Pinker's thesis. Nevertheless, there is an impressive body of research that supports Pinker.

The author says that whatever is the truth there is no doubt that violence is increasingly deemed very undesirable. and a mushrooming of Institutes and Journals devoted to the subject certainly supports this view. It is a social evil that needs to be checked. It is also irrefutable that there has been a transformation in attitudes towards violence in the past fifty years or so, particularly in the West.

This though has raised concerns about defence postures. Because of the cost and failure of the Iraq an Afghanistan wars the public have become resistant to military involvement overseas. More cautious to the extent of being downright antagonistic. The problem is that this attitude could well inhibit us from taking vital measures to protect citizens from those who have a different mindset. Politicians are going to have to tackle this head on. Cries to scrap Trident, and to cut the defence budget are examples of the problem that is not going to go away.

A thought-provoking book. Demands to be read.


Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan
Nye: The Political Life of Aneurin Bevan
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Giant Of A Man., 29 April 2015
The Labour government of 1945-51 now seems very remote. Apart from health and nationalisation, its wisest move was to grant India independence. Only the NHS remains essentially unchanged, a monument to Attlee's time in office. The man who brought about the NHS was Aneurin Bevan. He did so in under three years.

Bevan was an ex Welsh miner, born in 1897 he later became an MP and member of several cabinets. The author of this new book avoids the M.Foot error of painting Bevan as an angelic figure. He wasn't, and he didn't pretend to be. Symonds is an assiduous researcher. His book is very good and informative on Bevan's early life. It is less good when discussing Bevan's performance in the Commons. A pity for he was one of the very few who knew how to pull out the right stops. He had magic. He could and did mesmerise the Chamber.

He was a brilliant speaker, one who could make people change their minds under the impact of his intelligent arguments. Despite a stammer, he had a superb command of the spoken word. Because of his stammer he had as a child trawled dictionaries to find words he could pronounce. Hence the extraordinary width of his vocabulary. His choice of epithets and phrases rivalled Churchill's.

Bevan was a big muscular man. He was an aristocrat of mining. A regal figure from the valleys he attracted very bright men and women to him like a magnet. He rehearsed his speeches. Prior to his famous 1957 speech in which he bravely rejected unilateralism, he rehearsed it in a place outside Brighton to an audience of only three. In the House it proved to be electrifying. His speeches have been likened to Buckner symphonies.

He died from stomach cancer in 1960. He was a man who gave his friends an intellectual thrill by his passion and ideas. He was enormously stimulating. The author does a good job in informing us of the bones of Bevan's work as an MP and member of Cabinet. Where he fails is in not giving us the soul of the man. It reads at times, as does Michael Foot's biography, like a sermon. Lloyd George has suffered the same fate. Biographers clearly have a problem writing about outstanding people from Wales.

No other politician, before or since, has come even near to embodying the spirit of old Labour. Bevan stands out as a giant among today's pygmies.


Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
by Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Story Of A Rather Unpleasant Film Director., 26 April 2015
This review is from: Alfred Hitchcock (Hardcover)
Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone in 1999. His father was a greengrocer, part fishmonger. A big boy with a distinctive appearance he was unpopular at school. The smell of fish on his clothes didn't help. Interestingly, Covent Garden market featured prominently in his penultimate film, 'Frenzy'.

In Ackroyd's biography, the film director is portrayed as a man obsessed with his image, an image that changed dramatically after the huge success of 'Psycho' The author writes that by the 1960's Hitchcock had become ' What he aspired to be, imperturbable and indifferent'. Ackroyd examines the facade that Hitchcock hid behind. He looks behind the cultivated mask. Whether he sees all is doubtful.

From an early age Hitch was fascinated by crime and the legal system. He read murder stories avidly and with relish. The author wonders if Hitchcock 's films were a means of concealing desires of which he was ashamed. Ackroyd has long been fascinated with Cockney visionaries. These include Turner, Blake, Chaplin and Dickens. He argues here that Hitchcock was very similar to Dickens. Also, he explores his fascination with birds, predators and death. He loved to anticipate an audience's terror. He loved dirty stories and practical jokes. There was a cruel streak in Hitch.

In the film ' I Confess' he plied Montgomery Cliff with drink until he collapsed. He did so knowing the star was an alcoholic. He gave others brandy laced with a laxative. Hitchcock had an odd habit of falling asleep in the middle of a conversation. He dined with film stars and fell asleep before the main course. The author wonders if he was taking opiates to combat depression and anxiety. After all, Hollywood to where he and his family emigrated in 1939, was notoriously pill-happy.

It has long been known that Hitchcock had some very strange relationships with his leading ladies. He had to control them. In particular, his treatment of Doris Day and Tippi Hedren was dreadful. There was a touch of sadism in his behaviour as his treatment of Hedren in 'The Birds' demonstrated. He propositioned her and became sexually fixated on her. His amorous behaviour extended to his female staff. He could be and often was a thoroughly unpleasant man.

Hitchcock died in 1980 of renal failure.

An interesting book about a man who spent his life concealing his fears and his obsessions. Read also Truffaut's very interesting book, an account by another film director, an outstanding one.
Whether Hitchcock was an outstandIng director is still being debated.


Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising
Syrian Notebooks: Inside the Homs Uprising
Price: £9.87

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Isis Was Born., 25 April 2015
In this book Littell sets out to explain the astonishing events that have and are taking place in Syria. Over the past several months that country has become one that is being viewed as the West's bulwark against the evils of IS.

A short time ago, Syria was regarded in the West as synonymous with beheadings and other atrocities committed by IS. The Assad regime was reviled because of its repression of peaceful unarmed protesters. Now it is increasingly being seen as a vital ally against vile terrorists. Echoes of the enemy of our enemy.

Littell is a French journalist. Three years ago he spent ,under the name Abu Emir, two weeks In Homs. That city was under siege. The rebels were starved and bombarded by Assad. Littell who was working for Le Monde took copious notes of what was happening. The result is this book, an absorbing account of Assad's barbarous methods againse opposition.

He is scathing about the so-called revolution. He details the use of torture against any who helped the rebels. This included medical staff. The author examines the way in which revolution turned into religious extremism. The metamorphosis is chilling.

Littell argues, not everyone would agree, that Isis was born out of intense suffering that he witnessed at first hand. He informs us that as at September 2014, some 125,000 civilians had been killed by Assad's forces. Littell among others warned of the consequences of non intervention. The warnings were ignored. His account is moving and worrying. Votes it is argued seem, as always, to have been more important than people's lives. Now we are relying on the help of a vicious regime to combat another monstrous one. There is a lesson here for those willing to listen.

Iran supports Assad while Saudi Arabia supports the rebels. Should Assad fall it will have profound consequences for the region, particularly the Yemen and Iraq where IS are rampant.

It has been said many times but it bears repetition, the key reason why we refused to entertain military intervention in Syria was because of public apathy plus downright opposition to such action. This was a directly linked to the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq, an action based on a tissue of repeated lies by Tony Blair who still refuses to admit he deliberately mislead the Commons. One day soon we may at last be able to read the Chilcot Report, a report that has been deliberately held back for fear it might affect the election.

As many American authors have already demonstrated from US sources, the report will be a blistering denunciation of Blair being economical with the truth. His perambulations around the Middle East, earning vast sums of money for very little effort, in the past several years have been a disgrace. They have demeaned the former occupant of No. 10.


KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps
KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps
Price: £8.96

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitler's Willing Executioners., 19 April 2015
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'All Nazi war criminals should be tried regardless of their age or mental state or infirmity'. Who said that? Lord Janner who appears to have escaped trial on allegations of child abuse because of his dementia. Last week three more former SS men were arrested and charged with war crimes. They are all in their nineties and In poor health. One has dementia.

At the moment Oscar Groning is one of those on trial. He is charged with complicity to murder 300,000 people, mainly Hungarian Jews. He worked in Auschwitz. He was a clerk. Now aged 93 he has told the court in Luneburg that his job had been to act as a book keeper. He counted money looted from victims. The Court has been regaled with harrowing stories of Mandela's inhuman medical experiments on children and adults. These experiments included amputations without anaesthetics, and the injection of toxic substances that caused agony. Some of his experiments are too ghastly to report. So far, the accused has admitted 'moral guilt'.

This new and massive book by Nikolaus Wachsmann examines and analyses why camps like Dachau were set up after Hitler's acquisition of power in 1933. His earlier books, which are superb, dealt with Hitler's prisons, and concentration camps between 1933 and 39, His latest book will be very hard to beat. Almost certainly it will become the classic and most comprehensive account of Germany's evil camp system between 1933 and 1945.

He reveals the sheer complexity of the camp system from 1933. The way the Nazis used an amazing variety of buildings to house the first victims and the antagonism between the police, the SA and the SS are all examined in detail. What we also learn is the barbarity meted out to political prisoners in1933-4, mostly SPD and KPD. Torture was commonplace. Prisoners were degraded and dehumanised. For many death was a relief. All of this was known in other major European countries but was ignored, mainly because communism was the ideology most feared. Hitler was seen by many observers as someone who was putting the red menace to bed. The evidence is overwhelming that the atrocities meted our to political prisoners in 1933-5 was known and talked about throughout Germany. Many openly supported the barbarous treatment. The middle classes, many of whom had loathed the Weimar Republic, were particularly supportive. The author notes in this respect that numerous. camps were in the heart of major cities; they could hardly go unnoticed.

The Nazis put out propaganda making out that the camps were places of work, reform and re-education. Some prisoners they said were beyond redemption.Invariably,these were Bolsheviks. Several accounts about the camps were published by senior camp officials. One sold tens of thousands of copies. Thousands were sent to German embassies overseas on the instructions of Goebbles. These books all claimed that the camps were model institutions of care and order and labour. Stories were circulated of satisfied prisoners. In November 1933 a plebiscite was held which allowed prisoners to vote on the conditions in the camps. Rigged, it revealed that over 98% of Dachau's inmates supported the Third Reich. It was a vivid example of the effectiveness of SS terror. Prisoners had been told that anyone voting against the camps would be regarded as traitors. One who did was tortured to death.

A very few prisoners were released after months of degradation and abuse. Most never recovered. Their families were spied on and if they passed on any of what their husbands told them they were arrested. It was fear resulting from terror that enabled total Nazi rule, rule that fatally weakened resistance.

The author has written an integrated history to connect the policies of the perpetrators, the attitudes of society, and the world of the victims. It is a macro analysis of terror plus a micro study of individuals. The result is a nuanced history. The concentration camps are viewed from two key perspectives. Firstly, there is a focus on life and death in the camps. Much of this is told through the eyes of individuals,the guards and the inmates. At some stage an estimated 60,000
served in SS concentration camps. They were a mix of sadists, and what Primo Levi called 'normal'.They comprised men and women. There was no typical guard. The majority were recruited from the thousands of unemployed ex servicemen. Many were paramilitaries formed to attack communists and other left -wing politicians after 1918. Violence came easy to them.

Secondly, the book examines the history of the Third Reich and the place of the camps within it. Emphasis is placed on the campaign of terror that began in 1933. In this, innocent people, men and women, were attackd and thrown in prison without being charged. The legal profession was fully complicit in this. The author emphasises that the camps developed out of this and were part of a wider web of terror that embraced prisons, and the Gestapo. Yet they were distinctive. In 1933, thousands of communists and social democrats were imprisoned. Some were torgtured then shot. The author argues convincingly that Hitler was intent on wiping out all those he believed had caused Germany's defeat in 1918. The camps after 1934 became more and more places of barbarity, and as Eichmann told his friends in 1957 while enjoying life in Buenos Aires, 'it's pretty easy to get inside, but awfully hard to get out'.

The title comes from the German 'Konzentrationslager'. KL came to represent the burning obsessions of the Nazi hierarchy. KL was intended to purify the German nation by eradicating racial outsiders, removing political and social deviants, and by sacrificing the individual on 'the altar of racial hygiene and murderous science'. Mass extermination would deliver Germany from its enemies. The book points out that so fanatical were the believers of this vile polcy that from the earliest days they were determined to perish in flames rather than surrender.

Between 1939-45 some 2.3 million people were put in SS concentration camps. Over. 1.7m died. One million Jews were murdered in Auschwitz alone, the camp that was the focus of the Final Solution. It was a slave labour and death camp. Of every 200,000 arrivals, almost all Jews, some 80% went immediately to the gas chambers.

The book describes: the history of the early concentration camps, the camp system, the gradual focus on Jews, mass extermination, the factories of death, corruption in the system, incompetence in the running of the camps, the economics of extermination, satellite camps, the role of Kapos, and the final weeks of the war.The maps are excellent as are the tables of numbers, deaths, SS ranks, the notes and sources which include trial records. The primary sources include many only recently released. Those sources that were written or drawn by prisoners are simply amazing. Secret diaries were kept by ingenious means.

The whole is an impressive array of ten years research and scholarship. I repeat it will not be bettered for many years, if ever. What is so impressive apart from the author's mastery of the material is his objective and sober style. In all the many, many history books and articles I have read and studied I have only once ever come across a writer of his elegance and authority. That is Professor Sir Michael Howard, OM, MC. It was my good fortune to have him as my supervisor for my doctoral thesis.

For the first time in Englsh we are given full details of how the enormous camp system developed. The variety of these camps and there different purpose is examined in detail. The author shows how the death of six million Jews has unfortunately masked the hundreds of thousands of non Jews who were tortured and murdered.This book is one of the very few which corrects the myth that the majority of those murdered were gassed. In fact the majority were shot in ravines, forests and other hidden places.

There can be very few who are not familiar with the horrors and sheer bestiality of these camps. In them human beings of every age were treated like cattle, sadism ran riot and experiments were inflicted on humans that are beyond belief. For every atrocity you read about there is a worse one. There should be no need for any reviewer to catalogue the heinous crimes committed in these camps, crimes that were aided and abetted by thousands of 'ordinary Germans'. They drove the trains and they did the bookeepinge of deaths, and kept meticulous accounts of jewellery and private possessions taken from camp inmates prior to their imprisonment or extermination. Research shows that thousands of Germans lived less than five kilometres from many of the camps. To pretend ignorance of their existence has been shown to be nonsense. We know also from records that many Germans worked in these camps on a daily basis. Many were married with families. Most were working class or lower middle class. Pre 1933 they had been labourers or civil servants.

The appalling savage crimes that took place in the camps have been exposed in tens of thousands of studies and testimonies. Original documents exceed this number. It is impossible for any one person to fully master this material but the author has come near to so doing.The SS destroyed the bulk of its files in 1945. They kept no diaries. Himmler, unfortunately, died before he could be interrogated. Many who survived refused to speak of their ordeal. In camps like Gusen none survived so there is no record. The soviet authorities forbade any of their citizens from speaking after release.Instead they were treated as collaborators. There are,therefore, still gaps in the record despite the mountain of available information. What is pleasing, however, is that young German scholars are now contributing valuable research information.

What this book also does is to clear up, hopefully once and for all, a number of misconceptions about the camps, and their organization. It is, for example, incorrect to interpret everything that happened after 1933 as the Holocaust. Furthermore, Hitler's involvement in the camps has often been misinterpreted. The author explains also how the focus on Dachau and Auschwitz has led to a lack of knowledge about other camps for example,the death camp Treblinka. Again we often forget that the camps were spread across most of German occupied Europe from Poland to France to the Netherlands to Lithuania. Even little Alderney Island had one. In all, there were 27 main camps and over 1,100 satellite camps. Only Dachau lasted for the entire Nazi period.

As the author points out not all camps were extermination camps. Some like Ravensbruck and Dachau were set up to incarcerate so-called enemies of the state. Their existence was well-known in neighbouring countries, including England. Communists were popular targets for these camps. initially, Jews were few in number in these camps. The author confirms that Hitler and his henchmen had no blueprint for a camp system. There was also no one model. Some camps were prisons, some factories, some evil laboratories, some slave labour camps and some charnel houses. They developed at first in an haphazard manner. What took place in them depended very much on who was in charge.

Hitler's influence on how they were run has been exaggerated. The author points out he never ever visited one. He only referred to them in speeches on rare occasions. He was, of course, aware of them and later was directly implicated in the Holocaust. The expansion and organisation of the camps was left to others, eventually to Himmler. Read the fascinating story of how Himmler appointed Theodore Eicke to command Dachau, and how that ex inmate of an asylum came to dominate the running of concentration camps. Eicke's involvement in the Rohm murder is also explained in detail. Hitler was determined to wipe out the SA as it was the only group that threatened him. After murdering Rohm and many others in the SA the Generals fell into line with ease. Germans supported the removal of the SA believing Hitler was removing thugs from thr streets. The propaganda was highly successful given a people who desperately wanted to believe Hitler was their saviour, a man who would return Germany to her rightful place in the sun.

It was only after a period of time when Himmler and his vast bureaucratic organization had taken over the camps (1935) that several became death camps where arrivals became corpses in under two hours. By now, Jews figured prominently in the statistics of dead along with gypsies, religious minorities, homosexuals, the mentally ill and the disabled. Anti-semitism became in due course a major motivation of the SS murderers and their willing executioners.

Professor Wachsmann teaches history at Birkbeck College, London. He has written a meticulous account of terrible deeds commited only 75 years ago. He reminds readers that the Kapos, selected prisoners, of German, Ukraine. or Lithuanian origin, were savages. They took pleasure in acts of sadism against men and women. Many came from ordinary backgrounds and had no criminal record. The author chillingly asks us to remember that these men and women, like the SS, were ordinary human beings. They had not been produced to be killers. It was ideology plus human cruelty that motivated these monsters. We are given as an example of the fact that many Kapos came from middle class educated backgrounds that of Carmen Mory ( the 'Witch). She committed suicide in 1947 to escape justice. Carmen was wealthy, and well-educated. Nothing in her background indicated a violent nature. Prior to becoming one of the most sadistic Kapos at Ravensbruck, Carmen had been a journalist for the Manchester Guardian.

The author has written an outstanding book about monumentous evil. It is not a page too long. A model of painstaking research it will rapidly be regarded as the definitive source of Nazi camps. He has spoken authoritatively about the unspeakable. All, particularly undergraduates and researchers, will be in his debt for many years to come. A shocked Ed R Morrow said in his famous radio broadcast of 15 April, 1945, from Buchenwald Camp : 'For most of it I have no words'.The author has found the words.They are chilling and frightening in their implications for humanity.

This is an example of historical writing at its very best. Read along with Primo Levi's masterpiece:'If this is a man', and Sarah Helm's excellent:'If this is a woman'.

Today there are available two huge encyclopedias, one with over 1,600 pages, the other with 4,100 pages, which detail every camp that existed in the ghastly system.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2015 6:40 AM BST


The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford Nuclear Age Series)
The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford Nuclear Age Series)
Price: £20.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking The Unthinkable., 18 April 2015
If you wish to understand why to give up our Trident nuclear deterrent would be the height of folly read this book.
Although this book by Fred Kaplan was published over 35 years ago, it is still one of the finest accounts of how a brilliant group of American scientists devised a strategy for the nuclear age.

As Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters are currently demonstrating, there is a disturbing ignorance about the nuclear deterrent. Today's warheads are horrendously powerful. Each single one is ten times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The financial costs of replacing the Vanguard and future maintenance is massive. This is beyond dispute. However, although today's potential enemies may not be nuclear states, with the exception of Russia, anyone that has been involved with security issues knows at least one fundamental truth; you never know what is coming next. Not one think tank in the West predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iraq of Afghanistan wars. There are numerous other examples.

The theory of nuclear deterrence can seem at times to be somewhat esoteric and Byzantine .However, it needs to be understood. The nonsense talked by opponents of Trident has to be exposed and shown to be terribly misguided.

Read this superb book by an eminent political scientist. I happen to have met him in America and admire his writings. That is not why I recommend this challenging and immensely important book.


Britain's Two World Wars against Germany: Myth, Memory and the Distortions of Hindsight (Cambridge Military Histories)
Britain's Two World Wars against Germany: Myth, Memory and the Distortions of Hindsight (Cambridge Military Histories)
Price: £10.92

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myths About Two World Wars Are Exposed., 17 April 2015
Professor Brian Bond spent much of his academic career at Kings College London .He taught in the prestigious War Studies Department under Professor Michael Howard .There were a formidable team. Bond was also a long time admirer and close friend of the renowned military historian Basil Liddell Hart. Bond has written many acclaimed books on the Great War, and biographies of some of the leading military participants. His reappraisal of Haig and The Unquiet War are particularly recommended. He is one of the Britain's leading military historians.

In this book he challenges the view, held by many military historians, that the Great War was a mix of folly, mismanagement, Incompetence, futilty and waste of life, whereas the Second World War was a triumphant success against evil. He quotes John Bourne's comments as an example of this standpoint. According to the historian Bourne the First World War was ' not really about anything, or not about anything important; the Second World War was about national survival at home and the defeat of a vile tyranny abroad'. Bourne believes the generals in the Second World War were better, understood technology and avoided heavy casualties by using manoeuvre.

There are still historians who regard the Great War as hell on earth whereas the later war was a moral triumph and far more tolerable. In Orwellian language, Great War bad, Second World War good. Bond argues that both these stereotypes are deeply flawed. In particular, he believes Britain's role in both has been badly distorted by hindsight.

Recent research has moved the debate about the Great War forward from the emotional and polemical approach typified by phrases such as 'butchers and bunglers', and 'lions led by donkeys'. Unfortunately, this revisionist work has not filtered through to the general public. Children are still fed at school selected war poets whose views are not representative of what really took place. The media approach ranges from the negative to the farcical. The Somme campaign and Third Ypres are made out to be typical of the whole war when they were not. Mud and blood are still the paramount images of the Great War.

Bond points out that Britain's role in the Second World War, while important, has been magnified by the horrific revelations of Germany's barbarism and by the Nuremberg Trials. He shows that the spate of war films after 1945 and Churchill's promotion of his own status as a war leader has significantly influenced and exaggerated Britain's role. Casualties in both wars differ markedly. In the first Britain and the Dominions suffered one million military deaths. In the second war the figure is about one-third that number. However, what is often forgotten is that in the Great War we fought for four years on the main front against an outstanding military power. Between 1939-45 we did not return to Europe to fight the main enemy until 1944, after being expelled from Europe in June 1940. Nevertheless, at the sharp end, casualties were as heavy , or heavier, than in the worst phases of the Great War, in proportion to the numbers involved. And this despite a deliberate attempt to reduce casualties to the minimum.

Bond argues that a thorough and objective reappraisal of Britain's contribution to Germany's defeat in 1945 has hardly begun despite the passing of some seventy years. He rightly predicts that the eradication of negative interpretations of both wars will be very difficult. Any good psychologist would agree. People do not like cherished myths being destroyed.

Brian Bond has written an absorbing account of how the two world wars of the twentieth century are viewed. His style is elegant. He has produced a book of great importance to anyone wanting an accurate and objective interpretation of two terrible wars. This book is an excellent example of the importance of archival research. It should help to abolish some of the outdated views about both world wars.

Bond explores the reasons why the Western Front in the Great War got its reputation for unique awfulness. He shows how trench warfare has been distorted by films and polemical writing. He reminds us that unlike 1944-5 the public were largely ignorant of conditions at the front. It was this that led to the bitterness of many memoirs and poetry. Sassoon's verses are a prime example. In the Second World War there was a much smaller gap between home and front. Civilians were heavily involved. Cities were bombed, there was evacuation and rationing. Propaganda stressed it was a 'people's war'.

Those readers who only wish to reinforce their preconceptions about the futility of the Great War will no doubt not like this book. Those who are open to new analysis based on reliable primary evidence will find this an enlightening experience.


Who Governs Britain?
Who Governs Britain?
Price: £4.31

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Out-of-Date Political System., 17 April 2015
This is an interesting and useful guide to the government of Britain by a well-known political scientist. Some of the content is very similar to that revealed, and in much more detail , by Anthony Sampson some 50 years ago, and revised by him 10 years ago. See his superb: 'Anatomy of Britain'. This account brings the story uo-to-date and adds some new spicy opinions to Sampson's book.

King says our ministers are adequate but no more while the civil service has declined in terms of competence. Special advisers have eroded their influenced, and some of these are poor quality. He writes that the collective influence of our civil service is ' scarcely a shadow of what it used to be'. He also has some interesting things to say about our judges and their habit of overruling ministers. In particular, judicial review has become the bane of ministers' lives.

The author does not like constant ministerial reshuffles. Few ministers are today masters of their departments.The Home Office and Defence are prime examples. When did we last have an outstandIng Defence Minister? In my opinion when Dennis Healey occupied the chair. Of course, unlike any since he had war experience on the beaches. The same applies to today's shadow cabinet. King also believes as do others that there are far too many MPs.

The book does serve another useful purpose. It reminds the public that while few politicians are liars, most are living a lie. They assume the mantle of power is still theirs when in fact as Sampson showed years ago it is fractured and very diffuse. The importance of this fact is that our electoral system is broken because it works on the principle that power needs to be concentrated. Our political system has failed, says King, to adapt. Our country's importance has declined sharply, as witness our exclusion over the Ukraine crisis. We no longer punch above our weight. The two-party system is in tatters. King writes: ' we now have noisy, unsettling incompetence'.

Today, executive power is very dispersed. Even if we leave the EU, Westminster will never again wield total sovereignty because the European Court, the judiciary, the financial bodies, massive global companies, and the media now exert powerful influence.

Our assumptions about political power are dreadfully out of date. They were fifty years ago. No wonder we have a disillusioned electorate. 800,000 fewer have registered for the forthcoming election than in 2010.

I like his assessment of our politicians's honesty, ' they are at least as honest and honourable as members of the public at large'. King believes they are no more stupid or corrupt than they used to be. He reminds us that in the Commons after the war ended in 1945 there were trades unionists who hardly ever spoke and were rarely sober. He doesn't name them but who they were is well known.

Clearly written with authority. A timely reminder that things are not what they used to be. Not by a long way.


Staying Alive: How to Get the Best Out of the NHS - advice from a doctor
Staying Alive: How to Get the Best Out of the NHS - advice from a doctor
by Dr Phil Hammond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dog Is Better Than A Doctor. A Renowned GP Says So., 13 April 2015
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Hammond has written a very funny account of doctors and the NHS. He regrets he is no longer able to give his patients the kind of care they want. Readers of this book are given an informative insight into what your doctor thinks and how his/her role has altered. He is scathing about the ten minute rule. His stage show is a delight. Do your best to see it. Hammond has won many awards from his medical colleagues, appeared on TV on Question Time and is scrupulously frank about the NHS. In so doing he demolishes many of the .myths about a superb health service. Politicians would do well to read, and cease using it to make cheap political points.

Dr Hammond reveals many secrets, in particular how to get a doctor's attention, how to avoid the NHS if you can, to avoid being too calm or laugh too nervously when phoning for an ambulance. It is recommended we follow his 'five portions of pleasure a day'. These include: exercising, eating properly, and keeping friendships. The acronym 'Clangers' is the secret of how to have a good life. Dogs are a must.

Readers of Private Eye will know Hammond is their medical correspondent. Read what goes through a doctor's mind during the ten minute appointment. Hear about wrong diagnoses and other errors. At times, he says a doctor's intuition can override evidence. The author is a big believer in prevention being better than cure. He recommends, for example, we carry with us at all times asprin in case of a heart attack. He tells us how to carry out chest compressions to music, and many more excellent tips.

An excellent and very stimulating treasure trove of sound advice delivered with clarity and wit. After reading this, your appointment with a GP will take on a new dimension. It might even be nice to feel unwell.

Should be on everyone's bookshelf. It is one of the most interesting books I have reviewed recently.


"They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity)
"They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else": A History of the Armenian Genocide: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity)
Price: £19.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Christianity is in danger of being annihilated'. Lepsius, a German missionary, 1916., 13 April 2015
The Pope has recently been heavily criticised for stating, as did his predecessor, that what Turkey did in 1915 with regards to the Armenians was genocide. The fact that it was true did not deter Volkan Bozkir from attacking Pope Francis. He brought up Argentina's human rights record and its willingness to allow Nazi thugs to seek haven in the country after 1945. While his criticisms have foundation, they hardly equate with deliver genocide. Incidentally, a massacre aided and abetted by Kurds and others.

What we now call genocide had occurred many times in history but it was the twentieth century that witnessed unprecedented organised genocide. Scholars are still divided as to why. The massacre of some 1.5 million Armenians by Turkey during the Great War was followed by Nazi and Stalinist genocide, and more recently the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. Turks, following a deliberate plan, committed horrific atrocities against Armenian men, women and children. It is shameful that to this day the Turkish government deny what took place. This despite film evidence, diaries, photographs, and oral testimonies. The account by Henry Morgenthau, the American ambassador to Turkey was and is devastating. He had regular contact with the key perpetrators. He knew what was going on. The Armenians genocide is a painful historical episode because of the persistence of the Turkish Republic's denial that it ever occurred. Such intransigence demeans Turkey and it's people. Like other massacres on this scale the genocide took place in full view of the international community. The international press was full of stories about the killings. It was a tragedy that demands of Realpolitik took precedence over the death of innocents.

Genocide attracts many definitions and scholars differ in what they believe is an accurate meaning, but essentially it is the deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or religious group by the State. The word did not exist in 1914. It was invented in the 1940's by the jurist Raphael Lemkin in order to define the atrocities against the Jews. It is derived from the Greek word genos. The UN adopted the term in 1948. 142 countries have so far accepted the UN's definition . Those that don't argue it fails to distinguish massacres and outright genocide. It is important to remember , therefore that several states have murdered up to tens of thousands yet escaped being accused of genocide because their crimes fall outside the UN definition. Indonesia is one of many. Greece is another.

The causes of genocide differ in detail but common reasons are: severe internal crises, war, desperation, a belief that the ethnic group is a threat, religion, and political and ideological fervour. The author fails to mention another key reason for genocide. It is invariably carried out against the defenceless and those regarded as inferior. The Armenians were disarmed, the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and the disabled were the targets of the Holocaust programme. None of these groups could fight back. Those who carry out genocide are cowards. Henry Morgenthau firmly believed the driving motivation of Talat, Enver and Cemal, the three Pashas, was no longer reform but 'an insatiable lust for personal power'. They had gained full power in a bloody coup d'etat in January 26, 1913. Many scholars have argued impressively in recent years that Muslim culture that regards other religious groups as infidels is at the heart of the reason why the Armenians were slaughtered.

Genocides happen because of a deliberate political decision. The Ottoman Empire, a multinational and multireligious empire, was collapsing by the beginning of the twentieth century. Turkey had suffered terrible losses in the Balkans war of 1912-13. In 1908, the so-called Young Turk revolution had taken took place. They beleved that nationalism was the formula that would allow them to create a new vibrant empire. They took the unification of Germany as an example. They envisaged a new state populated only by an exclusive, homogeneous Turkish people. The decision meant serious trouble for all other ethnic peoples. The Armenians in particular were threatened because they were Christians. They also, like the Jews of Germany, occupied important positions in the economy and professions in Istanbul. By 1910 they were starting to demand greater political rights and autonomy. They immediately were viewed as a very serious threat to the ambitions of the Young Turks. Turkey accused them of being a fifth column aiding the Russians.

In the 1890's hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been massacred by Turks. Many more were murdered in 1909. The Great War and Turkey' s entry on the side of Germany led to disastrous defeats. That in January 1915 at Sarikami was especially severe, particularly as it was inflicted by the hated Russians. Panic gripped Istanbul and, as is common, the government sought reasons at home. The Armenians became the obvious target as enemies of the state. In February all Armenians were disarmed. This included those serving in the army. They now become mere labourers. Next came deportation in April 1915. The genocide campaign began shortly afterwards. It was planned in detail from Istanbul.

What happened almost defies description. Men were killed wherever they were found, women raped and mutilated and children bayoneted at will. Whole villages were raised to the ground, Anything Armenian was destroyed. Then thousands of women, children and babies were forced into the hostile desert without food or water. There they were killed by marauders. Others died from the heat and starvation. Very few survived. Soon an Armenian population of 2.1 million was reduced to under half a million. To call what happened vile is to misuse the English language.

There are many, many accounts of the appalling massacres. This new one is an excellent addition. Suny writes that by the end of the war: ' 90% of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire were gone, a culture and a civilisation wiped out never to return'. Despite losing his great-grandparents in the massacres, Suny writes dispassionately about the genocide. He like others details the horrific killings and the death marches of women and children into the inhospitable desert.

The author confirms the long held view that Germany was linked to the Genocide cmpaign. German diplomats were told to keep quiet by their governments about the horrors they were witnessing. Later, the three main Pasha perpetrators of the genocide were allowed to settle in peaceful retirement in Germany. In 1924, Max von Scheubner-Richter, a vice-consul who had sent reports to Berlin that were critical of the extermination of Armenians marched with Hitler during the Munich Putsch. He was shot on the march and killed. Suny says that as he fell he pulled Hitler down with him thereby probably saving his life. In so doing, he inadvertently allowed another genocide to take place a few years later.

Even today, the magnitude of the atrocities and the cold-bloodied attitude of those responsible chills one. Talat Pasha, one of the three leaders of the Young Turks, sent a letter to the American envoy in 1915 in answer to the envoy's concern and alarm at what was happening. In it he said: 'it is no use for you to argue, we have already disposed of three-quarters of the Armenians. We have to finish them off now . If we don't, they will plan their revenge'. He said 'They can live in the desert but nowhere else'. Talat was assassinated in Berlin in March 1921. The assassin was acquitted by a court by now ashamed of Germany's involvement in the genocide. And yet the Turks continue to deny their murderous campaign ever took place! Not only that they have constantly tried to produce evidence to prove that Armenians were to blame for what happened. Pressure has been exerted on film makers to stop a film being made of the genocide, and money used to get the U.S. Congress on at least two occasions to throw out attempts to condemn Turkey.

An excellent book about a terrible plan to exterminate an entire people. It is worth noting that the author could have mentioned the dreadful atrociities carried out by Germany in South West Africa against the Herreo and Namur tribes from 1907. They were very, very close to being genocide. Indeed, some historians say they were. Remember these actions were not to defeat an enemy in battle or gain control of territory, or for economic purposes, the reasons for most colonial ventures, they constituted a deliberate policy to exterminate these defenceless tribes.

In 2007, Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, was murdered because he had appeared in a documentary about the genocide. He had also revealed that Kemal Ataturk's adopted daughter was Armenian, and that her parents had been murdered in the genocide.

Also highly recommended is : 'Great Catastrophe', by Thomas De Waal.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2015 11:17 AM BST


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