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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 November 2012
This is an extremely well researched account of the lives of two of the greatest figures of the first half of the the 20th century. The author focuses on the relationship between David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, which endured for well over 40 years. Like nearly all long relationships it had its great times, and its times when the key players irritated each other considerably. Lloyd George saved Churchill's career in 1917 and was rewarded by Churchill's contribution to government , his efforts and loyalties - and also by his frustrations, plotting and desire to run the whole show. Managing genius is never easy and it certainly can't have been comfortable for Lloyd George at times.

When Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, and for some years after that, he tried hard to have LLoyd George join his cabinet, and took some clear political risks in doing so, but Lloyd George never quite made the step.

This is well balanced, superbly researched , and always fair in its conclusions. But despite the huge characters and the momentous events involved, I found this pretty heavy going at times. Perhaps there is just to much evidence used, too much attempt to be impartial, for the book to live up to its subject matter and to bring the times alive to the reader. I enjoyed it - but finished with a bit of a sigh of relief
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The traditional view of the unlikely friendship between Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George is that of 'David and Winston', political friends and rivals who, while they might have disagreed, never fell out. As Lloyd George's great grandson has put it, 'the friendship which changed history'. Toye challenges this view, at the same time pointing out that, at various times, it was convenient for the two men to create the myth. What emerges is a picture of two men, very different in temperament, who, while they got on personally, were political rivals, both having their eyes on the Premiership, and willing to undermine each other in order to get it. The most fascinating part is that dealing with Churchill's wartime premiership, which we are now much more aware was hardly the triumphant progress some have portrayed it as. The statement that Llooyd George embraced defeatism, and may even have seen himself as a British Petain is sadly only too likely, given other material which has come to light in recent family memoirs.

Toye rightly does not over-egg the pudding. Clearly the men were friends as well as colleagues, but he captures the complexity of political friendship over decades.
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on 16 April 2017
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on 18 September 2010
Lloyd George and especially Churchill are very familiar figures from Britain's recent history but their relationship is an under-explored area and Toye's book does much to fill the gap. It's well written, well researched and flows smoothly, though a reader will find it easier if he or she already has a good background knowledge of early 20th century British politics.

It will inevitably be seen as a 'revisionist' work as there's a structural bias to Lloyd George, given that he was the senior partner in their relationship throughout their time in the Liberal government together - when their working relationship was inevitably closest - and even after 1922, Churchill was firstly out of his element at the Treasury and then in the wilderness while Lloyd George had all the kudos of a former Prime Minister, and a war-winning one at that. It was the 1940s before Churchill became the senior partner, by which time Lloyd George was almost retired. Toye seems aware of, and content with, that balance.

The relationship itself is a fascinating one, between two characters who had much in common: charismatic, energetic, highly ambitious and far from trusted by their colleagues. In fact, Toye really charts two relationships: the actual one and the public image of it, the two not always coinciding. Unlike the myth they were both happy to play up, there were times when their political differences did cause their friendship to suffer.

The wartime premierships of the two men cast such a bright light over the their careers that other, very significant aspects can easily fall into shadow. For anyone interested in many of those events, as well as of the fascinating and perhaps unique friendship between these two titans, this is very much worth a read.
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on 14 November 2009
This is an extremely well researched study of a peculiar friendship and a great rivalry. It is very interesting and informative but be warned: this is not an easily read piece of popular history and, whilst I would not wish to criticise a book on account of it being scholarly, when one considers the personalities of the two men involved I was left feeling that an opportunity to produce a more entertaining read was missed.
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on 26 November 2011
This is an interesting approach to the lives of two politicians, about whom there have been innumerable books. There is an obvious difficulty in taking the relationship between two men and then filtering their lives through that prism. There were times when they worked closely together, notably during much of the period from 1908 until 1922. During that period the interface between them was often of critical importance to the major political issues of the day. However outside that period their relationship was rarely the dominant feature of their lives, and remember they both lived long lives. As such there is inevitably a certain imbalance to the book. That said the saga remains interesting throughout and this approach does throw some fresh light onto the two men and their characters.
Lloyd George was the dominant figure initially but after 1922 his position entered a steady and irrevocable decline to the point where, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that he was highly unlikely to achieve high office again. By contrast Churchill resurrected his career in the 1920's when he re-joined the conservatives. Although the 1930's were a barren and frustrating period for him he remained a formidable force with, as it turned out, his best years ahead of him. Now, Churchill remains a figure of world renown whilst Lloyd George has already largely disappeared from the public's memory.
I would recommend the book to anyone with an interest in 20th century british politics.
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on 10 May 2015
It is not in dispute that the book is well researched. It is easier to write a book about two people when they are rivals or enemies. Although it is very interesting I found the approach at times rather trying and I became a bit impatient at the emphasis on correspondence instead of action.

It is well written, but I found myself a bit confused at times as to who was saying what, and even if much some of it mattered.

It is an interesting book,two very different men whose paths crossed many times. My own opinion is that Baldwin endorsed tariffs to prevent any alliance of Lloyd George and Churchill in a centre party intended to replace the Conservatives.
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on 26 June 2015
Rivals for Greatness or Mentor and Pupil?

This is an enthralling account of the supposed rivalry between Lloyd George (LG) and Churchill (WSC). Were they rivals or good friends, or political twins?
Both became Prime Minister in time of war. Both were members of the Liberal Party, at least WSC for a while. Both were great public speakers. Both inspired the country when others proved incapable. But they differed in approach and temperament.

They were entirely different characters. WSC was of noble origins, and LG of more humble stock. One was a soldier and journalist; the other a lawyer. WSC therefore knew war: LG knew law. This was their essential difference. Whereas WSC would perform a frontal attack, LG would outflank his enemy; he was more cautious and cunning than WSC who was something of a romantic. On the outbreak of war in 1914 LG had a terrible nightmare, whereas WSC was quite happy about it and yearned to send the fleet into action. WSC was impetuous and liable to make mistakes; LG was calculating and usually correct.

Of the two LG seems the more capable. He manages the First World War. He rids the War Office of inept administration and takes it from the philosophy that won Waterloo to the industrial science that pushed back the German armies in the autumn of 1918. It was he who recognized the need for a public-private partnership and it was he who appointed the captains of industry to help the war effort. It was also he who suggested an alternative to the Dardanelles campaign which would have possibly avoided that tragedy. WSC took the blame for that which was not his. LG knew this and later resurrected WSC career without which he might never have recovered his position. On the other hand, if WSC had not endured all he did in those catastrophic times he would not have had the experience of being, in his own right, later, a great war time leader; not only inspiring his own people, but the imprisoned peoples of occupied Europe and turning defeat into victory.

LG recognised great traits in WSC as WSC did in LG. They were not in that sense rivals because each knew the others strengths and weaknesses and was able to tolerate them, although at times relationships were strained. But the litmus test was this. In 1940 after the failure of the Norway campaign Chamberlain was ousted not so much by his Tory colleagues speeches in the House as by the sheer destructive power of LGs broadside “that the prime Minister give an example of sacrifice because there is nothing that can contribute more to victory in this war than that he should sacrifice the seals of office.” It was that indictment that transferred the seals of office to WSC.

All this is admirably told in Toye’s narrative so much of which is an essential lesson in history of two great men who saved this country in time of war.

One essential extract from LG rings true today. Writing to WSC on foreign policy in 1932 LG writes:
"The optimistic attitude taken by the Press on both foreign affairs and on the economic position is entirely unjustified by the disturbing nature of the facts, and the public ought to be educated to an understanding before it is too late."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 December 2010
This for the most part very readable analysis of the surprising and complex "friendship" between two major political figures keeps to the point and, unlike many historical accounts summarises the key aspects of events very clearly, helping the reader to see the wood for the trees.

Lloyd George and Churchill lived through an unusually interesting and significant period: on an international scale, two world wars, the Russian Revolution, decline of the Turkish Empire, establishment of Israel, question of independence for India, to name a few. At home, there was the partition of Ireland, the attempts to reform the Lords, the rise of Labour, split and demise of the Liberals, attempts at coalition, votes for women, and first serious measures to provide pensions and unemployment benefit, leading to the creation of the welfare state. It is salutary to realise how many of these issues still remain to be resolved. The shifting relationships within the various coalitions seem very topical now. One should also mention the growing power and influence of the press barons - Northcliffe and Rothermere.

Against this background, which in many ways interested me most, we see the saga of the personal relationship between Churchill and Lloyd George. Initially the latter was "top dog", a man whom Churchill admired, sought to emulate and surpass, and often relied upon, both as a means of getting office, and also as something of a mentor and emotional support. Largely because of the age difference, the tables were turned in World War 2: Churchill became the leader with power to offer Lloyd George a cabinet post, but the latter was "past it" - age having taken the edge off his ambition, and rendering him so pragmatic and "amenable to reason" that he seemed too much of an appeaser. For much of their political careers, both were widely despised and scorned as over-ambitious political troublemakers and schemers, although there was clearly a good deal of entertaining plotting and gossip from other quarters as well. Yet both seemed to have an energy and vision which were wasted when they were out of power.

Richard Toye has clearly set out to change the balance in modern public perception, which tends to revere Churchill more highly as the greater statesman, as exemplified by the dominance of his statue over Lloyd George's at the Commons. Thus he consistently portrays Lloyd George as the subtler thinker and negotiator, more genuinely interested in social reform, not to mention his humour, charm and wit, whereas Churchill comes across as courageous to the point of foolhardiness, but a loose cannon, John "bull in the china shop", whose reputation has been unduly inflated by his success as a rocklike war leader in the 1940s.

I recommend this biography with only two caveats: the passages quoting recollections of someone quoting someone quoting someone else are sometimes hard to follow, or tedious, plus for pages on end there are often references to the months when events occurred, but too few reminders of the year in question! Inevitably, Toye has left out a good deal of detail, but the rationale is his focus on the relationship between these two rivals.
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on 21 December 2010
Lloyd George & Churchill by Richard Toye is an excellent work about the relationship between these two larger than life figures. It is well-written, fast-paced, detailed and very informative and opinionated. The work itself explores the friendship between Lloyd George and Churchill and questions the idea that even when they had political disagrrements they always maintained a harmonious personal relationship. The relationship that Toye brings to life is complex and does not always show either man in the best light but it does show that in many ways this was a pretty unique relationship between the two outstanding politicians of their day. Overall, this is an excellent book.
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