IN CHURCHILL'S SHADOW: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain

David Cannadine, Author . Oxford Univ. $30 (1216p) ISBN 978-0-19-521926-5

Noted British historian Cannadine (Class in Britain, etc.) gathers a dozen essays on modern British history, covering the era from 1875 (the zenith of British power) to the present (when that power is far diminished). Several of these essays, such as "Statecraft: The Haunting Fear of National Decline," deal with Britain's reaction to her own global decline. In "Statecraft," Cannadine describes how three of Britain's leading modern politicians, Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (all "heroic egotists, possessed of a powerful, obsessive, unreflective sense of messianic self-identity") struggled unsuccessfully against diminishing national power. Each had a glorious view of Britain's past and tried to reconcile that past with a less glorious present. Cannadine is especially fascinated by Churchill, devoting one essay to the great man's use of rhetoric. As Cannadine points out, Churchill's speeches were always magnificent, but often ignored (except during WWII, when "[t]he drama of the time had suddenly become fully equal to the drama of his tone"). There is also a fine essay on the Chamberlain family, Joseph and his sons, Austen and Neville, and how they dominated politics in Birmingham for nearly 80 years. The final part of this collection deals with cultural icons, from Gilbert and Sullivan and Noël Coward to Ian Fleming, and describes their reactions to national decline. Each, as Cannadine delineates, was patriotic, harking back to the glorious age of British power. Cannadine's collection gathers together a group of sometimes provocative, always accessible and thoroughly researched essays that are sure to enlighten those devoted to British history. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/25/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 385 pages - 978-0-19-517156-3
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-7139-9507-7
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