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review 2020-09-23 21:54
The Hundred Days, in detail
Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: Volume I: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras - John Hussey

There are few historical episodes as dramatic as the “Hundred Days” – the label given to Napoleon’s doomed attempt to reclaim the French throne and reestablish his empire. Having driven out the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII, Napoleon faced off against the coalition of powers that had exiled him to the Mediterranean island of Elba less than a year before. Though Napoleon struck first and scored some initial victories, his defeat at the battle of Waterloo ended his last bid for power, and led to his imprisonment on the remote island of Saint Helena until his death nearly six years later.

 

It is an understatement to say that there is no shortage of books on the events of the Hundred Days and the battle of Waterloo, as authors began writing about it almost from the moment the guns stilled and have not let up since. Yet even when weighed against two centuries of accounts of the battle, John Hussey’s book stands out. The first of a two-volume work on the Hundred Days campaign, it is the product of meticulous scholarship and careful reassessment of every significance event and controversy involved. This is evident from the very first chapters, as Hussey looks at Europe’s long history with Napoleon and the events leading up to his decision to escape his exile – a decision born of a mix of boredom, ego, ambition, and frustration with the slights inflicted upon the former emperor by the Allied powers that had defeated him.

 

With a British officer resident on Elba to supervise him and a British warship patrolling the waters between Elba and France, Bonaparte’s decision was not without risk. His successful arrival in France, followed by his bold journey to Paris, though, defied the odds and achieved his goal. Yet Hussey describes the tenuousness of Napoleon’s hold on power, with many in France still exhausted from his reign and wary of what his return might bring. Aware of the post-exile divisions among the coalition, Napoleon hoped they might provide an opportunity to maintain his throne. Nevertheless, he prepared for war.

 

And war was coming. Hussey devotes considerable space to describing the coalition facing the returned emperor, with pride of place going to the commands led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and Arthur Wellesley, the duke of Wellington. Hussey spends several chapters dealing their commands, their operations, and their activities, with intelligence operations featured prominently. This is central to his efforts to unpack the events of Napoleon’s 1815 campaign and establish clear chronologies and understandings of what the commanders knew and when they learned it. The issues can often seem trivial, but they serve a clear purpose in serving as the basis for Hussey’s analysis of why decisions were undertaken, and why alternatives were not pursued.

 

Hussey ends the volume with an account of the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras on 16 July. Though he details the actions separately, he makes it clear that they need to be regarded as a whole. His explanation is of a piece with the rest of the book, in which Hussey lays out the facts and explains how he reached the conclusions he did. It’s a careful work of often painstaking construction, and is what makes the book such a valuable addition to the already substantial library of works on the events of 1815. Take together with its successor volume, it’s a book that serves as an indispensable history of the battle, one that no serious student of the subject can afford to ignore.

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review 2020-08-08 22:56
The master of Britain's manpower
The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin, Volume Two: Minister of Labour, 1940-1945 - Alan Bullock

Of the many editorial cartoons drawn by David Low during the Second World War, perhaps the most famous was the one he penned in May 1940 after Winston Churchill formed the coalition government that he would lead as prime minister. Entitled “All Behind You, Winston,” it depicts Churchill at the phalanx of a group of determined men, all of whom are rolling up their sleeves in preparation for the fight ahead. Standing next to the prime minister is Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party and a natural choice that reflected the politically united nature of the coalition. On Attlee’s other side, however, is another large figure, one who almost seems to be crowding past Attlee to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Churchill. That figure is Ernest Bevin.

 

On the face of it, Bevin’s inclusion in the front rank is a curious one, as Bevin had just been named minister to what was regarded as a second-rank department and who would not even win a seat in the House of Commons for another month. Yet Alan Bullock makes it clear in his second volume about Bevin’s life and times that such a position was more than warranted, as in his role as Minister of Labour and National Service Bevin played an utterly indispensable role in addressing one of the greatest challenged Britain faced in the war: the mobilization of the nation’s manpower for the drawn-out struggle against the Axis powers.

 

To have been charged with this responsibility in the coalition government was both unusual and completely understandable. Given that Bevin had never even served in Parliament before, his sudden promotion to ministerial office was nothing short of extraordinary. As the longtime head of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU), however, Bevin was an ideal choice for the post, especially after the years of poor relations between the labor movement and the British state. Bevin brought instant credibility to his new post, as well as enormous energy and a wealth of new ideas.

 

First among them was the need to strengthen his position. From the start Bevin insisted on centralizing within his ministry authority over the nation’s manpower. Though he would never gain total control, Bullock shows how Bevin won this fight in the Cabinet. This put him in a prime position to address the competing challenges facing the allocation of manpower from an early stage. Here the core problem was in resolving the competing demands of industry and the military, which often complicated the government’s efforts to run as efficient a system as possible. Bullock’s coverage of this throughout the book illustrates that this was a challenge that was never fully resolved, and could only be managed to the best of his ability. Added to this was Bevin’s reluctance to impose coercion, as he believed firmly that such efforts reduced workers’ efficiency rather than aided it.

 

Bevin’s views about doing what was best for the worker were a hallmark of how he approached labor problems throughout his time in office. With a career spent fighting alongside as well as for workers, Bevin based all of his positions on his appreciation for their qualities and his assumption of their commitment to the nation’s wartime goals. His efforts to improve conditions for workers earned him considerable goodwill, making it easier (though far from easy) to work out the numerous compromises necessary for maintaining the war effort. Second only to this, though, was Bevin’s interest in ensuring that the British worker was fighting for a better future, and as the immediate crisis ebbed he spent an increasing amount of time concerned with the issues of postwar reconstruction. It was a testament to his stature as a minister that as the coalition came to an end he was approached about succeeding Attlee as the party’s leader – an offer that Bevin firmly declined.

 

Bullock’s book is so much more than an account of Bevin’s tenure as Minister of Labour. It also describes Bevin’s transition from labor to parliamentary politics, as well as his growing involvement in questions of foreign policy. Though dense with details of wartime initiatives and parliamentary battles, Bullock provides wonderfully clear descriptions of Bevin’s policies and how they worked within the context of the war effort. It makes for a magnificent work that can be read with profit not just by those interested in Bevin’s life or his contributions to the war as Minister of Labour, but by anyone who wants to understand the inner workings of Churchill’s wartime government.

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review 2020-08-06 08:27
Audio Review: Tell Me You're Mine (The British Billionaires #1) by: J.S. Scott, Narrated by Rupert Channing, Elizabeth Powers
Tell Me You're Mine (The British Billionaires #1) - J.S. Scott

 

 

 

Tell Me You're Mine by J.S. Scott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Sweet takes a saucy turn when hormones come out to play. Scott pushes boundaries, stirs up emotions and keeps the heart invested. Tell Me You're Mine gives the senses a reason to sing. With sexy accents and explosive chemistry, Channing and Powers entrance even the most skeptic of romantics. Scott let's life create the fantasy and irresistible becomes only a page turn away. 



View all my reviews

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text 2020-07-29 19:52
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review 2020-07-26 23:58
Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (The Last Lion #1)
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 - William Raymond Manchester

Before he became the face of the dogged determination in World War II and the voice of inspiration for the British people, Winston Churchill was a scion of a noble family looking to make his mark and coming close on many occasions.  The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 is the first volume of William Manchester’s biographical trilogy which deals with Churchill’s early life and his adventurous political career until he was shunned by power and entered the political wilderness.

 

A scion of the ducal Marlborough family, Winston Spencer-Churchill was the eldest son of a second son and his American wife.  Before even getting to Winston’s birth and life, Manchester paints the social, cultural, and political landscape he would be born into, be indoctrinated to believe in, and defend his entire life.  Throughout his life, Winston would use the connections of his parent’s friends and acquaintances to advance himself early in his career while a boon to his military and early political careers it hardly made up for the fact that both his parents were aloof to his existence even for the times of the British upper class.  Manchester relates Winston’s school misadventures and horrible academic record for the classical education expected off one of his station, but while he failed to understand Greek or Latin his “remedial” studies of English year after year would serve him the rest of his life as a journalist, author, and speaking in Parliament.  While he served in wars in the frontier of the Empire, first in India then in Sudan, and afterwards in South Africa he initially went there as a “journalist” but used his military rank to join battles or was recruited by the commander on the spot to lead men.  Upon the completion of the Boer War, during which he was taken prisoner and escaped, Winston entered politics in his eyes to take up his late father’s torch.  Once on the floor of the House, Winston’s speeches were events to be listened to and to be written about in the papers.  His familial connections got him in touch with the high circles of the Conservative party, but the issue of Free Trade and his own “radical” views on issues made him become a Liberal and soon found him apart of the new government the party form and would be until after the events connected with Gallipoli during the First World War resulted in him taking to the trenches on the Western Front.  After a return to a position in the Government, Winston soon found him edging away from the Liberal Party that was dying in the face for the rise of the Labour Party and soon returned the Conservatives to be among their new Government.  Yet the same tensions that made Winston leave the Party in the first place were still there but with more animosity but it was the issue of India sent Winston still a Conservative into the political wilderness that many of his political adversaries believed him to be finished, especially at his age.

 

In nearly 900 pages of text, Manchester not only details the first 58 years of Winston’s life but also the times he lived in while slowly setting things up for the final volume for the events in which he is most well-known to the public today.  There seems to be a bias by Manchester towards Winston that does make it through to the page instead of a little more balanced writing in places, however Manchester does not shy away that Winston’s views and words around the India issue essentially were racist even though at the time it was common thought by many in Britain.  Manchester gives balanced view of Winston’s relations with the working class while at the same time revealing why Labour and the press said he was against them.  The account of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign that is always blamed on Winston is given fully fleshed out including what actions Winston were accountable for and those he was not and why it was he that the failure was attached to.

 

Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 reveals the times and environment in which Winston Churchill was brought up and how they shaped him as he entered politics and attempted to rise to power.  William Manchester gives a full picture of a young then middle-aged politician whose life was a roller coaster that influenced the British Empire its domestic and foreign affairs, but never held ultimate power and seemed never to.  If one wants to know Churchill this book is a great place to start.

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