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In Churchill's Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain Hardcover – January 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0195219265 ISBN-10: 0195219260 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195219260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195219265
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,358,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 No‰l 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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A group of sometimes provocative, always accessible and thoroughly researched essays that are sure to enlighten those devoted to British history."--Publishers Weekly

"It is a tribute to Cannadine's gifts that while mining a relatively small, well-dug territory, he can continue to turn up large, near-flawless gems.... Apart from the solid good judgment, the expert marshalling of resources, the sheer professionalism, there is something special that does distinguish all of Cannadine's work and it's on magnificent display here. It is an almost anthropological feeling for the way in which people construct themselves and perceive their place in the world--their nation, region, city, class, gender--by reference to the past."--Financial Times

"Cannadine is actually presenting us with a selection of essays rather than a meditation on the Churchill legacy, but he justifies the notion by a shrewd choice of subjects that do, indeed, mark the passing of the Churchillian epoch.... In an excellent analysis of his political rhetoric, Cannadine shows how often the old boy was rightly written off as a demagogue and an alarmist.... Elsewhere in this enjoyable assemblage are solid background essays on the Chamberlain dynasty, and two particularly clever pieces on the contrasting careers and works of Ian Fleming and Noel Coward."--Christopher Hitchens, Washington Post Book World

"Zestfully and gracefully written, compulsively readable, and full of sagacious insights about big questions."--Fred Leventhal

"Cannadine makes a number of worthwhile forays, and his best chapters display his well-earned reputation for lively writing and provocative thinking."--Boston Globe

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By on January 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Historians, if they are unusually lucky and popular, sometimes publish collections of essays between major monographs. David Cannadine is lucky enough to do this is two distinct genres. The first are the collection of reviews and journalism "The Pleasures of the Past," and "History in Our Time." The second are the collections of more scholarly essays "Aspects of Aristocracy," and this book. Unfortunately for the reader, this voume is the most disappointing of the four books.
Notwithstanding the title and the prominent photograph of Churchill on the cover page, this book is not really about Churchill, who is the subject of only three of the book's twelve essays. Already this book does not have the coherence that united "Aspects of Aristocracy," with its intimation of aristorcratic power and decline. What do we have? The book consists of three quartets of essays. The first one supposedly deals with Churchill, but the first essay is really a history of Parliament, and the second discusses Churchill along with Margaret Thatcher and Joseph Chamberlain. The third essay is more informative, as it deals with Churchill's ambiguous relationship with the monarchy, and its actual unimiginative rulers. The fourth essay is even better, as it discusses both the strengths of Churchill's remarkable oratory, but also its weaknesses, such as its lack of nuance or pitch, so that Hitler and Gandhi appear to be equally dangerous to Britain. The next quartet is less interesting. The essays on the decline and fall of the Chamberlain dynasty in Birmingham and the success of Stanley Baldwin's emollient pseudo-rural imagery tell nothing particularly new.
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