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The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made Paperback – August 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


'I read every page, every line of this very long book with sustained interest and pleasure...It is a magnificent achievement...A product of superb scholarship and profound insight and written in a style both incisive and flowing, this is a book for every taste and for the politically minded of every age group. I cannot recommend it too highly.' Peregrine Worsthorne, Spectator '"The Guardsmen" is a magnificent achievement. By following the careers of four friends and competitors through Eton, Oxford, the Guards, and into politics, it explores British political and social history in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. It is a work of consummate scholarship, lightly borne, but above all rendered in a prose that is consistently deft and readable. Simon Ball is a historian at the height of his powers.' Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford 'Through skilfull stitching of threads from personal and official papers, Ball has woven a superb panoramic tapestry of 20th-century Conservative politics...Compelling.' Sunday Times '"The Guardsmen" is an accomplished work. Simon Ball has command of his subject matter and demonstrates an assured touch with primary material that has not appeared in previous biographies and memoirs.' Literary Review '"The Guardsmen" is good reading because political warfare is at its centre, and Ball skilfully evokes that inter-war world...A stylish book.' Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Simon Ball won an Open Exhibition to read history at Brasenose, Oxford. He studied for his Ph.D under David Reynolds at Christ's College, Cambridge and was head of modern history at Glasgow University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006531636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006531630
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,847,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on August 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Duke of Wellington is reputed to have said that the "Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." Simon Ball's deftly written comparative biography, "The Guardsmen, Harold Macmillan, Three Friends, and the World They Made", examines the lives of four men who may be thought of as being among the last generation for which Wellington's adage has more than folkloric meaning.

The four Guardsmen were: Harold Macmillan, Oliver Lyttelton, Bobbety Cranborne and Harry Crookshank. Cranborne (the future Lord Salisbury) and Lyttelton were members of the aristocracy. Macmillan and Crookshank were from newer wealth, known then as "new men". The four entered Eton together in 1906. They all joined the Grenadier Guards in 1914 and saw service during the First World War. Conservatives all, they each entered politics in the 1920s. They all held positions in the British cabinet under Winston Churchill during the Second World War. One of the group, Harold Macmillan served as Prime Minister from 1957 until his resignation in 1963. Although Macmillan may be the only one of the group familiar to American readers they each were very well know figures in Britain during their time.

The Guardsmen's story really begins not on Eton's playing fields but on the killing fields of World War I France. Lyttleton, Macmillan and Crookshank fought with valor and distinction. On the same day, September 15, 1916, fighting with a mile of each other in the trenches, Macmillan and Crookshank were horribly wounded and Lyttleton was awarded a DSO (a medal for valiant service) for his heroic acts. Macmillan and Crookshank's injuries were catastrophic. Macmillan right arm and left leg never worked properly again. Crookshank was castrated by shrapnel. Cranborne served only briefly at the front.
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