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Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England Paperback – April 29, 2008
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With those words to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on May 7, 1940 (quoting a speech of Oliver Cromwell to Parliament in 1653), Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), Leo Amery stunned Parliament and Britain and sounded the death knell for Chamberlain's term as Prime Minister. Three days later, on May 10, 1940, Neville Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill took office. Chamberlain's resignation marks the emotional climax of Lynne Olson's compelling popular history, "Troublesome Young Men". "Troublesome Young Men" tells the story of the small group of Conservative MPs who opposed Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement toward Hitler's Germany from the mid-1930s until Churchill's accession to power.
Olson's book is a valuable piece of work for a number of reasons. During the premiership of Neville Chamberlain it was not Winston Churchill who stood out as the primary threat to Chamberlain's appeasement policies but the young MPS who are the subject of Olson's book. Those MPs included future Prime Ministers in Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan and others including Robert Boothby, Ronald Cartland, Bobbety Cranborne (the future Lord Salisbury) and Violet Bonham Carter. Leo Amery was certainly not young, he was a schoolmate of Churchill's at Harrow, but was just as `troublesome'. Olson does an admirable job of taking this cast of characters and providing the reader with information as to who they were and why they took a political stand in the face of fierce opposition from a fierce and vindictive Conservative Party leadership.Read more ›
In some ways, this idea represents the conventional understanding of Winston Churchill's rise to power in 1940. For his "wilderness years," WSC was on the outside looking in, railing against appeasement and warning of the impending Nazi threat. The war begins and things look dark for the British. But then "a miracle occurs" and Churchill becomes PM, he and the British experience their Finest Hour, and Hitler is vanquished. High-fives all around.
As Lynne Olson's fine book demonstrates, Churchill's becoming prime minister was no miracle at all. Instead, it was (like most so-called "miracles") the product of some very hard work by a number of people who never got the recognition and thanks they deserved -- least of all by Churchill himself. As some reviewers have noted, "Troublesome Young Men" is not heavy on analysis or original research. It is, however, an excellent example of storytelling and characterization, and shines some much-needed light on men (and some women) who have been eclipsed by Churchill's immense shadow for too long.
This is not primarily a book about Churchill, though -- typically and inevitably -- his gravity bends and shapes the universe around him. The picture we get of The Man of the (Twentieth) Century is far from flattering: Olson notes that in spite of his independent spirit and periods of political radicalism, he was fundamentally a conservative man, and had the conservative's typical monarchical sentiment.Read more ›
Prime Minister Chamberlain was detemined to avoid the slaughter of World World I by buying peace at any price and was supported by the English people. He also resembled Richard Nixon with his use of dirty tricks, including taping phone conversations. To oppose a popular PM who could ruin your career was a hard choice for Leo Amery, Ronald Cartland, Harold Nicolson and others. To support Churchill was not a sure thing as he was viewed as being over the hill (he had been in public view for nearly 40 years since the Boer War). These rebels were eloquent in their opposition and courageous in their public convictions. This is a book about politics at its best, when nothing less than the best would save the world.
This was a two step process--first, Chamberlain had to fall, then Churchill had to become his replacement. These were two separate events and the Troublesome Young Men had virtually nothing to do with the second.
What is well established is the following:
While Olson's featured characters were early anti-appeasers along with Churchill, Chamberlain did not fall because his appeasement policy had failed. In fact, polls showed his popularity at an all time high in late 1939, well after the invasion of Poland and the declaration of war. He fell because of 1) widening dissatisfaction with his government's lack of purpose, organization and energy in pursuing the war effort and organizing the economy for war; and, 2) his intransigent, offensive personal nature.
Chamberlain's offensive personality both alienated the Labour Party leaders and left concerned Tories with no option but to vote against his government or abstain in the Norway Debate division. More moderate, but concerned Tories (eg., The "Watching Committee" organized by Bobbety Cranborne's father, the 4th Marquess of Salisbury) were rudely rebuffed by Chamberlain in attempts to speak with him privately about their concerns. This left them no alternative but to vote against the government in order to send "Neville" a message.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have loved everything that I have read by Lynne Olson and this book did not disappoint. Learning about all of the other politicians in parliament and the cabinet of England... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Pinstripes
Givrs a much deeper understanding of the times, dedication, hopes and dreams...of those involved..Published 3 days ago by Adhiratha Keefe
Very interesting to review as well as learn something new about a most important era in our not so far past.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Insights into British politics between the wars, which read as if a well written novel. Couldn't put it down. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Ms. Olson's work is always well researched and written so well one scarcely feels that they are reading history.Published 3 months ago by A. Parks
Superbly written account of the 30 or so Members of Parliament--their motives, efforts and foibles--who eventually brought down the Chamberlain government in 1940, paving the way... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Roy M. Pitkin
an excellent book, and unknown history to most of us. quite how appalling the class divide was in the 1930s, and ignorant of world affairs the average politician was, is made very... Read morePublished 4 months ago by russell taylor
Gives the reader a great deal of inside knowledge of key opponents of appeasement other than Churchill. Read morePublished 4 months ago by christoper mack