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Why Britain is at War

Why Britain is at War

Harold Nicolson


I find books like this fascinating: history written during the events we always treat as happening together. This little book was written as a propaganda piece during the "Phony War" of 1939, to explain to the British people why the war was happening. The author had been a bit-player in the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the Great War and, as with the work of William Shirer, this the writing an immediacy that it might otherwise lack -- perhaps at the cost of historical perspective. Still, it makes me want to read Peacemaking, 1919, Nicolson's memoir of the treaty-making (assuming I can find a copy).

Nicolson's observations are acute, and his description of the history of the run-up to the Second World War feels quite modern. It's interesting to see that it was possible, at that time, to make the same assessments of events as we make now. He's also gentle on Neville Chamberlain -- more so than those who followed Churchill's rather harsher model were in the immediate aftermath of the war -- and again this makes him feel more like a modern writer.

4/5. Finished 05 October 2013.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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