Brendan Simms: Review of Victoria Schofield's "Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire. 1714-1783"Roundup: Books
Mr. Simms is the author of "Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 1714-1783."
In "Witness to History," Victoria Schofield remarks that her biographical subject, the British historian John Wheeler-Bennett (1902-75), was "never a household name" but that, by the mid-20th century, "he knew virtually everyone who was." And so it seems. He knew the Nazi-era German diplomat Adam von Trott, who was later executed for conspiring against Hitler. He knew Franklin Roosevelt, whose 57th birthday party he attended in 1939. He was in regular contact with British statesmen, especially Harold Macmillan and Anthony Eden. For good measure, he supervised John F. Kennedy's undergraduate thesis at Harvard. He met with several Bolshevik leaders, too. There are not many men who could tell an undergraduate who was undecided between Jesus Christ and Leon Trotsky that, although he himself had never met our Lord, he "did have a long talk with Trotsky and I don't think I should advise you to follow him."
As Ms. Schofield shows, Wheeler-Bennett was one of the first of a new class of "experts" who emerged after the peace settlement that concluded World War I. As a young man in the interwar years, he set out to make himself an authority on international affairs generally and on Germany in particular. Serving in the early 1920s as an assistant to Gen. Neill Malcolm, then a kind of roving British ambassador, he traveled extensively, from Germany and the other parts of Continental Europe to North Africa and the Far East.
The first chapters of Ms. Schofield's engaging chronicle evoke a lost imperial world. In Cairo, she tells us, Wheeler-Bennett stayed at the Shepheard's Hotel, a "famous caravanserai" where one "could not sit for half an hour on [the] terrace without meeting at least half a dozen friends and acquaintances." At another time we see Wheeler-Bennett chasing smugglers in Borneo. It was in Berlin that, having left Malcolm's staff, he chose to settle in the late 1920s and early 1930s....
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says
- Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month
- Maryland is once again considering retiring its state song
- One of the last remaining Nazis goes on trial in Germany
- Inside story finally told of the young US diplomat who cracked the case of the murder of 4 nuns in El Salvador in 1980
- Historian at the center of Sanders-Clinton debate
- James Loewen Says Additional Baltimore Confederate Statues Should be Removed
- NYT History Book Reviews: Who Got Noticed this Week?
- A historian’s advice to students thinking of getting a PhD in a tough economic climate
- German historian Heinz Richter cleared of charges