New biographies of Churchill and de Gaulle dominateby Prospect Team / December 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in Mid-winter (Jan-Feb) 2019 issue of Prospect Magazine
Who are we really? In The Rise and Fall of the British Nation (Allen Lane), David Edgerton re-writes the history of our 20th century. He argues that the British “nation” only came into being after the Second World War, when it stopped being a cosmopolitan empire and confined itself to its own borders, embarking on a period of industrial dynamism that ended with the miners’ strike in 1984.
The personality who best embodies old imperial Britain is Winston Churchill, and in Churchill: Walking with Destiny (Allen Lane), Andrew Roberts paints a vivid picture of a man who still means so much to so many. (Meanwhile, as Antony Beevor demonstrates in his masterpiece of military history, Arnhem (Viking), one of Churchill’s lowest points was the disastrous Operation Market Garden.) The only other comparable figure in 20th-century Europe is Charles de Gaulle and in his biography A Certain Idea of France (Allen Lane), Julian Jackson shows how the man from Colombey-les-Deux-Églises came to identify himself so thoroughly with his country that he felt his nation’s glory was his own—and vice versa.
But history isn’t j…