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markk

markk

Currently reading

The Franco-Prussian War: The German Invasion of France, 1870-1871
Michael Eliot Howard
Progress: 224/512 pages
Clashes: Air Combat Over North Vietnam, 1965-1972
Marshall L. Michel III
Progress: 185/352 pages
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914
Richard J. Evans
Progress: 277/928 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 106 out of 280 pages.

Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel - Richard Wilkinson

Part of me really wants to like this book. Wilkinson isn't a terrible writer by any stretch, and he is quite good at deploying telling quotes, even if they are from previous biographers. But I can't like a book that manages to be so tendentious, especially when its arguments are so poorly grounded

 

A case in point is his section on Passchendaele. Wilkinson summarizes the challenge facing Loyd George nicely, describing how after the failure of the Nivelle Offensive Lloyd George's credibility was shot, depriving him of the ability to resist further the demands of Haig and the other generals to mount their next big offensive. The result was 300,000 casualties for no real gain.

 

And yet, after explaining both Lloyd George's efforts to rein in Haig and the odds that ultimately opposed to him, Wilkinson goes on to declare that it is Lloyd George who should be regarded as the butcher of Passchendaele for failing to stop the offensive. It's as though Wilkinson didn't bother to read his own account explaining why he was thwarted in his efforts to do so. Moreover, Wilkinson provides zero examples of what he might have done further. Was he supposed to dismiss a publicly popular general who had the support of the king?  Announce a unilateral surrender? Run through No Man's Land waving his hands in the air while begging for peace? Wilkinson provides no answers, just a label which he already demonstrates Lloyd George had done the least of all the possible candidates to deserve.