In Churchill's Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain

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Overview

With In Churchill's Shadow, David Cannadine looks at the contradictions of Britain's twentieth-century hero and of its twentieth-century history. Here is an intriguing look at ways in which perceptions of a glorious past have continued to haunt the British present, often crushing efforts to shake them off. The book centers on Churchill, a titanic figure whose influence spanned the twentieth century. Though he was the savior of modern Britain, Churchill was a creature of the Victorian age. Though he proclaimed he had not become Prime Minister to "preside over the liquidation of the British Empire," in effect he was doomed to do just that. Cannadine turns an equally insightful gaze on the institutions and individuals that embodied the image of Britain in this period: Gilbert & Sullivan, Ian Fleming, Noel Coward, the National Trust, and the Palace of Westminster itself, the home and symbol of Britain's parliamentary government. This superb volume offers a wry, sympathetic, yet penetrating look at how national identity evolved in the era of the waning of an empire.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In books such as Ornamentalism and The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, British historian David Cannadine portrayed the underlying contradictions and class divisions of 20th-century Great Britain. In his latest book, he etches a deep portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, a titanic figure who Cannadine believes personified the crisis of modern Englishmen. He presents Churchill not as the savior of modern England but as a brilliant relic of the Victorian Age. The prime minister vowed that he would not "preside over the liquidation of the British Empire," but, as Cannadine shows persuasively, he was doomed to do just that. He shows even more incisively how Churchill's fabled rhetorical gifts often betrayed him.
Publishers Weekly
Noted British historian Cannadine (Class in Britain, etc.) gathers a dozen essays on modern British history, covering the era from 1875 (the zenith of British power) to the present (when that power is far diminished). Several of these essays, such as "Statecraft: The Haunting Fear of National Decline," deal with Britain's reaction to her own global decline. In "Statecraft," Cannadine describes how three of Britain's leading modern politicians, Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher (all "heroic egotists, possessed of a powerful, obsessive, unreflective sense of messianic self-identity") struggled unsuccessfully against diminishing national power. Each had a glorious view of Britain's past and tried to reconcile that past with a less glorious present. Cannadine is especially fascinated by Churchill, devoting one essay to the great man's use of rhetoric. As Cannadine points out, Churchill's speeches were always magnificent, but often ignored (except during WWII, when "[t]he drama of the time had suddenly become fully equal to the drama of his tone"). There is also a fine essay on the Chamberlain family, Joseph and his sons, Austen and Neville, and how they dominated politics in Birmingham for nearly 80 years. The final part of this collection deals with cultural icons, from Gilbert and Sullivan and No l Coward to Ian Fleming, and describes their reactions to national decline. Each, as Cannadine delineates, was patriotic, harking back to the glorious age of British power. Cannadine's collection gathers together a group of sometimes provocative, always accessible and thoroughly researched essays that are sure to enlighten those devoted to British history. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This collection of diverse essays is concerned with the United Kingdom's transition from the imperial period of maximum power and pride to "disappointment and disillusion, resentment and regret" after World War II. Cannadine argues rightly that to understand recent history, one must know more about the more distant and glorious past. Hence the first part of the book is devoted to Winston Churchill, his brilliant oratory, and his long shadow, documenting along the way the travails of the royal family and Margaret Thatcher's fight against her country's decline. Subsequent chapters explore such themes as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's "rustic" and out-of-touch image, the cultural legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the trajectory of Noel Coward — who began as a nonconformist rebel and ended as a sentimental patriot who could not accept his country's postwar embrace of greater egalitarianism. Another chapter plunges into the far less sophisticated universe of Ian Fleming, described as a mix of "clubland characters" ("essentially schoolboy stories dressed up for adults") and self-indulgence, vulgar materialism, and sexism. A thought-provoking, evocative, and eminently readable book.
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran English historian Cannadine (Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire, 2001, etc.) ranges freely over an eclectic selection of topics, from the design of the palace of Westminster to the differences between the cinematic and literary versions of James Bond—and, yes, the legendary PM and Nobel laureate somehow figures in them all. Twelve engaging, literate essays, all previously published but heavily revised, provide Cannadine (History/Univ. of London) with an opportunity to display his mobile, well-equipped mind. Generally conventional in form, the pieces vary widely in quality, though the good work predominates. One of the most intriguing pieces is a unique analysis of the similarities among prime ministers Chamberlain, Churchill, and Thatcher. All three, argues Cannadine, raged against the dying of the light of the British Empire. Another wonderful piece, perhaps the volume's best, deals with Churchill's prowess—and failures—as a public speaker. Cannadine recognizes and identifies Churchill's enormous gifts and reminds us how he labored mightily over his every public utterance, but the author also notes that Churchill frequently sent a howitzer to do a flyswatter's job. Often, Cannadine comments, his pre-WWII speeches sounded "false, flatulent, bombastic, histrionic, overblown." Other appealing essays deal with Josiah Wedgwood's long, frustrating effort to bring into print a scholarly history of Parliament (an endeavor ultimately stillborn) and with the long, profitable friendship of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and novelist Francis Brett Young. On a lighter and at times fainter note are assessments of the enduring appeal of Gilbert and Sullivan and thecareer of No"l Coward; downright deadly and soporific is a piece on the National Trust. Though it's one of the collection's longest entries, "Ian Fleming and the Realities of Escapism" offers little of interest or novelty: "Bond's world is thus very much an action man's place," declares Cannadine gravely. A few stale chocolates in an otherwise luscious sampler.
From the Publisher

"A group of sometimes provocative, always accessible and thoroughly researched essays that are sure to enlighten those devoted to British history."--Publishers Weekly

"It is a tribute to Cannadine's gifts that while mining a relatively small, well-dug territory, he can continue to turn up large, near-flawless gems.... Apart from the solid good judgment, the expert marshalling of resources, the sheer professionalism, there is something special that does distinguish all of Cannadine's work and it's on magnificent display here. It is an almost anthropological feeling for the way in which people construct themselves and perceive their place in the world--their nation, region, city, class, gender--by reference to the past."--Financial Times

"Cannadine is actually presenting us with a selection of essays rather than a meditation on the Churchill legacy, but he justifies the notion by a shrewd choice of subjects that do, indeed, mark the passing of the Churchillian epoch.... In an excellent analysis of his political rhetoric, Cannadine shows how often the old boy was rightly written off as a demagogue and an alarmist.... Elsewhere in this enjoyable assemblage are solid background essays on the Chamberlain dynasty, and two particularly clever pieces on the contrasting careers and works of Ian Fleming and Noel Coward."--Christopher Hitchens, Washington Post Book World

"Zestfully and gracefully written, compulsively readable, and full of sagacious insights about big questions."--Fred Leventhal

"Cannadine makes a number of worthwhile forays, and his best chapters display his well-earned reputation for lively writing and provocative thinking."--Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195171563
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Cannadine is Professor of History and Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. He is the author of many acclaimed books including The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy, Class in Britain, and History in Our Time. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Parliament: The Palace of Westminster as the Palace of Varieties 3
2 Statecraft: The Haunting Fear of National Decline 26
3 Thrones: Churchill and Monarchy in Britain and Beyond 45
4 Language: Churchill as the Voice of Destiny 85
5 Locality: The 'Chamberlain Tradition' and Birmingham 117
6 Piety: Josiah Wedgwood and the History of Parliament 134
7 Emollience: Stanley Baldwin and Francis Brett Young 159
8 Diplomacy: G. M. Trevelyan and R. B. Merriman 186
9 Tradition: Gilbert and Sullivan as a 'National Institution' 205
10 Conservation: The National Trust and the National Heritage 224
11 Sentiment: Noel Coward's Patriotic Ardour 244
12 Fantasy: Ian Fleming and the Realities of Escapism 279
Acknowledgements 312
A Note on Sources 313
List of Abbreviations 314
Notes 316
Index 370
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