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Jim and Pedro

Geoffrey Best, 17 April 1980

The Ethics of War 
by Barrie Paskins and Michael Dockrill.
Duckworth, 332 pp., £18, October 1979, 0 7156 1354 5
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... The self-effacing authors of this excellent book aim to contribute some clear-headedness and penetration to what ought to be our great debate, but is too often our puzzle-headed mumble, about war. So exemplary is the clarity of their rich, varied and powerful argument that their hopes may well be realised. Good books about ethics and warfare – that is, books which can meet the military and political ‘realists’ on their own grounds, without sacrificing moral principle – are not as rare as they used to be ...


Geoffrey Best, 2 July 1981

British Military Policy between the Two World Wars 
by Brian Bond.
Oxford, 419 pp., £16, October 1980, 0 19 822464 8
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... The astounding story told in these pages is of how the country which came victoriously out of the First World War, ‘that bloody and ill-managed conflict’, with nearly two million soldiers in Belgium and France, a more than adequate industrial backing for them, and a growing habit of victory, at the start of the Second could send there only a thinly-backed 160,000 ...

Heiling Hitler

Geoffrey Best: Churchill, Hitler and the ‘Times’, 21 June 2001

The ‘Times’ and Appeasement: The Journals of A.L. Kennedy 1932-39 
Cambridge, 312 pp., £40, March 2001, 0 521 79354 8Show More
Churchill and Appeasement 
by R.A.C. Parker.
Papermac, 290 pp., £12.99, May 2001, 0 333 67584 3
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... it explaining the mind of the British people to the British Government and the world? The editor, Geoffrey Dawson, played it whichever way he chose: now covertly carrying messages from the Foreign Office or the PM, now appearing to send messages to them; and neither the British public nor the world at large could tell the difference. Dawson and his staff were ...

So long as you drub the foe

Geoffrey Best: Army-Society Relations, 11 May 2006

Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People c.1870-2000 
by David French.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, July 2005, 0 19 925803 1
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... citizen.’ Childers confided to his constituents his ‘wish to see the people of England in the best sense military, but not warlike’ and his ambition to create ‘a system under which a much larger proportion of the youth of the country might, if they wished, voluntarily spend a short time . . . in the ranks. In an army really representing the average ...

Hooked Trout

Geoffrey Best: Appeasement please, 2 June 2005

Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain’s Road to War 
by Ian Kershaw.
Allen Lane, 488 pp., £20, October 2004, 0 7139 9717 6
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... problem: why did certain sensible and decent persons in 1930s Britain persist in thinking the best of Hitler well after others, not evidently more sensible or decent, had come to think the worst? Of that miscellaneous assemblage of misguided men and women, Londonderry was one of the most conspicuous and respectable. He was a true-blue Conservative. He had ...

Momentous Conjuncture

Geoffrey Best: Dracula in Churchill’s toyshop, 18 March 2004

Prof: The Life of Frederick Lindemann 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 374 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 224 06317 0
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... in the 1930s, though a powerful one, didn’t believe Britain was rearming fast enough or in the best way, and loudly said so. For much of his material he relied on Lindemann, well equipped to help him thanks to his German background, statistical dexterity and Farnborough experience. Britain need not, they argued, be thought indefensible against the ...


Geoffrey Best, 22 August 1996

Fairness in International Law and Institutions 
by Thomas Franck.
Oxford, 500 pp., £30, November 1995, 0 19 825901 8
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... as well as to indicate the difficulties in the way of what remains to be done, and how these may best be tackled. ‘The task in fairness discourse is not to achieve quick, temporary relief ... but a grander objective. Step by step, slowly, we want to bring to the global agenda a heightened interest in making the expanding universe of international law ...

Educating the Blimps

Geoffrey Best: Military history, 10 June 1999

Alchemist of War: The Life of Basil Liddell Hart 
by Alex Danchev.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 297 81621 7
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Studies in British Military Thought: Debates with Fuller and Liddell Hart 
by Brian Holden Reid.
Nebraska, 287 pp., £30, October 1998, 0 8032 3927 0
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... Basil Liddell Hart was ‘the captain who taught generals’. His active participation in fighting was limited to three brief bursts during the First World War, the last and by far the worst ending with a nightmarish experience of panic and gas in Mametz Wood, on the Somme, which left him unfit for further front-line service. In proportion as the Army’s hold on him weakened, his critical interest in its mentality and methods increased ...

War and Peace

A.J.P. Taylor, 2 October 1980

Humanity in Warfare: the Modern History of the International Law of Armed Conflicts 
by Geoffrey Best.
Weidenfeld, 400 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 297 77737 8
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Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945: the Defining of a Faith 
by Martin Caedel.
Oxford, 342 pp., £12.50, August 1980, 0 19 821882 6
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... to moderate or even to civilise war has been more rewarding. This jus in bello is the topic of Geoffrey Best’s fascinating book, a volume replete with scholarship and brilliant presentation. Moderate or civilised wars can only operate within certain limitations. They are almost impossible when there is a conflict of creeds as well as of state ...

Humanitarian Juggernaut

Alex de Waal, 22 June 1995

War and Law since 1945 
by Geoffrey Best.
Oxford, 434 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 19 821991 1
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Mercy under Fire: War and the Global Humanitarian Community 
by Larry Minear and Thomas Weiss.
Westview, 247 pp., £44.50, July 1995, 0 8133 2567 6
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... who believe that in war nothing is lawful, and for those for whom all things in war are lawful.’ Geoffrey Best, in his magnificent exposition of the modern pursuit of legal restraint on warfare, opens with another aphorism, from Hersch Lauterpacht: ‘If international law is, in some ways’ at the vanishing-point of law, the law of war is, perhaps even ...


Arthur Marwick, 18 October 1984

War and Society in Europe 1870-1970 
by Brian Bond.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 256 pp., £12, December 1983, 0 7185 1227 8
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Wars and Welfare: Britain 1914-1945 
by Max Beloff.
Arnold, 281 pp., £18.95, April 1984, 0 7131 6163 9
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The Causes of Wars, and Other Essays 
by Michael Howard.
Counterpoint, 291 pp., £3.95, April 1984, 0 04 940073 8
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... with which Brian Bond was associated was subtitled ‘A Yearbook of Military History’; and Geoffrey Best, himself the author of the brilliantly original Humanity and Warfare (1980), states in his general preface to the new Fontana series that ‘war and society’ comes to much the same thing as ‘war in history’. While the Social History ...

Victorian Consumers

Michael Mason, 16 February 1989

The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain, 1830-1900 
by F.M.L. Thompson.
Fontana, 382 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 0 00 686157 1
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Victorian Things 
by Asa Briggs.
Batsford, 440 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 9780713445190
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... an interpretative way. The latter recalls most of all a book which is now nearly twenty years old, Geoffrey Best’s Mid-Victorian Britain. Best’s survey had a much smaller chronological range and should perhaps be yoked with its companion volume in the Eric Hobsbawm-edited History of British ...

Over Several Tops

Bernard Porter: Winston Churchill, 14 January 2002

Churchill: A Study in Greatness 
by Geoffrey Best.
Hambledon, 370 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 1 85285 253 4
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by Roy Jenkins.
Macmillan, 1002 pp., £30, October 2001, 0 333 78290 9
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... Why two more Churchill biographies? Geoffrey Best reckons there are fifty or a hundred out there already. Two good reasons to want to add to them would be the unearthing of new evidence or a radically different interpretation. Roy Jenkins says he is not ‘a great partisan of the “revelatory” biography’, and claims that for Churchill nearly all the ‘facts’ are known in any case ...

Just a smack at Grigson

Denis Donoghue, 7 March 1985

Montaigne’s Tower, and Other Poems 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Secker, 72 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 436 18806 6
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Collected Poems: 1963-1980 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 256 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 557 3
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The Faber Book of Reflective Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Faber, 238 pp., £7.95, October 1984, 0 571 13299 5
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Blessings, Kicks and Curses 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 279 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 85031 558 1
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The Private Art: A Poetry Notebook 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Allison and Busby, 231 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 9780850315592
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Before the Romantics: An Anthology of the Enlightenment 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Salamander, 349 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 907540 59 7
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... Geoffrey Grigson’s best poem, and the type of his best poetry, is ‘His Swans’. Evidently and justly, he thinks well enough of it to put it in the Faber Book of Reflective Verse as his sole exhibit: Remote music of his swans, their long Necks ahead of them, slow Beating of their wings, in unison, Traversing serene Grey wide blended horizontals Of endless sea and sky ...


Eric Hobsbawm, 3 June 1982

War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770-1870 
by Geoffrey Best.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 336 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634747 9
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European Empires from Conquest to Collapse 1815-1960 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 285 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634826 2
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... so much that they have had experience of the armed forces in combat – many have, but much of the best work comes from writers with civilian backgrounds. It is rather that the British experience of a modern ‘people’s war’ is exceptionally full. War and society have been inseparable, not only between 1939 and 1945, but also, since 1969, among the housing ...

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