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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 ...

Mistakes

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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... of the Second World War (1970) said virtually nothing about the Holocaust. Liddell Hart’s bestselling book in the Twenties was not a military work but The Lawn Tennis Masters Unveiled. Even before the Great War he had published many letters about tennis in papers and periodicals, and as soon as his war was over, he became English correspondent of the ...

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 ...
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 ...

Boom

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 ...

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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Churchill 
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 ...
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 ...

Ideas of War

Johann Sommerville

27 October 1988
The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Cambridge, 234 pp., £15, May 1988, 0 521 32607 9
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War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime: 1618-1789 
by M.S. Anderson.
Fontana, 239 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 00 686053 2
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Waging war: A Philosophical Introduction 
by Ian Clark.
Oxford, 154 pp., £17.50, April 1988, 0 19 827325 8
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... against the background of society as a whole. In his introduction to Professor Anderson’s book, Geoffrey Best observes that until recently much writing on military history has had little to say about the social context of warfare: ‘Sometimes sinking to uniforms, badges and buttons, it rarely rose above campaigns and battles.’ One purpose of the ...

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