Academic journal article Military Review

Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet

Academic journal article Military Review

Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet

Article excerpt

MINISTERS AT WAR: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet

Jonathan Schneer, Basic Books, New York, 2015, 352 pages

What more can be said or written about Sir Winston Churchill? It has been seventy-five years since he first obtained the position that has long since secured his place in history. Yet, in a new work, Jonathan Schneer takes a fresh perspective on Churchill. Schneer reminds us that not less than two months following the surrender of Nazi Germany, Churchill was, shockingly, defeated for a second term as prime minister, voted out by a largely grateful constituency that he had just led from imminent defeat to resounding victory in World War II.

The author argues that the seeds of Churchill's political demise in 1945 perhaps were sown in his earliest days as prime minister while selecting the members of his cabinet. Schneer maintains that Churchill selected an inner circle that put a premium on talent over party affiliation, personal affinity, or other secondary considerations, in a manner similar to former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln. Both leaders faced a direct threat to national security and picked men with the necessary qualifications to win wars. In building his particular team, Churchill was compelled to form a coalition involving his own Conservative Party, as well as the rival Labour and Liberal Parties.

Thus, Ministers at War works on several levels. To be sure, Churchill's talented lineup of ministers was concerned first about national survival, especially during the dark years of 1940-1941, and later about winning the war, given the United States' eventual entry. Nevertheless, these men of great ability--including Lord Privy Seal Clement Atlee, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook, and Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin-were also worried about political survival, and, in some cases, they aspired to the position of prime minister. …

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