The End is Nigh
British Politics, Power, and the Road to the Second World War
Oxford University Press 2019
New Books in British StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Military HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network August 6, 2019 Charles Coutinho
Few decades have given rise to such potent mythologies as the 1930s. Popular impressions of those years prior to the Second World War were shaped by the single outstanding personality of that conflict, Winston Spencer Churchill. Churchill depicted himself as a political prophet, exiled into the wilderness prior to 1939 by those who did not want to hear of the growing threats to peace in Europe. Although it is a familiar story, it is one we need to unlearn as the truth is somewhat murkier.
Robert Crowcroft‘s The End is Nigh: British Politics, Power, and the Road to the Second World War (Oxford University Press, 2019) is a tale of relentless intrigue, burning ambition, and the bitter rivalry in British politics during the years preceding the Second World War. Building on both the revisionist and the post-revisionist scholarship of the last forty-years, Crowcroft’s narrative goes from the corridors of Whitehall to the smoking rooms of Parliament, and from aircraft factories to summit meetings with Hitler, the book offers a fresh and provocative interpretation of one of the most crucial moments of British history. It assembles a cast of iconic characters–Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin, Clement Attlee, Anthony Eden, Ernest Bevin, and more–to explore the dangerous interaction between high politics at Westminster and the formulation of national strategy in a world primed to explode.
In the twenty-first century we are accustomed to being cynical about politicians, mistrusting what they say and wondering about their real motives, but Crowcroft, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary History at the University of Edinburgh and Associate Fellow at the War Studies Department at University College London, argues that this was always the character of democratic politics. In The End is Nigh he challenges some of the most resilient public myths of recent decades–myths that, even now, remain an important component of Britain’s self-image. Described by Christopher Montgomery in Standpoint as brilliant and a ‘savage and subtle critique of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy, The End is Nigh is by any stretch of the imagination a book that the serious student of history should have on his desk for his summer reading.
Charles Coutinho has a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph. D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for the Journal of Intelligence History and Chatham House’s International Affairs. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to Charlescoutinho@aol.com