Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review: Ministers at War

Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet
Jonathan Scheer
History, biography, politics

Jonathan Scheer more or less admits that he wanted Ministers at War to be Team of Rivals, but for Winston Churchill. He didn't quite make it. Team of Rivals is a book that I'd recommend to literally any intelligent reader, and Ministers at War isn't at that level. 

However, I can't blame Scheer for aiming high. For anyone with a modest interest in the subject matter, this is a good, clear, blow-by-blow account of the politics--rather than the military history--of Britain in World War II. It's readable, it combines narrative drive with a certain amount of analytically, and (crucially!) it begins with a series of one-paragraph biographies of the main actors.

It has, also, a point to make. Mythologizing aside, Churchill's War Cabinet was no more a bunch of steely-eyed selfless heroes than Lincoln's was. Politics in a democracy never stops, even for an existential crisis; we should celebrate, rather than dismiss, the skills of the political leader who can understand and harness that process.

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