John Charmley is, of course, no stranger to controversy.... How tempting it would be to begin a review of his latest book in this vein.
Matthew Seligmann's Spies in Uniform is an attempt to understand more fully the bases of British decision-making and policy from 1900–1914 in the light of a full investigation of the reports and work of the naval and military attachés in Germany.
On 18 September 1938, British policymakers, shocked by Hitler’s evident readiness to go to war over the Sudetenland, the German-speaking fringe of territory around the western half of Czechoslovakia, offered to guarantee what remained of Czechoslovakia once it renounced its alliances with France and the Soviet Union and agreed to transfer the territory in question to Germany.
Peter Yearwood has carried out impressively extensive research to produce this account of how British foreign policy was closely linked to the formation and operation of the League of Nations in its early years.
The cover of Jan Rüger’s Heligoland shows a small, forbidding and desolate rock surrounded by inclement seas and with no sign of human habitation. This unwelcoming glimpse of land from afar – as so often the case with islands – will prove to be misleading. It gives no sense of the history on a grand scale that is to come.
One might be forgiven for thinking that British defence policy between the Napoleonic era and the outbreak of the First World War was always geared towards a large, continental commitment.