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Reviewed by:
  • Leadership and Responsibility in the Second World War
  • David French
Leadership and Responsibility in the Second World War. Edited by Brian P. Farrell. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-7735-2731-1. Maps. Notes. Pp. xxvii, 273. $22.95.

This volume of essays is a tribute to the late Robert Vogel compiled by his friends, colleagues, and former students. Such volumes are often difficult to prepare given the likelihood that the contributors will each have their own distinct interests which might not mesh easily together. The result can be a book that is less than the sum of its parts. Professor Farrell has avoided that pitfall by asking each contributor to address a common theme, the meaning of the concepts of leadership and responsibility, within the limited timeframe set by the interwar period and the Second World War.

The contributors have examined leadership at three different levels. Robert Vogel's own work is present in the shape of an essay on Chamberlain and appeasement that he was working on at the time of his death. Aaron Krishtalka has examined shifting opinions amongst Tory die-hard backbenchers in the Commons during the opening months of the war and culminating in Chamberlain's rejection by his own party, while Trevor Burridge looks at the role of the Labour Party's leader, Clement Attlee. The dilemmas that faced public officials are represented by two essays, one by Neil Cameron on the scientist A. V. Hill, and the second by Sidney Aster, who examines the effort of the British ambassador to Moscow, Sir William Seeds, to facilitate an Anglo-French-Soviet alliance that might have deterred Hitler from going to war. Finally, the difficulties of balancing their various responsibilities confronting military leaders are represented by three essays: the editor himself explores Sir Archibald Wavell's responsibility for the fall of [End Page 544] Singapore, Paul D. Dickson looks at the sometimes difficult relations between British and Canadian commanders in North West Europe in 1944; and, in the only essay that does not focus on Britain and its empire, Peter Hoffman explores the moral dilemmas that confronted Claus von Stauffenberg, Hitler's would-be assassin.

The scholarly standards of the individual essays are uniformly high. Only one thing is missing from this book. There is no attempt to bring together the insights offered by the individual essays and to reflect in more general terms on the practical and moral problems of leadership in wartime. But on the whole the work represents a fine tribute to a scholar and teacher who, to judge by the tone and contents of Professor Farrell's summary of Robert Vogel's life and career, had a considerable impact on those he taught and befriended during his long academic career.

David French
University College London
London, United Kingdom


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 544-545
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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