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Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet

 by Jonathan Schneer (Basic Books, 2014)

When Winston Churchill be- came British prime minister on May 10, 1940, he realized that the dire situation his country faced in the dark, early days of World War II required a supreme national effort if Britain was to survive. Thus, instead of creating a wartime cabinet composed only of members from his own Conservative Party, Churchill formed a national government, bringing together leaders from all major parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal.

Jonathan Schneer’s superb book reveals how this fractious team – many of them hated each other and several had their own sights set on becoming prime minister – pulled together when it counted in order to win the war. The book’s final chapters explain why and how this wartime coalition fell apart in the wake of victory over Germany.

Especially enlightening to American readers is Schneer’s examination of why Churchill, who was still extremely popular as the leader who had guided Britain to victory, was swept from power in the July 1945 general election when his Conservative Party was overwhelmingly defeated by the Labour Party.


Originally published in the May 2015 issue of Armchair General.