Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke War Diaries, 1939–1945.
University of California Press, 763 pages, $40

In 1980, in his valedictory lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History, Hugh Trevor-Roper discussed the events of 1940, when the world hung in a balance between very different futures. Drawing attention to the fallacy of historical determinism and Marxist historiography, he observed that

no one could rationally have assumed that at the precise moment of the fall of France there would be, in Britain, a statesman able to unite all parties, and the people, in the will and confidence to continue what could easily have been represented as a pointless struggle.

Trevor-Roper knows what our professors today seem to be too smart to grasp, that the “crisis does not always produce the man.” In 1940, Winston Churchill stood between day and night. It was all the more remarkable that...


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