Anthony Eden: A Biography

In This Review

Anthony Eden: A Biography

By David Carlton
Allen Lane, 1981
528 pp.
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An outstanding biography of one of Britain's more intriguing modern figures. Rhodes James has produced a persuasive, readable and objective account, even though he had the support of the family. Eden's strange family history and his traumatic World War I experiences explain much of his character and his subsequent public record. Unfortunately for Eden, he came to be thought of as Churchill's heir, though his political origins put him closer to Baldwin and Chamberlain. The account of the long fencing match between Eden and Churchill over the latter's intended retirement is a gem. The reader will naturally be drawn to the lengthy narrative of the Suez crisis. Eden's dogged determination to pursue this ill-fated project is still puzzling despite the author's balanced explanation, which is that Eden's heroic performance in 1938 caused him to see the specter of Hitler in Nasser. One suspects he was also driven to reassert British power in an era of American ascendancy. There is a poignant portrait of Eden, tired, ill and defeated by the combined power of his political opponents: rivals in his own cabinet, the parliamentary opposition, and, finally, his ally, the United States, which in Rhodes James' view must bear a significant share of the blame.

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