In This Review

Churchill's Shadow: Coping With the Past in Modern Britain
Churchill's Shadow: Coping With the Past in Modern Britain
By David Cannadine
Oxford University Press, 2002, 400 pp

This collection of diverse essays is concerned with the United Kingdom's transition from the imperial period of maximum power and pride to "disappointment and disillusion, resentment and regret" after World War II. Cannadine argues rightly that to understand recent history, one must know more about the more distant and glorious past. Hence the first part of the book is devoted to Winston Churchill, his brilliant oratory, and his long shadow, documenting along the way the travails of the royal family and Margaret Thatcher's fight against her country's decline. Subsequent chapters explore such themes as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's "rustic" and out-of-touch image, the cultural legacy of Gilbert and Sullivan, and the trajectory of Noel Coward -- who began as a nonconformist rebel and ended as a sentimental patriot who could not accept his country's postwar embrace of greater egalitarianism. Another chapter plunges into the far less sophisticated universe of Ian Fleming, described as a mix of "clubland characters" ("essentially schoolboy stories dressed up for adults") and self-indulgence, vulgar materialism, and sexism. A thought-provoking, evocative, and eminently readable book.