Remind you of anyone?

A.J.P. Taylor looks at Lloyd George. What he sees is eerily familiar.

A.J.P. Taylor on Lloyd George:

He had no friend and did not deserve any. He repaid loyalty with disloyalty… He was surrounded by dependants and sycophants, whom he rewarded lavishly and threw aside when they had served their turn. … Essentially, his devious methods sprang from his nature. He could do things no other way.

No, no, no! Not him! The other one!

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

6 thoughts on “Remind you of anyone?”

  1. In fairness to Lloyd George, I just dipped into (ok, in a major blunder, I bought) Taylor's book The War Lords, and there's stuff in there that is just factually wrong. If Taylor cared about what the future thought of him, he would have collected every copy of that book and burned it.
    However, we can see for ourselves that the criticism actually is valid for Bush.

  2. Catowner,
    Would you please give us a couple of examples of Taylor being factually wrong? Do the mistakes undercut an argument of his, or are they more the kind of thing that just tends to happen sooner or later?
    I've read a little Taylor, and he writes very well, so I don't want to throw him overboard without good reason.
    Hal G

  3. Churchill's history of WW I goes into quite a bit of detail about the Gallipoli campaign, in which the strategic objectives might be briefly described as separating Turkey from Germany, supplying Russia, and keeping Romania, Greece and Bulgaria neutral or persuading them to join the British and French. Taylor writes as though he were unaware of these considerations and compounds the error by imputing to Churchill the desire to advance through the Balkans in WW II.
    In Churchill's six-volume history of WW II, he quotes Mussolini, other Italian leaders and Italian documents to develop, for the observant reader, quite an interesting picture of the Italian leadership. In contrast, Taylor's treatment of Mussolini in The Warlords looks more like an editorial cartoon.
    At this point I lost interest in reading any more of Taylor's book and simply leafed through, looking at the photos, which outnumber the text.
    Be warned- Taylor's large book about WW I apparently was only edited by Taylor, and does not tell you clearly who wrote which chapter or, indeed, much else about the text.
    Taylor's diplomatic history of late 19th century Europe seemed much better to me, but that might be just because I don't know very much about that subject.

  4. Taylor's The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 is justly famous, and is a great book.
    I think the problem with Taylor is two-fold:
    1) He's lazy – he assumes he knows everything, so he rarely goes back to check and see if he's right. This can lead to errors.
    2) He's self-consciously contrarian. The Origins of the Second World War exemplifies this position at its most overblown, but Taylor loves to make an argument to shake people up. The problem with these kind of arguments is that they're often very black and white. Thus, in the Second World War book, it's not enough just to reappraise the appeasers and say that they were engaged in an enterprise which only hindsight shows to have been misguided in light of Hitler's global ambitions (this is, potentially, a valid argument). He has to work on from there and try to claim that Hitler didn't actually have global ambitions (or, rather, that in foreign policy he was a "normal German politician" with "normal" revisionist goals – this is probably more an insult to German politicians than it is an attempt to exonerate Hitler), and that the war was the allies' fault for giving the guarantee to Poland.
    This is probably the most extreme example, but Hitler is full of stuff like that. There's also a strange stream of staunchly pro-British views in Struggle for Mastery such that its account of British foreign policy can sometimes seem almost apologetic – a very strange way for a lefty to act.

  5. Thanks, catowner and John, for your cogent, well-substantiated comments. I can hardly believe that I am reading the comments section of blog.

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