Book Review: Leadership in War: From Lincoln to Churchill


by Correlli Barnett

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014. Pp. xxii, 322. Illus., maps, notes, biblio, index. $34.95 paper. ISBN: 0473821222

Rating the Warlords of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

This collection of 19 short essays on modern national and military leaders by noted British military historian Barnett (The Desert Generals, The Collapse of British Power, etc.) will annoy some people and surprise others. Barnett opens with an essay on Bonaparte, pointing out how the romantic ideal overshadowed the egotistical reality, and helped set Bonaparte’s image as a great leader. 

Barnett often rejects established judgement. For example, the Corsican himself, Lee, Ludendorff, Lloyd George, and even Rommel are deemed wanting; while others, such as Lincoln, Grant, Slim, and Eisenhower are deemed much underrated. 

Many leaders fall in between, not as great, or as bad, as their reputations but capable and often gifted, such as the Elder Moltke, Petain, Haig, and Churchill. Students of World War I will find his comparisons between the Younger Moltke and Joffre of particular interest. Other leaders covered directly are Napoleon III, Yamamoto, “Bomber” Harris, Bertram Ramsay, Zhukov, and Hitler. Still more are treated in passing, such as Harold Alexander or George Patton. 

While one could wish Barnett covered more leaders -- Jefferson Davis, Clemenceau, F.D.R., Marshall, Montgomery come readily to mind -- this nevertheless is a valuable read for those interested in leadership and, of course, in the particular leaders and their wars.


Note: Leadership in War was originally published in Britain in 1913, by Pen & Sword, under the title The Lords of War: Supreme Leadership from Lincoln to Churchill


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi   

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