Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson

Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson : A Political Soldier

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Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, an Irishman who in June 1922 was assassinated on his doorstep in London by Irish republicans, was one of the most controversial British soldiers of the modern age. Before 1914 he did much to secure the Anglo-French alliance and was responsible for the planning which saw the British Expeditionary Force successfully despatched to France after the outbreak of war with Germany. A passionate Irish unionist, he gained a reputation as an intensely 'political' soldier, especially during the 'Curragh crisis' of 1914 when some officers resigned their commisssions rather than coerce Ulster unionists into a Home Rule Ireland. During the war he played a major role in Anglo-French liaison, and ended up as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, professional head of the army, a post he held until February 1922. After Wilson retired from the army, he became an MP and was chief security adviser to the new Northern Ireland government. As such, he became a target for nationalist Irish militants, being identified with the security policies of the Belfast regime, though wrongly with Protestant sectarian attacks on Catholics.
He is remembered today in unionist Northern Ireland as a kind of founding martyr for the state. Wilson's reputation was ruined in 1927 with the publication of an official biography, which quoted extensively and injudiciously from his entertaining, indiscreet, and wildly opinionated diaries, giving the impression that he was some sort of Machiavellian monster. In this first modern biography, using a wide variety of official and private sources for the first time, Keith Jeffery reassesses Wilson's life and career and places him clearly in his social, national, and political context.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 344 pages
  • 205.74 x 261.62 x 40.64mm | 1,678.28g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 4 maps, frontispiece, 8 pp halftone plates
  • 0198203586
  • 9780198203582
  • 2,128,444

Review quote

a scrupulous, well-documented, and often witty contribution to imperial and military history. It is a tribute to thsi long-awaited, many-faceted, yet succinct biography that one is left craving for more. * David Fitzpatrick, English Historical Review * This work is the ultimate biography of the controversial Field Marshal. It covers the subject very fully and does not avoid controversial aspects of Wilson's life, concentrating on the Irish element in great detail. This important book completes the story of the Wilson saga. * The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society, Volume 57, Number 225 * 'Erudite, carefully researched and considered biography' * Maurice Hayes, Irish Independent * An admirable biography which does justice to its subject without glossing over his faults and limitations...impressive * Brian Bond, TLS *
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About Keith Jeffery

Keith Jeffery is Professor of British History at Queen's University, Belfast, having previously been Professor of Modern History at the University of Ulster. He has been Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and a Visiting Scholar at the Australian National University and the Australian Defence Force Academy.
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Table of contents

1. The Irish Context ; 2. The Making of a Staff Officer ; 3. South Africa ; 4. Work in the War Office ; 5. The Staff College ; 6. Preparing for War ; 7. Politics, the Irish Question, and War ; 8. With the BEF ; 9. IV Corps ; 10. Coalition Warfare ; 11. Winning the War ; 12. Defending the Empire ; 13. Losing Ireland and Saving Ulster ; 14. Death and Reputation ; Bibliography ; Index
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Rating details

3 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
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