Masters and Commanders
How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945
By Andrew Roberts
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061228575, 720pp.)
Publication Date: May 2009
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An epic joint biography, Masters and Commanders explores the degree to which the course of the Second World War turned on the relationships and temperaments of four of the strongest personalities of the twentieth century: political masters Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the commanders of their armed forces, General Sir Alan Brooke and General George C. Marshall. Each was exceptionally tough willed and strong minded, and each was certain that he knew best how to win the war. Yet each knew that he had to win at least two of the others if he was to have his strategy adopted. Andrew Roberts, whom The Economist calls "Britain's finest contemporary military historian," traces the mutual suspicion and admiration, the rebuffs and the charm, the often-explosive disagreements and wary reconciliations, and he helps us to appreciate the motives and imperatives acting upon these key leaders struggling to destroy Nazism.
Drawing on newly discovered verbatim accounts of Churchill's war-cabinet meetings and on the private papers of nearly seventy contemporaries, Roberts reconstructs the lively debates of the four principals and other leading figures, and attempts to answer some of the key questions of Allied strategy. Why, when the most direct route from Germany to Britain was through north-western France, did the Western Allies launch attacks via North Africa, Sicily, and Rome? Why, if Operation Overlord in June 1944 was intended to be the start of the Allies' great thrust into Germany, did four hundred thousand men land five hundred miles to the south, in southern France, two months later? Why did the Allies not take Berlin, Vienna, or Prague and allow the Iron Curtain to descend where it did?
Masters and Commanders dramatically re-creates the atmosphere, debates, and maneuverings through which Allied grand strategy was forged and reveals the profound impact of personality upon history.
Andrew Roberts is the author of Masters and Commanders and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. His other books include Napoleon and Wellington, Eminent Churchillians, and Salisbury, which won the Wolfson History Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a PhD in history from Cambridge University and writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. He lives in New York City.
“Andrew Roberts, a tenacious archival historian and gifted writer, looks behind the façade of the familiar photographs and published accounts to see how these war leaders actually operated.”
-Sir Martin Gilbert, The Evening Standard
“This is an important book which, in its layered references to Waterloo, the Crimea and the Somme, sees Mr. Roberts lay claim to the title of Britain’s finest contemporary military historian.”
“The strength of Masters and Commanders lies in the power of the narrative and the fascinating detail used to construct it. Roberts has exploited a rich mine of private papers to fill in missing parts of the story.”
-Richard Overy, Literary Review
“Roberts’s account of the war and its intrigues is fresh-filled with new revelations and new analysis. . . . It is both high scholarship and superb writing by a masterful analyst of power and war.”
-Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Daily Beast
“Masterly. . . . A triumph of vivid description, telling anecdotes, and informed analysis. Roberts’s book reinforces his claim to stand among the foremost British historians of the period.”
-Max Hastings, The New York Review of Books
“Fascinating. . . . By mining previously unavailable diaries and oral histories . . . this book brings vividly to life the personal interactions and impressions of those involved. Roberts has a keen eye for the telling anecdote.”
-Mark Mazower, The Guardian