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Peter Clark obtained his title from Leon Trotsky’s (1879-1940) famous quote in 1922 “War is the locomotive that forces the speed of historical change”. In this book Clarke adopts a transatlantic focus and depicts the effects of war on British and American liberals as they reacted to the challenges and strains of World War One.
The key men in the book are Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), David Lloyd George (1863-1945), Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) and John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). Clarke makes a point that all but Lloyd George were from the upper-class backgrounds. He also makes a point they inherited William Gladstone’s (1809-1898) moral emphasis. None were socialists but all were working to transform the role of government and the workings of the economic system. Clarke sets out to explain his theory of why and how the liberals, who prided themselves on being pacifists, “started a world war”.
The book is well written and researched. Clarke has the ability to leaven serious political analysis with gossipy anecdotal comments. Clarke reinterprets the twentieth century and also asks questions of the present. The author provides brief biographies of each of the key men in the book. Clarke is a professor of modern history at Trinity Hall at Cambridge University.
The book is fourteen and a half hours long. Jeremey Clyde does a good job narrating the book. Clyde is an actor and an award-winning audiobook narrator.
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