Bennett, G.H. 1967–

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Bennett, G.H. 1967–

(George Henry Bennett)

PERSONAL:

Born January 4, 1967; children: a son. Education: Postgraduate studies at Leicester University.

ADDRESSES:

Office—University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Plymouth, Plymouth, England, formerly head of American studies and head of humanities, currently reader in history.

WRITINGS:

British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(With son, R. Bennett) Survivors: British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, OH), 1999.

(With Marion Gibson) The Later Life of Lord Curzon of Kedleston—Aristocrat, Writer, Politician, Statesman: An Experiment in Political Biography, Edwin Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 2000.

The American Presidency, 1945-2000: Illusions of Grandeur, Sutton (Stroud, Gloucestershire, England), 2000.

An American Regiment in Devon: The U.S. Army's 116th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach and the Photography of Olin Dows, Flash-Thunder Press, 2003.

(Editor) Roosevelt's Peacetime Administrations, 1933-41: A Documentary History of the New Deal Years, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

(With R. Bennett) Hitler's Admirals, Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 2004.

Destination Normandy: Three American Regiments on D-Day, Praeger Security International (Westport, CT), 2007.

(With Gilbert S. Guinn) British Naval Aviation in World War II: The U.S. Navy and Anglo-American Relations, Tauris Academic Studies, 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Historian G.H. Bennett writes primarily about military history from both sides of the Atlantic, especially focusing on the era of World War II. His first book, British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, is about the post-World War I years and how the British handled foreign policy at the time. In the English Historical Review, Alan Sharp felt that Bennett was successful in placing this issue within contemporary context and not dismissing the period as simply a failure of diplomacy marked by the problems of the Versailles Treaty. About the author's defense of George Nathaniel Curzon, Lord of Kedleston, Britain's foreign minister at the time, Sharp considered the book less successful. The critic noted that Bennett focuses on the relationship between David Lloyd George, the first and only prime minister of Wales, and Curzon, which the author feels was more cooperative than many historians believe. Sharp, however, believed that this was not the case and that Curzon failed in many ways as a politician because he could not get along with the prime ministers he served. "To argue that his career at the Foreign Office still requires a study of greater magnitude and depth is not to denigrate Dr Bennett's work," Sharp concluded, "which will be of great assistance and value to students and scholars alike." Bennett also writes about Curzon in The Later Life of Lord Curzon of Kedleston—Aristocrat, Writer, Politician, Statesman: An Experiment in Political Biography, a collaborative effort with Marion Gibson.

Survivors: British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War is a detailed study of the many cases in which ships were sunk during naval battles, leaving behind thousands of sailors struggling to survive in open waters. Here, the Bennetts, G.H. and son R., provide several chapters of background context, such as naval strategies and politics, and then devote the remaining seven chapters to accounts of sinkings by other ships or submarines, statistics on victims and survivors, information on safety protocols and equipment, and more. English Historical Review contributor Tony Lane admitted that the amount of detail might prove daunting to many readers, and he faulted the authors for not taking the opportunity to discuss the "sociology of survival," but the critic concluded that Survivors is a worthy book. Readers "will have good reason to thank the Bennetts."

In the University of Leicester Journal, Simon McCormack focused on Bennett's presentation of safety issues in the British Navy. "Survivors seeks to explain that falling casualty rates were largely not a consequence of improved safety measures," stated McCormack. "Due acknowledgement is given to the provision of long distance escort planes, developments in radar, cracking of the Enigma Codes, and the gradual dispersion and stretching of German resources." The reviewer added: "The book avoids coming to firm conclusions or generalisations where there is insufficient data to support such statements. It treats the narrative accounts sensitively yet critically." Salvatore R. Mercogliano, writing in the Journal of Military History, found value in the statistics offered by the authors, writing that they "provided an excellent qualitative analysis of the British merchant marine during the war, by utilizing a vast array of primary sources, personal accounts, and private corporate and union records." Mercogliano faulted the book only for not offering references to some more recent book sources, but he asserted that Survivors "should be regarded as an essential text for understanding the challenges merchant mariners faced during the Second World War."

Bennett's next three publications, The American Presidency, 1945-2000: Illusions of Grandeur, AnAmerican Regiment in Devon: The U.S. Army's 116th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach and the Photography of Olin Dows, and Roosevelt's Peacetime Administrations, 1933-41: A Documentary History of the New Deal Years, concern American rather than British history. The first book takes a very dim view of American leadership after World War II, with Bennett asserting that the credibility of the office of president has eroded with each administration. As a yardstick for measuring the power of a president and his effectiveness, Bennett examines the successes and failures of their actions during times of war, and he also compares these issues with domestic policies. Earlier presidents, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, serve as models for comparison. Roosevelt is likewise considered a strong president, while he is also judged for his domestic policies. John F. Kennedy is judged by the author to have been America's most charismatic leader, but his foreign policies were problematic, as the Bay of Pigs incident clearly indicated. Bennett does not view Lyndon Johnson harshly for Vietnam, as it was a conflict he inherited, and he credits Johnson for positive actions domestically, such as civil rights legislation.

Contemporary Review writer Michael F. Hopkins faulted Bennett for not citing sources sufficiently but concluded that The American Presidency, 1945-2000 "is a clearly written and fair-minded analysis. It highlights key facets of presidential policies and priorities, difficulties and conflicts, while charting the developing nature of the office." While Karl Helicher, writing in Library Journal, did not disagree with some of the author's themes, such as how the Vietnam War and presidential scandals contributed to voters' lack of enthusiasm, the critic felt that Bennett "does not offer new insights." Helicher also felt that Bennett does not give President Bill Clinton credit for his domestic successes even though his foreign policies were admittedly problematic.

Roosevelt's Peacetime Administrations, 1933-41 focuses on just one presidency, with emphasis on Roosevelt's New Deal. Drawing from government records, speeches, and other public records, this book is intended to be a useful textbook for students. An American Regiment in Devon and Destination Normandy: Three American Regiments on D-Day address the Americans' presence in England and Europe during the war. Bennett provides detailed information from his research on America's military actions, with the latter book focusing on the 22nd, 116th, and 507th Parachute Infantry Regiments, which took heavy casualties at Normandy.

More recent books by Bennett include Hitler's Admirals, written with R. Bennett, and British Naval Aviation in World War II: The U.S. Navy and Anglo-American Relations. The former, as Roderick Stackelberg pointed out in his Historian review, is not about German admirals commanding their ships but instead presents writings penned by these admirals as they sat in British prisons. "The editors' intention seems to be to shape the written responses of German admirals to questions put to them in late summer and autumn 1945 into a readable narrative history of the naval war from the German point of view," reported Stackelberg, who considered the book to be "a tedious read." The critic added: "Nonetheless, the book is not without interest or value even to readers not preoccupied by the arcane details of military history." For example, the admirals' writings reveal that the Wehrmacht suffered from considerable internal disagreements among the leadership.

British Naval Aviation in World War II, written with Gilbert S. Guinn, is about the importance of the training British pilots received from the Americans. The authors draw on interviews with both American and British pilots of the time, discussing the varied effects they had on one another from cultural, educational, and military points of view.

Bennett told CA: "Research first got me interested in writing—when you grow up hearing story after story, and finding out more about the stories becomes something you love, then the writing naturally follows (at least if you want to turn it into a paying line of employment).

"On the content front my father plays a big influence on my work. I grew up immersed in World War II. But also lady luck takes a hand. Invariably while I am working on one book the next publication will suggest itself. Thus, doing research for Survivors I came across the essays that would later be used in Hitler's Admirals. The writer's instinct, rather like that of the journalist, is to recognize when there is a story out there.

"In terms of the writing process, every book is different. With some projects, such as the books on Curzon, the writing is preceded by lengthy research. With oth- ers, writing and research go hand in hand. I like to work on the basis of 1,000-word blocks. If you can knock out a block of writing of 1,000 words per day a book soon gets written.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is the depths of my own obsession. When one can derive enjoyment from looking around a World War II bunker in Normandy, even though it means climbing down half a rock face, discovering unexploded ordnance on Utah Beach, or climbing the church steeple in Sainte Mère Église to get a paratrooper's view of the surrounding battlefield, then it is time to take a break.

"The next book I am writing is always my favorite—if you consider that you have reached your peak, then why carry on? The most important of my books are probably Survivors and British Naval Aviation in World War II with Gil Guinn. Survivors was thirty-five years in the making (being the son of a wartime merchant seaman I grew up with the subject matter and was put to work in the national archives looking through survivors' reports at an early age). The Gil Guinn book was similarly quarter of a century in the writing. I first met Gil when he came over to England when I was in my early teens. When it became apparent that ill health would prevent him finishing the book for which he had gathered so much material, it was time to lend a helping hand.

"I hope that my books generate understanding and sympathy (for the subject matter rather than the author). The only critics I care about are the men whose stories I try to make sense of. Sometimes they contact you or you get to hear of their thoughts via a third party. I remember one man telling me of how he had read a copy of Destination Normandy to his father-in-law in the hospital on Christmas day. That his father-in-law was in heart failure, that he had been an infantry officer on Omaha Beach on June 6th, and that he had fully approved of what he had heard … well, enough said."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, February, 1997, Briton C. Busch, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 112.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April, 1996, I.M. Roth, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 1370; April, 2000, J.R. Breihan, review of Survivors: British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War, p. 1535; July 1, 2001, A.J. Dunar, review of The American Presidency, 1945-2000: Illusions of Grandeur, p. 2019.

Contemporary Review, September, 2001, Michael F. Hopkins, "America's President: Illusions and Realities," review of The American Presidency, 1945-2000, p. 177.

English Historical Review, September, 1997, Alan Sharp, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 1012; February, 2001, Tony Lane, review of Survivors, p. 279.

German Studies Review, October, 2005, Michael Epkenhans, review of Hitler's Admirals, p. 656.

Historian, summer, 2006, Roderick Stackelberg, review of Hitler's Admirals.

International History Review, May, 1997, Keith Neilson, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 410.

Journal of Military History, January, 2002, Salvatore R. Mercogliano, review of Survivors, pp. 236-237.

Library Journal, October 15, 2000, Karl Helicher, review of The American Presidency, 1945-2000, p. 85.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 1996, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 6; November, 2000, review of The Later Life of Lord Curzon of Kedleston—Aristocrat, Writer, Politician, Statesman: An Experiment in Political Biography, p. 22; November, 2004, review of Hitler's Admirals, p. 33; February, 2006, review of Roosevelt's Peacetime Administrations, 1933-41: A Documentary History of the New Deal Years; February, 2007, review of Destination Normandy: Three American Regiments on D-Day.

Times Higher Education Supplement, April 19, 1996, Robin J. Moore, review of British Foreign Policy during the Curzon Period, 1919-24, p. 24.

University of Leicester Journal, November, 2001, Simon McCormack, review of Survivors.

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Bennett, G.H. 1967–