Horne, Alistair 1925–
Horne, Alistair 1925–
(Alistair Allan Horne)
PERSONAL: Born November 9, 1925, in London, England; son of Sir James Allan and Auriel Camilla (Hay) Horne; married Renira Margaret Hawkins, November 28, 1953 (divorced, 1982); children: Camilla, Alexandra, Vanessa. Education: Jesus College, Cambridge, M.A., 1949. Politics: "Nonconformist but anti-Communist." Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, painting, shooting, fishing, travel.
ADDRESSES: Home—Cambridge, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Knopf Publicity, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer and historian. Cambridge Daily News, Cambridge, England, journalist, 1950–51; Daily Telegraph, London, England, staff correspondent in Germany, 1952–55; freelance writer, 1955–; John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, senior distinguished scholar, 2005–. Has also served as director of Mombasa Investment Trust, Ltd., and member of the Committee of Management, Royal Literary Fund, 1969–90.
Work-related activities include Imperial War Museum, trustee, 1975–82; Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC, fellow; St. Antony's College, Oxford, England, honorary fellow, 1988–, and Jesus College, Cambridge, England, honorary fellow, 1996–. Military service: Royal Air Force, 1943–44; British Army, Coldstream Guards, 1944–47, attached to Counter-Intelligence; became captain.
MEMBER: Royal Institute of International Affairs, Garrick Club (London), Beefsteak.
AWARDS, HONORS: Hawthornden Prize, 1963, for The Price of Glory; Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize and Wolfson Literary Award, both 1978, both for A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962; French Légion d'Honneur, 1993, for work on French history; Commander of the British Empire (CBE), 2003.
Back into Power, Parrish, 1955, published as Return to Power, Praeger (New York, NY), 1956.
The Land Is Bright, Parrish, 1958.
Canada and the Canadians, Macmillan (London, England), 1961.
The Price of Glory: Verdun, 1916 (first book in trilogy), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1962.
The Fall of Paris: The Seige and the Commune, 1870–1871 (second book in trilogy), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1965.
To Lose a Battle: France, 1940 (third book in trilogy), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1969.
Death of a Generation: From Neuve and Chapelle to Verdun and the Somme, Heritage Press, 1970.
The Terrible Year: The Paris Commune, 1871, Viking (New York, NY), 1971.
Small Earthquake in Chile: Allende's South America, Viking (New York, NY), 1972, published in England as Small Earthquake in Chile: A Visit to Allende's South America, Macmillan (London, England), 1972.
A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962, Macmillan (London, England), 1977, Viking (New York, NY), 1978.
Napoleon, Master of Europe, 1806–1807, Morrow (New York, NY), 1979.
The French Army and Politics, 1870–1970, Peter Bedrick Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Harold Macmillan, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1991, published in England as Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, (two volumes), 1989.
Monty: The Lonely Leader, 1944–1945, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
A Bundle from Britain, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
How Far from Austerlitz?: Napoleon, 1805–1815, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Editor and contributor) Telling Lives, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.
Seven Ages of Paris, Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
The Age of Napoleon, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2004.
Friend or Foe: An Anglo-Saxon History of France, Orion (London, England), 2004.
La Belle France: A Short History, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of script, The Terrible Year, based on book of same title, for BBC Chronicle, 1971. Contributor to periodicals, including Times Literary Supplement, Observer, Spectator, New York Times, Time and Tide, and Sunday Telegraph.
SIDELIGHTS: Alistair Horne is a "distinguished historian whose trilogy on Franco-German conflict from 1870 to 1940 could hardly be bettered," John Leonard wrote in the New York Times. Horne's studies of revolutionary movements, especially his award-winning analysis of the Algerian insurrection, have also received critical acclaim. Horne's books, critics have observed, are marked by a balanced presentation of warring parties, strong narrative hold, and extensive research.
The Price of Glory: Verdun, 1916, the first volume of Horne's trilogy, is "a battle saga which rises above mere narrative to achieve the status of veritable drama," according to L.F. Eliot in the National Review. It is "one of the most scrupulously documented war (or anti-war) books of our time," Leon Wolff wrote in the New York Times Book Review. "No historian of our times has so poignantly recaptured the malignancy of war on the Western Front." Barbara Tuchman praised The Fall of Paris: The Seige and the Commune, 1870–1871, the trilogy's second volume. In a New York Times Book Review article, she wrote that "Horne tells the story … with such vivid verisimilitude that the reader feels he is inside the beleaguered city and turns the pages anxiously to learn what will be his fate…. As a historian, [Horne] is honest, meticulous, consistently interesting and readable, with an eye for the colorful and informative detail, the telling picture and dramatic episode."
The third volume of the trilogy, To Lose a Battle: France, 1940, chronicles the six-week rout of France by the German Army in 1940 and examines the reasons behind the collapse of the French Army, regarded at the time as the strongest military unit in Europe. "Horne's superbly readable narrative explores this question in its political, military, economic, and moral ramifications," Jack Beatty commented in the New Republic. "Horne's pen gives instant life to everything in its path; like the German army, he sweeps easily before him the political contortions of the Third Republic, with its giddy succession of premiers, its government by crony and mistress, and its deep and virulent social divisions between left and right." An Economist critic observed: "All the details are there: the small, fleeting triumphs, the cowardice, the stupidity and the intelligence. Horne's great gift is his ability to hold his readers in the grip of such feelings, constantly shifting his focus … without mystifying or fatiguing them." And Keith Eubank of Library Journal noted that To Lose a Battle "should become one of the great classic accounts of this terrible disaster which befell France…. It is a magnificent book."
Horne's study, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962, was called "as full and objective a history of the Algerian war as we are likely to see" by James Joll in the New York Times Book Review. On November 4, 1954, the Algerian revolutionary army Front de Liberation Nationale (F.L.N.) attacked a police station in the city of Biskra to begin its campaign against French colonial rule. Eight years later the French withdrew and the undeclared war ended, with two million soldiers and civilians dead or exiled.
"The terror, mutilation, counterterror, torture and murder took place on both sides. There was no middle," John Leonard wrote in the New York Times. "The criminal difference between the 19th century and the 20th," Leonard added, "is that in the 20th there are no civilians." "It is a frightful story—begotten in the blood of innocents," Priscilla L. Buckley commented in the National Review. "[The war has been] much written about but never as skillfully or even-handedly as in this book." In the Spectator, Raymond Carr commented: "Occasionally an epic subject encounters a fine historian. This was the case with the Algerian war and Mr. Horne. The result is a book of compelling power, written with compassion and understanding." A Savage War of Peace "is a magnificent book," Carr continued. "It has the poetic sense of place without which no great work of history can be written. It is more than a narrative, skillfully distilled from a mountain of sources, often difficult to follow because of its complexity, but which nevertheless holds the reader."
Several reviewers commented on the fairness of Horne's account of the conflict, a great achievement "given that the sources are so polemical, that the passions of the participants have not died down, and that so many indeed still refuse to say much about their roles," Theodore Zeldin observed in the Listener. Zeldin noted that Horne "tells his story—and it is a gripping story—not quite with detachment, because he is too appalled by the cruelty of it all, but with fairness and lucidity, showing that horrific violence was used by almost all the parties involved." "For Mr. Horne, after talking to everybody he could find and reading everything he could get his hands on, nobody is a hero. He merely does his considerable best to understand," Leonard observed. And Richard Cobb wrote in the New Statesman: "Horne's book is quite unsurpassed, and is likely to remain so…. He has a word of understanding for all the protagonists, even the most fanatical and cruel." Cobb added, "Such a repetitive account of daily killings, of mindless violence, could be merely sickening; yet, thanks to the author's ever-alert compassion, to his eye for each pathetic detail, it attains a sort of sombre beauty and a dignity that illuminates the whole book." A Savage War of Peace, Cobb wrote, is "a work of great beauty and insight."
Horne is also the author of the biography Harold Macmillan, which was published in two volumes in England as Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956. Macmillan was a British politician who became the prime minister of England and directly requested Horne to write his authorized biography. "It was an inspired choice: Horne carries none of the baleful ballast of a psychobiographer, who would have had an oedipal field day exploring Macmillan's relationships," wrote John P. Roche in the New Leader. Roche went on to note: "Horne has brought Macmillan to life, has removed the masks he seemed wont to don, and in doing so has written a superb book."
In his book Monty: The Lonely Leader, 1944–1945. Horne focuses on British World War II General Bernard Montgomery as the Allies neared victory and Montgomery develops the "master plan" for the invasion of Normandy. Horne achieves his goal through the recounting of a 1992 trip he made with Montgomery's son David, as they retraced the general's travels from one headquarters to another leading up to the invasion. The book also includes a brief account of the general's early life. Writing in History Today, M.R.D. Foot noted that the author "disposes of several myths, and enhances understanding of the recent past." Fritz Stern, writing in Foreign Affairs, commented that, for the most part, he found the book to be a "brilliant and authoritative study."
In his memoir, A Bundle from Britain, Horne describes his life growing up in Great Britain and reflects on the years he spent in America beginning at the age of fifteen. His British parents had sent him to live with the Cutler family in Ganison, NY, to protect him from the bombing of England during World War II. Horne describes in detail his life in America and his time at a boarding school, where he befriended the young William F. Buckley, Jr., who would go on to gain fame as a noted conservative political commentator. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "recalls his American adolescence with prim, sometimes cloying affection and gratitude." Writing in Booklist, Alice Joyce called the book "an appealing reminiscence of historical significance."
How Far from Austerlitz?: Napoleon, 1805–1815 focuses on the French leader's military career and also discusses his non-military accomplishments, such as his influence on the institution of the metric system, the layout of Paris, and French legal codes. William F. Buckley, Jr., commented in the National Review that the book is "an engrossing work by a master historian."
In the Seven Ages of Paris, Horne traces the history of Paris by examining seven important epochs in the city's life, beginning with its days as a Roman colony and island in the middle of the Seine. "A rich, vigorously fresh study for history lovers," wrote Brad Hooper in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the book "is sure to delight Francophiles everywhere." Writing in the Spectator, Douglas Johnson commented that Horne "has produced a work of great scholarship, which, as Maurice Duron states in his preface, combines the art of synthesis with that of detail."
Horne continued to write about France in The Age of Napoleon, in which he focuses on Napoleon's nonmilitary achievements and life, including his character and private life. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "picturesque social history." Marc Arkin, writing in the New Criterion, noted that the short book "is intended to be the historian's version of a beach book, a niche it fits splendidly."
Friend or Foe: An Anglo-Saxon History of France delves into the long history of Anglo-French relations. Calling Horne "perhaps the most accessible and—occasionally—authoritative writer on French affairs in English," New Statesman contributor Andrew Hussey went on to note, "Horne's prose is entertaining, elegant and crisp, and his acerbic views on the great men and moments of French history are always bracing." In a review in History Today, Glen Richardson noted, "He writes with brio and has an engaging, readable, style with touches of humour throughout."
Horne provides a quick look at the past 200 or so years of French history in his book La Belle France: A Short History. "His work is enriched by examples from contemporary observers and by his focus on cultural and intellectual development," wrote Marie Marmo Mullaney in the Library Journal. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "a sweeping, literate history" and also commented that it was "a pleasure for Francophile readers, balancing the recent spate of dimwitted screeds against a nation that dares to go its own way." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "It's the compellingly subjective treatment of modern France, and the irreverent appraisal of its icons, that makes this book so worth reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Horne, Alistair, A Bundle from Britain, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Booklist, August, 1994, Alice Joyce, review of A Bundle from Britain, p. 2018; October 15, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. 383.
Business Week, August 9, 2004, Hardy Green, review of The Age of Napoleon, p. 11.
Denver Post, November 24, 2002, Brian Richard Boylan, review of Seven Ages of Paris.
Economist, April 19, 1969, review of To Lose a Battle: France, 1940; July 1, 1989, review of Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, volume 2, 73; June 4, 1994, review of Monty: The Lonely Leader, 1944–45, p. 91; November 16, 2002, review of Seven Ages of Paris.
Foreign Affairs, November-December, 1994, Fritz Stern, review of Monty, p. 170.
History Today, June, 1995, M. R. D. Foot, review of Monty, p. 47; May, 2005, Glen Richardson, review of Friend or Foe: An Anglo-Saxon History of France, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of Seven Ages of Paris, pp. 1446-1447; May 15, 2005, review of La Belle France: A Short History, p. 575.
Library Journal, May 15, 1969, Keith Eubank, review of To Lose a Battle; November 15, 2002, Marie Marmo Mullaney, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. 85; August 2, 2005, Marie Marmo Mullaney, review of La Belle France, p. 100.
Listener, January 26, 1978, Theodore Zeldin, review of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962.
Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2002, Victor Brombert, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. R-4.
National Review, February 26, 1963, L. F. Eliot, review of The Price of Glory; June 23, 1978, Priscilla L. Buckley, review of A Savage War of Peace, p. 785; April 21, 1989, John O'Sullivan, review of Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, volume 1, p. 48; June 30, 1997, William F. Buckley, Jr., review of How Far from Austerlitz?: Napoleon, 1805–1815, p. 54.
New Criterion, June, 2004, Marc Arkin, review of The Age of Napoleon, p. 78.
New Leader, June 12, 1989, John P. Roche, review of Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, volume 1, p. 17; February 5, 1990, John P. Roche, review of Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, volume 2, p. 23.
New Republic, January 19, 1969, Jack Beatty, review of To Lose a Battle; March 20, 1989, Henry Fairlie, review of Harold Macmillan, Politician, 1894–1956, volume 1, p. 42.
New Statesman, November 18, 1977, Richard Cobb, review of A Savage War of Peace; July 10, 2000, John Colvin, review of Telling Lives, p. 59; November 29, 2004, review of Friend or Foe, p. 46; December 6, 2004, Andrew Hussey, review of Friend or Foe, p. 48.
New York Times, March 23, 1978, John Leonard, review of A Savage War of Peace, p. 31; December 22, 2002, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p.22.
New York Times Book Review, April 7, 1963, Leon Wolff, review of The Price of Glory; January 30, 1966, Barbara Tuchman, review of The Fall of Paris: The Seige and the Commune, 1870–1871, p. 1; July 20, 1969, review of To Lose a Battle, p. 3; March 19, 1978, James Joll, review of A Savage War of Peace, p. 31.
Publishers Weekly, June 20, 1994, review of A Bundle from Britain, p. 87; October 21, 2002, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. 61; April 5, 2004, review of The Age of Napoleon, p. 51; April 18, 2005, review of La Belle France, p. 50.
Spectator, October 22, 1977, Raymond Carr, review of A Savage War of Peace; November 9, 2002, Douglas Johnson, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. 81; July 17, 2004, Robert Stewart Castlereagh, review of The Age of Napoleon, p. 35.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), October 27, 2002, Munro Price, review of Seven Ages of Paris.
Times (London, England), November 27, 2002, Jonathan Fenby, review of Seven Ages of Paris, p. 19.