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Roberts, Andrew 1963–

Roberts, Andrew 1963–

PERSONAL:

Born January 13, 1963, in London, England; son of Simon (a company director) and Katie Roberts; married Susan Gilchrist (a senior partner in a financial PR firm); children: (from previous relationship) Henry, Cassia. Education: Attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Politics: "Conservative." Religion: Church of England (Anglican).

ADDRESSES:

Home and office—London, England. Agent—Capel & Land, 29 Wardour St., London W1V 3HB, England.

CAREER:

Robert Fleming & Co., London, England, investment banker, 1985-88; writer. Director of private companies.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Honorary degree from Westminster College, Missouri.

WRITINGS:

The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1991.

Eminent Churchillians, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1994, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.

The Aachen Memorandum, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1995.

Salisbury: Victorian Titan, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1999.

(With Antonia Fraser) The House of Windsor, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA) 2000.

Napoleon and Wellington: The Long Duel, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2001, published as Napoleon and Wellington: The Battle of Waterloo—And the Great Commanders Who Fought It, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2003.

(Editor) What Might Have Been: Leading Historians on Twelve "What Ifs" of History, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2004.

Power without Responsibility—Was Kipling Right? The Press, Boston University (Boston, MA), 2005.

Waterloo: June 18, 1815: The Battle for Modern Europe, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

ADAPTATIONS:

Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership was adapted for British television as a miniseries.

SIDELIGHTS:

British author Andrew Roberts is the author of several books of history, from the 1991 The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax to Napoleon and Wellington, published in 2001. In his first title, Roberts provides a revisionist account of Lord Halifax, a one-time viceroy to India and the Foreign Secretary in Prime Minister Chamberlain's government. Long charged with appeasement, along with his prime minister, Halifax in fact began to move his government away from that policy vis-à-vis Hitler's Germany, according to Roberts, and wisely made way for Winston Churchill to become prime minister instead of himself. "The scholarship Is sound and the account is thoroughly readable," noted Keith Robbins in The English Histori-cal Review. Robbins further commented that "Roberts perhaps overstates the extent of the Foreign Secretary's role in abandoning appeasement, but his study is generally cogent and worth careful attention." A reviewer for the Economist also found Roberts's account praiseworthy, noticing that his narrative "grips and convinces," though he also felt that Halifax still "emerges from these friendly pages as just the cold, compromising nobleman of legend." Reviewing the same title in History Today, Steven Fielding felt that "Roberts writes with some elegance and to good effect."

Roberts next published a best-selling collection of essays about friends and enemies of Winston Churchill, entitled Eminent Churchillians. Reviewing that book, a contributor to the Economist wrote that Roberts, "a young right-wing revisionist historian from Cambridge, has brought off an odd feat. He follows his first book, ‘The Holy Fox,’ a rightly acclaimed life of Edward Wood, Lord Halifax, with a much ruder and a much worse one … written in a tone calculated to infuriate the old, the staid and the loyal." A large part of the book is an attack on Lord Mountbatten and other prominent members of the ruling class. Roberts's essays managed to rub many the wrong way, in and out of the press. However, Kenneth O. Morgan, writing in New Statesman & Society, called the book a "sparky collection of essays," both "forceful and opinionated," which "provide an excellent read by a very promising young scholar." Reviewing the American publication of Eminent Churchillians, a contributor for Publishers Weekly was less complimentary, calling it a "slashing and unsettling reappraisal of key figures in Britain of the period 1940-55." Among these was Roberts's portrayal of Churchill as a "profound, unrepentant racist and white supremacist." And Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor concluded that "Roberts pushes World War II revisionism to a new—some might say snarlingly scandalous—level."

Roberts also tackled a heavyweight of the nineteenth century—Lord Salisbury; his Salisbury: Victorian Titan weighed in at almost one thousand pages. "This is a big book because the author has a lot to say," wrote Richard Wilkinson in History Review, "both about the importance of Salisbury's career and about his unusual and entertaining personality. My interest never flagged." Salisbury, who dominated Victorian politics, held high office for twenty-one years, for thirteen of which he was Prime Minister. Yet he is, according to a reviewer for the Economist, "unpopular or neglected among historians and biographers." In fact he is one of those leaders whom few historians bother to research—something of an unsolved puzzle. "Andrew Roberts's new biography helps answer the puzzle," commented the Economist reviewer. "Even if Mr. Roberts is enthusiastic about his subject for all the wrong reasons, this biography represents an achievement." Wilkinson also had praise for Roberts's research and writing: "Roberts brilliantly establishes what a character Salisbury was. Nothing could be further from the stereotype of Victorian grandee."

In Napoleon and Wellington, Roberts compares Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellingon, two leaders who met each other in battle at Waterloo. Roberts organizes this unusual double biography chronologically, from their births in 1769, and their subsequent famous rivalry throughout the Napoleonic Wars. In his study, Roberts once again takes to task the received interpretation of this rivalry. "The chief triumph of this book is its depiction of Wellington," commented a critic for the Economist. "He remains a great general, but is shown to have had feet of clay inside those famous boots…. [The book] redefines Wellington without diminishing his achievements." Praise for Roberts's book also came from Christopher Hibbert in the London Sunday Times, noting that though the "field of Napoleonic studies may be a crowded one … Roberts, one of our brightest young historians, is by no means overshadowed in his new book." Hibbert found Napoleon and Wellington "well written and well organised" and as "entertaining as it is instructive …, original and judicious both as military and personal history." Jeremy Black, writing in History Today, called the book a "sparkling new work [that] offers a different approach, a study of the personal relationship between Napoleon and Wellington and of the way it changed across their careers." Black further noted that Roberts avoids "the stodgy route of joint biography," but instead "focuses on what each man thought, wrote and said about the other." Black also had praise for the narrative itself: "Beautifully written, stuffed full with a fabulous cast, and proceeding by a series of excellent anecdotes…." A "brilliant work," Black concluded.

In Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership, Roberts seeks to offer readers a look at the skills and behavior of two historically powerful leaders, regardless of their politics. The book, which was accompanied by a British television series on the same topic, looks at the careers of each of the men, their rise to power, and their overall leadership qualities. Richard Gott, in a review for New Statesman (1996), delivered a rather harsh review of the book, calling it "slight and inconsequential," and suggests that Roberts is attempting to use the volume to gain more public notoriety. As for the premise of the book itself, Gott noted that the disparity between Hitler's and Churchill's backgrounds and political experiences make them difficult to compare in a fair manner, stating: "The plebeian and the aristocrat, the revolutionary and the staunch defender of the status quo, the dictator and the democrat, the vegetarian and the bon viveur—these men could hardly have been more different." He went on to remark: "Roberts's capacity to write attractive, anecdotal history is constrained by the straitjacket of his subtitle. He has forced himself to discuss his subjects in terms of their ‘leadership’ qualities, a nebulous and old-fashioned notion at the best of times."

Roberts attempts to provide readers with an objective account of the battle of Waterloo in Waterloo: June 18, 1815: The Battle for Modern Europe, and succeeds, according to a number of reviewers. He provides perspective on the area, describing both the historical and modern day setting, and offers varied points of view on the events. Gilbert Taylor, in a review for Booklist, remarked that Roberts "joins the essential facts about Waterloo, such as its area and relief, to the morale of individual units involved." In a review for Library Journal, David Lee Poremba dubbed the book "a welcome addition to the over 100 titles available concerning this crucial moment in history."

A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900 is a modern accounting of the English-speaking nations of the world, including Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the West Indies. An overall survey, the book covers a vast array of topics, providing readers with a description of the ways in which these seemingly disparate nations are similar. It examines culture, religion, politics, and economics, as well as science, food trends, and sports. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "Lively but unsystematic, sometimes insightful but always one-sided, this is less a history than a chest-thumping conservative polemic." In a contribution for New Statesman (1996), Hywel Williams praised the book, stating: "This is a work of astonishing range and depth, combining as it does a polemical flair with sure-footed scholarship. It disinters a recent past that is then reinterpreted to exhilarating—and very contemporary—effect." Booklist reviewer Jay Freedman found Roberts's effort to be "a lengthy, ambitious, and interesting but flawed work."

In a Spectator review of Napoleon and Wellington, Jane Ridley remarked that "Roberts has an enviable knack for hitting on neat, sexy subjects which combine history and biography and give a fresh spin to old chestnuts."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of Eminent Churchillians, pp. 1857-1858; August 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Napoleon and Wellington: The Battle of Waterloo—And the Great Commanders Who Fought It, p. 1916; February 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Waterloo: June 18, 1815: The Battle for Modern Europe, p. 932; December 1, 2006, Jay Freedman, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 13.

Books in Canada, April 1, 2007, Patrick Watson, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 22.

Contemporary Review, January 1995, Raymond Lamont-Brown, review of Eminent Churchillians, p. 56; October 1, 2004, review of What Might Have Been: Leading Historians on Twelve "What Ifs" of History, p. 254; June 1, 2005, review of Waterloo, p. 379.

Economist, March 30, 1991, review of The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax, p. 86; August 6, 1994, review of Eminent Churchillians, pp. 71-72; November 13, 1999, "British Politicians: Just Say No," p. 7; September 29, 2001, "Fighting Words: Napoleon and Wellington"; February 12, 2005, "Beating Boney: The Battle of Waterloo," p. 82; November 4, 2006, "Going out in the Midday Sun: The English-speaking World," p. 95.

English Historical Review, September, 1994, Keith Robbins, review of The Holy Fox, pp. 1031-1032.

History Review, March, 2001, Richard Wilkinson, review of Salisbury: Victorian Titan, p. 51.

History Today, March, 1994, Steven Fielding, review of The Holy Fox, p. 55; January, 1996, Steven Fielding, review of Eminent Churchillians, p. 56; December 1, 2001, Jeremy Black, review of Napoleon and Wellington, p. 54; May 1, 2005, Jon Latimer, "Waterloo Napoleon's Last Gamble," p. 74; December 1, 2006, Denis Judd, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 64.

Journal of Military History, April 1, 2005, John K. Severn, review of Napoleon and Wellington, p. 553.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Waterloo, p. 42; November 1, 2006, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 1117.

Law Society Journal, March 1, 2007, John Gava, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 91.

Library Journal, June 15, 2001, Michael Rogers, review of The House of Windsor, p. 108; February 15, 2005, David Lee Poremba, review of Waterloo, p. 144.

Maclean's, March 5, 2007, "Hip Hip Hooray for Anglophones," p. 82.

National Review, April 16, 2007, "Anglospheres Old and New," p. 45.

New Criterion, February 1, 2007, Keith Windschuttle, "The English-speaking Century", p. 4.

New Leader, October 9, 1995, pp. 16-18.

New Statesman, February 24, 2003, Richard Gott, "A Fogey Writes" review of Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership, p. 50; April 26, 2004, "Parlour Games," p. 50; October 2, 2006, Hywel Williams, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 54.

New Statesman & Society, August 12, 1994 Kenneth O. Morgan, review of Emminent Churchillians, p. 36.

Newsweek, February 26, 2007, Evan Thomas, "Ties of Blood and History," p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, June 5, 1995, review of Eminent Churchillians, p. 47; October 30, 2006, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900, p. 46.

Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2006, review of Waterloo,; May 1, 2007, review of A History of the English-speaking Peoples since 1900.

Spectator, September 18, 1999, Jane Ridley, review of Salisbury, pp. 54-55; August 25, 2001, Jane Ridley, review of Napoleon and Wellington, p. 30; April 24, 2004, "Variations on Cleopatra's Nose," p. 53; March 19, 2005, "Dicing with Death," p. 42; November 4, 2006, "The Case for the Defence."

Sunday Times (London, England), September 9, 2001, Christopher Hibbert, "The Best of Enemies," p. 35.

Times Literary Supplement, September 28, 2001, John Spurling, review of Napoleon and Wellington, p. 36; March 14, 2003, "Glory Postponed," p. 14; April 23, 2004, "Roads Not Taken," p. 27; November 11, 2005, "Final Victory," p. 25.

ONLINE

Andrew Roberts Home Page,http://www.andrew-roberts.net (January 28, 2002).

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