Guedalla, Philip

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GUEDALLA, PHILIP (1889–1944), English biographer, historian, and essayist. A member of an old Sephardi family, and the son of David Guedalla, a pioneer English Zionist, Philip Guedalla was born in London and educated at Rugby school and at Oxford, where he excelled as a debater and actor, and later became a barrister. During World War i he was legal adviser to the ministry of munitions and the contracts department of the British War Office. After ten years at the bar, he retired in 1923 to devote himself to literature and politics. Guedalla's five attempts to secure election to Parliament as a Liberal mp failed; but his books on historical personalities and events, mostly of the 19th century, were an outstanding success. A witty speaker and writer, he developed a brilliant and highly individual style, often tinged with irony, in his works. These include The Second Empire (1922), on Napoleon iii; Palmerston (1926); Gladstone and Palmerston (1928); a study of Wellington entitled The Duke (1931); The Queen and Mr. Gladstone (1933); The Hundred Days (1934), on Napoleon I's last campaign; The Hundred Years (1936), covering 1837–1936; The Liberators (1942); and Middle East, 194042; A Study in Axis Power (1944). He also wrote studies of famous personalities such as Supers and Supermen (1920) and Masters and Men (1923); two books of American interest, Independence Day (1926), which appeared in the U.S. as Fathers of the Revolution (1926), and Conquistador (1927); and published the works of Disraeli, to which he added his own introductory notes (1927). He was president of the British Zionist Federation, 1924–28, and in 1925 delivered his presidential address to the Jewish Historical Society of England on Napoleon and Palestine. Philip Guedalla was noted for his aphorisms, such as "Any stigma to beat a dogma," "History is the study of other people's mistakes," and "An Englishman is a man who lives on an island in the North Sea governed by Scotsmen." During World War ii, at the age of 54, he became a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. One of his last works was Mr. Churchill: A Portrait (1941).


The Times (Dec. 18, 1944). add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]