The Best Books On Sidelights On British Politics

Richard Toye Author Of Winston Churchill: A Life in the News
By Richard Toye

The Books I Picked & Why

Guilty Men

By Cato

Guilty Men

Why this book?

This is really a pamphlet rather than a book and can be read in less than an hour. But, as a denunciation of Appeasement, it’s foundational to Britain’s understanding of its history. Written anonymously by three journalists, including future Labour leader Michael Foot, it’s both brutal and wildly unfair. As all polemics should be.


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Hugh Dalton: A Life

By Ben Pimlott

Hugh Dalton: A Life

Why this book?

This is a remarkable book which took an overlooked figure and showed how he was central to the story of Labour politics for across several decades. Dalton was most famous as the Chancellor who resigned after accidentally leaking details of his Budget in 1947, but he was also an important thinker who helped keep his party on a moderate track during its crisis period in the 1930s. As the editor of Dalton’s diaries Pimlott was well placed to tell the tale, which reveals Dalton as an unhappy and even tragic figure. It’s a mark of the book’s success that nobody has written a biography of Dalton since.


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Daring to Hope: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1946-1969

By Violet Bonham Carter, Mark Pottle

Daring to Hope: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1946-1969

Why this book?

This is the third and final volume of the set, and it’s hard to choose between them. Bonham Carter was the daughter of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, but also a significant public figure in her own right. She never became an MP, in spite of her efforts, but did eventually join the House of Lords. The book is worth reading both for its acute observations of major political events and for the light it casts on Bonham Carter’s determined personality.


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Memoir of a Fascist Childhood: A Boy in Mosley's Britain

By Trevor Grundy

Memoir of a Fascist Childhood: A Boy in Mosley's Britain

Why this book?

This is a through-the-looking-glass journey into the darker side of British politics. Grundy’s parents were violently anti-Semitic and obsessed with Oswald Mosley, and he himself became active in Mosley’s post-war Union Movement, before turning away from Fascism. It is surreal, scary, and hilarious by turns. It also gives important insights into the origins of today’s Far Right politics.


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Live from Number Ten: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television

By Michael Cockerell

Live from Number Ten: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television

Why this book?

This is the book that really turned me on to political history – though I suppose I must have been interested already, or my parents wouldn’t have bought it for me for my fourteenth birthday! It’s a fairly light read, but it’s a great way of learning the outlines of what happened in British politics in the thirty-odd years after 1945. When it was published it still seemed as though Margaret Thatcher would be Prime Minister forever …


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