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Jonathan Schneer - book author

Dr. Jonathan Schneer, who received his BA from McGill University in 1971 and his PhD from Columbia University in 1978, is the modern British historian at Georgia Tech in the School of History, Technology, and Society.

Jonathan Schneer is the author of books: The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and His War Cabinet, London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis, The Thames, The Lockhart Plot: Love, Betrayal, Assassination and Counter-Revolution in Lenin's Russia, Labour's Conscience: The Labour Left, 1945-51, Ben Tillett: Portrait Of A Labour Leader, Social Conflict and the Political Order in Modern Britain, George Lansbury, Black Victorians/Black Victoriana

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01
Issued in London in 1917, the Balfour Declaration was one of the key documents of the twentieth century. It committed Britain to supporting the establishment in Palestine of “a National Home for the Jewish people,” and its reverberations continue to be felt to this day. Now the entire fascinating story of the document is revealed in this impressive work of modern history.

With new material retrieved from historical archives, scholar Jonathan Schneer recounts in dramatic detail the public and private battles in the early 1900s for a small strip of land in the Middle East, battles that started when the governing Ottoman Empire took Germany’s side in World War I. The Balfour Declaration paints an indelible picture of how Arab nationalists, backed by Britain, fought for their future as Zionists in England battled diplomatically for influence. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either side or even to most members of the British government, Prime Minister David Lloyd George was telling Turkey that she could keep her flag flying over the disputed territory if only she would agree to a separate peace.

The key players in this watershed moment are rendered here in nuanced and detailed relief: Sharif Hussein, the Arab leader who secretly sought British support; Chaim Weizmann, Zionist hero, the folksmensch who charmed British high society; T. E. Lawrence, the legendary “super cerebral” British officer who “set the desert on fire” for the Arabs; Basil Zaharoff, the infamous arms dealer who was Britain’s most important back channel to the Turks; and the other generals and prime ministers, soldiers and negotiators, who shed blood and cut deals to grab or give away the precious land.

A book crucial to understanding the Middle East as it is today, The Balfour Declaration is a rich and remarkable achievement, a riveting volume about the ancient faiths and timeless treacheries that continue to drive global events.
02
In May 1940, with France on the verge of defeat, Britain alone stood in the path of the Nazi military juggernaut. Survival seemed to hinge on the leadership of Winston Churchill, whom the King reluctantly appointed Prime Minister as Germany invaded France. Churchill’s reputation as one of the great twentieth-century leaders would be forged during the coming months and years, as he worked tirelessly first to rally his country and then to defeat Hitler. But Churchill—regarded as the savior of his nation, and of the entire continent—could not have done it alone.

As prize-winning historian Jonathan Schneer reveals in Ministers at War, Churchill depended on a team of powerful ministers to manage the war effort as he rallied a beleaguered nation. Selecting men from across the political spectrum—from fellow Conservative Anthony Eden to leader of the opposing socialist Labor Party Clement Attlee—Churchill assembled a War Cabinet that balanced competing interests and bolstered support for his national coalition government. The group possessed a potent blend of talent, ambition, and egotism. Led and encouraged by Churchill, the ministers largely set aside their differences, at least at first. As the war progressed, discord began to grow. It reached a peak in 1945: with victory seemingly assured, Churchill was forced by his Minsters at War to dissolve the Government and call a General Election, which, in a shocking upset, he lost to his rival Attlee.

Authoritatively recasting our understanding of British high politics during World War II, Schneer shows that Churchill managed the war effort by managing his team of supremely able yet contentious cabinet members. The outcome of the war lay not only in Churchill’s individual brilliance but also in his skill as an executive, and in the collective ability of men who muted their personal interests to save the world from barbarism.
03
London in 1900 was the greatest city on earth—the capital of an empire on which the sun never set. This book is the first to examine this powerful and influential city at the turn of the century and to investigate its relationship with Britain’s far-flung empire.

Jonathan Schneer focuses on the diverse, contentious, contradictory personalities of London and its inhabitants, showing the many ways that the empire impinged on them. He describes how a range of citizens—from architects to zoologists, from financiers to striking dockers—helped to define and shape the imperial metropolis. He also shows how the city was influenced by people other than native-born male Anglo-Saxons. Schneer traces the attempts of some of these overlooked peoples to delineate its boundaries: four extraordinary women—two political hostesses, a journalist, and an explorer-ethnologist—as well as anti-imperialist Irish, South Asians, West Indians, and Africans living in London at this time. In a concluding chapter, Schneer examines the general election of 1900 in London, in which the ruling Conservative government successfully defended its imperialist policies. The people of London, says Schneer, made their city and continually remade and reshaped it—as they continue to do today.
05
During the spring and summer of 1918, with World War I still undecided, British, French and American agents in Russia developed a breathtakingly audacious plan. Led by Robert Hamilton Bruce Lockhart, a dashing, cynical, urbane 30-year-old Scot, they conspired to overthrow Lenin's newly established Bolshevik regime, and to install one that would continue the war against Germany on the Eastern Front. Lockhart's confidante and chief support, with whom he engaged in a passionate love affair, was the mysterious, alluring Moura von Benkendorff, wife of a former aide-de-camp to the Tsar.

The plotters' chief opponent was 'Iron Felix' Dzerzhinsky. He led the Cheka, 'Sword and Shield' of the Russian Revolution and forerunner of the KGB. Dzerzhinsky loved humanity - in the abstract. He believed socialism represented humanity's best hope. To preserve and protect it he would unleash unbounded terror.

Revolutionary Russia provided the setting for the ensuing contest. In the back streets of Petrograd and Moscow, in rough gypsy cabarets, in glittering nightclubs, in cells beneath the Cheka's Lubianka prison, the protagonists engaged in a deadly game of wits for the highest possible stakes - not merely life and death, but the outcome of a world war and the nature of Russia's post-war regime.

Confident of success, the conspirators set the date for an uprising, September 8, 1918, but the Cheka had penetrated their organization and pounced just beforehand. The Lockhart Plot was a turning point in world history, except it failed to turn. At a time when Russian meddling in British and American politics now sounds warning bells, however, may sense its reverberations and realize that it is still relevant.
10
Black Victorians/Black Victoriana is a welcome attempt to correct the historical record. Although scholarship has given us a clear view of nineteenth-century imperialism, colonialism, and later immigration from the colonies, there has for far too long been a gap in our understanding of the lives of blacks in Victorian England. Without that understanding, it remains impossible to assess adequately the state of the black population in Britain today. Using a transatlantic lens, the contributors to this book restore black Victorians to the British national picture. They look not just at the ways blacks were represented in popular culture but also at their lives as they experienced them—as workers, travelers, lecturers, performers, and professionals. Dozens of period photographs bring these stories alive and literally give a face to the individual stories the book tells.

The essays taken as a whole also highlight prevailing Victorian attitudes toward race by focusing on the ways in which empire building spawned a "subculture of blackness" consisting of caricature, exhibition, representation, and scientific racism absorbed by society at large. This misrepresentation made it difficult to be both black and British while at the same time it helped to construct British identity as a whole. Covering many topics that detail the life of blacks during this period, Black Victorians/Black Victoriana will be a landmark contribution to the emergent field of black history in England.