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Haldane Reviews

Haldane by John Campbell

Haldane: The Forgotten Statesman Who Shaped Modern Britain

John Campbell

3.86 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd
Publication date: 16 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9781787383111

Can you name the creator of the Territorial Army and the British Expeditionary Force? The man who laid the foundation stones of MI5, MI6, the RAF, the LSE, Imperial College, the 'redbrick' universities and the Medical Research Council

4 stars out of 5
3 Aug 2020

"Campbell has produced a work of real scholarship."

Campbell has produced a work of real scholarship. He rejects the traditional chronology to paint a portrait in words, first choosing a broad brush for Haldane’s private life and philosophy, then a finer one for the detail of his career. A disadvantage of this structure is that Horner sadly disappears after chapter three, while Haldane himself first dies in chapter seven (but resurrects).

Campbell sets out to “put Haldane back on the map as a major statesman of continuing relevance”. This advocacy means readers may not discover why Haldane’s colleagues saw him as an “intriguer” or why he forced the illiberal Official Secrets Act through Parliament in 1911. Only historians may see that as a toppling offence; for the rest Campbell makes his case for a statue well, and vacant plinths may soon abound.


4 stars out of 5
1 Aug 2020

"Campbell’s account of Haldane’s family background is masterly."

Campbell has succeeded in his aim of writing a biography of Haldane which might serve as a handbook of leadership and statesmanship in this post-Brexit age. However, the figure that came to mind as I read about this huge, endearing, vulnerable man was not a sleek and shallow modern politician but Babar the elephant, who, like Haldane, belonged to a species threatened with extinction.

3 stars out of 5
Simon Heffer
25 Jul 2020

"a strange but valuable book"

Anyone interested in political history who is unacquainted with Haldane will find this book illuminating and informative. Given its odd structure, it might help to read Haldane’s DNB or Wikipedia entry first, to get the lie of the land. But it is to be hoped that the authors achieve their aim, and put this considerable and thoroughly decent man back on the map.

4 stars out of 5
Max Hastings
28 Jun 2020

"Campbell’s book is not a biography, but rather an act of homage to a man for whom he asserts lifelong admiration: he has been visiting Cloan since boyhood."

Yet this intelligent book fulfils a purpose that the author defines in his introduction: “It aims to offer an example of statesmanship that we so vitally need today.” The supreme seriousness of Haldane’s career emphasises the triviality of his modern successors. Though an insensitive politician — rash enough to name his favourite dog Kaiser when anti-German sentiment was rising — his was a life of public service. Violet Bonham Carter wrote: “I have never known anyone who gave one such sense of greatness of mind and heart.”