Witness to History: The Life of John Wheeler-Bennett by Victoria Schofield - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy


Witness to History: The Life of John Wheeler-Bennett


Yale University Press 336pp £30

Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett (no, don’t ask) is one of those characters whose names crop up regularly in the diplomatic history of the middle years of the twentieth century without anyone knowing exactly why. Victoria Schofield, author of a well-regarded life of Field Marshal Lord Wavell, summons Wheeler-Bennett from the shadows, yet at the end of this plodding narrative of his peripatetic life he remains frustratingly elusive as a personality – a witness to history, perhaps, but never a participant.

Born into a wealthy business family in 1902, Wheeler-Bennett never had to work for a living, though he chose to do so eventually, first as a guest academic and then briefly as a member of Britain’s political warfare effort in the Second World War. After schooldays at Malvern, where he

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