Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914–1916: The View from Downing Street by Michael Brock & Eleanor Brock (edd) - review by Jane Ridley

Jane Ridley

Our Woman in Number 10

Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914–1916: The View from Downing Street


Oxford University Press 417pp £30

This book has been over thirty years in the making. Back in 1982 Michael Brock and his wife Eleanor published an important edition of the letters Herbert Asquith wrote to Venetia Stanley while prime minister. Mark Bonham Carter, who owned Margot Asquith’s papers, then asked the Brocks to prepare an edition of Margot’s diaries. They fill twenty-two large volumes and provide an incredibly rich seam of society gossip and political intelligence from the inside. For decades people have been waiting for the Brocks to finish their work. Michael Brock died in April this year. Weeks after his ninety-fourth birthday he was still correcting the proofs of this book. Out of the mountain of Margot’s papers there has appeared a mouse: one volume covering the two wartime years of Asquith’s premiership.

The carnage in France forms the backdrop to Margot’s war diary. The scene is 10 Downing Street. When the book begins, during the crisis of July 1914, Margot is fifty and Asquith, who has been prime minister since 1908, is enjoying a surge in popularity. War fever grips the country

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