By Sir Desmond Morton The Eden Memoirs, Vol. 2, "Facing the Dictators", by the Earl of Avon (Cassell, 42s.).
SIX hundred pages give Lord Avon's account of Mr. Anthony
Eden's actions---and some of his thoughts-on home politics and international affairs from the end of 1931, when he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Foreign Otlice-Mr. Baldwin being Prime Minister-until February, 1938, when he resigned as Foreign Secretary in Mr. Chamberlain's Government. This may provide yet another mine (or cemetery) in which future historians will dig for jewels (or corpses).
As to that, the altitude of present-day youth to what their elders ma) reasonably call "modern history-. leaves room or doubt. 'The possible grandmother of a future historian, now in her early twenties. when talking recently with a member of Lord Avon's generation about the first World War. expressed bee ilderment at suddenly realising that her companion had fought in that war.
"Why," she cried innocently, "you must have actually known some of those funny old people. Were they all quite stupid?"-addine perharts unnecessarily. "Any
thing that happened more than 20 years ago is Archaeology, not History; like Julius Cae.sar, and t yrus and Amcnhotep."
Some reference then being made to Lord Avon's book, the same Young lady. having taken thought. commented: "Wasn't the country run then by people whom someone afterwards called, 'those guilty men'?" It then became necessary to explain that Sir Winston Churchill had seen fit specifically to exclude Mr. Eden from his general anathema and the reasons therefore.
Certainly, though Lord Avon's book mat reveal little not already known or recognised--at least in broad outline--it affords ample material confirming previous judgments upon the disastrous foreign policy pursued by the Governments concerned, while offering no excuse for them, It also shows how Mr Eden felt progressively less able to agree with the idea of appeasement at any cost. and how he eventually disassociated himself therefrom by his resignation.
The title of the book is curiously chosen, unless with a depth of cynicism hitherto unsuspected in its author. "Facing the Dictators" is precisely what the Government failed conspicuously to do. lime after time, as the tale unfolds, the Government regularly "misinformed itself' in regard to the truth, meaning and importance of facts, of which they were in full possession, thereby • finding an excuse for running away from what faced them.