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Troublesome Young Men: The Churchill Conspiracy Of 1940

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  767 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
In May 1940 Britain was at war with Germany 'without arms, without faith, without trust' - but waiting in the wings were a small group of Tory rebels (Macmillan, Amery, Cartland and Boothby) who would change the course of history. This is the true story of how Churchill came to lead Britain.
Paperback, 436 pages
Published April 21st 2008 by Bloomsbury UK (first published 2007)
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Jan 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
An outstanding history that focuses primarily on a number of second tier historical figures (almost all of who are British MPs) that were instrumental in bringing Churchill to power. Of course, bringing Churchill to power meant bringing down Mr. Peace-In-Our-Time, Neville Chamberlain. It's a story I thought I knew, but didn't. Usually the story is told in other books in historical shorthand, as events hurtle along to bigger things. Olson walks you through the difficult process of getting rid of ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a cracking read, just as the blurbs describe it. I read it in 2 days.

I found it eye opening and even startling both in what it had to say about Churchill and about the period. It describes in some detail the events between the British general election of 1935 and 1940 and the machinations in Parliament that brought Churchill to power. It is a book of history but mainly of personality. The obscure and the famous are equally and thoroughly described. This does not take away from the
Steven Harbin
Author Lynne Olson has done an excellent job of telling what the late Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story" in this narrative of a group of Tory party Members of Parliament who lead the initial opposition to the appeasement policies of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in the years both the years preceding World War II and then the first year of that conflict. Reading this book brought home to me the fact that Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister in May, 1940 was by no means a " ...more
I don't read much non-fiction, but whatever I read tends to center around World War II, and its various component pieces. The birth of Churchill (as a PM and a war-leader) isn't something I've read in detail. I do know that Churchill changed the shape of the war, and that he was the one who gave England and the Allies a fighting chance. I didn't know that the maneuvering that went on behind the scenes to get him to that position was so extensive. And from a book and plot perspective, tense and e ...more
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since a high school history class on World War II, I have known and condemned Neville Chamberlin for acting as the chief architect of Britain's policy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler. If Britain had held firm against Nazi demands far earlier, if the British Government had moved towards rearmament in face of the growing threat from Germany, the course of the 20th century would have been vastly different. While abandoning appeasement, or even just aggressively responding to German actions in t ...more
Alec Rogers
Lynne Olson's Troublesome Young Men provides a nice recounting of the story of those parliamentarians, particular in the Conservative Party, who opposed their party's leadership in its policy of appeasement. The book is best understood as a series of mini-portraits of those men who stood both apart from PM Chamberlain and Winston Churchill in their opposition (i.e., they were acting on their own instincts rather than under Churchill's direct leadership).

Olson's thesis as expressed on the book ja
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm constantly surprised to discover (and it's one of the reasons why I read histories as frequently as I do) what I know about a particular event or period turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg.

We are all generally familiar with the basic facts of this book--how Neville Chamberlain, as Prime Minister of England, appeased Hitler by sacrificing Czechoslovakia in the vain hope that Hitler would honor his agreements and stop his aggression, how World War II started and that Churchill replaced
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I never understood how hard it was to get Chamberlain out of power and fight Hitler.
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those rare books I read straight through in a short time. (I'm a slow reader.) An excellent reprise of that critical period between 1933 and 1940 when Britain was slowly realizing Hitler was an evil man determined to rule the world and exterminate much of its population. It's a period most of us are familiar with seeing through Churchill's eyes, but there were other clear-eyed men and women who saw what Churchill saw, some of whom didn't have his negative baggage and mercurial personality ...more
May 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Really interesting book, and I learned a lot. I didn't realize how sooo many countries dragged their feet for sooo long in getting into it with Germany. The book featured a lot of intriguing people that I want to learn about more (hello, Dorothy Macmillan, wow, she had something going on. Actually a lot of the women in the book were really interesting). The only frustrating part of the book was that it sometimes dragged with too many details, though I do appreciate the author wanting to fit in e ...more
Russel Polk
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very good read. It took from diaries and journals that were done contemporaneously, as well as reflections people had later about that critical time in the 1930s and 40s when Germany was preparing for, and starting, what was to be the second world war.

It made me want to read some of Churchill's autobiographies, as some of his actions were most puzzling, if somewhat explained in the book. For instance, his keeping many of the appeasers in his cabinet, including Chamberlain himself. Tha
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lynne Olson did a fantastic job evoking what amounted to life-and-death frustration the young Tory backbenchers felt as they correctly perceived the seriousness of Hitler's Nazi Germany and their ability to affect change. Character and integrity are revealed in men that initially, the public wouldn't have looked towards, and conversely, others who were highly esteemed were shown to be vain and shallow. The only criticism I would give is I wish it would have gone into even more depth on some of t ...more
Churchill didn't make himself prime minister in 1940; Leo Amery, leading a group of dissident Conservatives & allied with the Labor Party, did. This book tells of the struggles of this little band against Chamberlain & Baldwin
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adrirers of Churchill
Shelves: booksread2007
This is an interesting book for those who have studied Churchill and also provides insight into the workings of the English Parliament.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great stories told succinctly, if not a little haphazardly. Olson always does a great job of shining light on lesser known figures of great significance.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book about Churchill per se. It is an account of the conservative "back benchers" who in 1939 deposed appeasement-minded Neville Chamberlain and ultimately delivered the premiership to Winston Churchill. This watershed moment in history is often broad-stroked by Churchill biographers and historians, many of whom portray Churchill as personally determinant in his ascension to the head of Parliament. Olson corrects this misrepresentation by proving that Chamberlain's removal and Chur ...more
Dean Anderson
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Winston Churchill hoped his predecessor as Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain would be remembered as a man of peace. Didn’t work out. Chamberlain, if he is remembered at all, is remembered as a fool. He is the man who waved a little slip of paper from Adolf Hitler proclaiming “peace in our time” when in fact, bombs would soon be dropping in the heart of London. But during the 1930’s, he was the most powerful man in England. If he had stayed in power as PM, there is little doubt that Hitler woul
Charles Moody
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of Winston Churchill’s rise to prime minister in 1940, but it is decidedly not another Churchill biography. In fact, though Churchill is a constant presence in the book, he is not one of the main figures. The primary subjects are the “Tory rebels” who took a stand in the House of Commons against the appeasement policies of Neville Chamberlain, and then against his prosecution of the war in fall of 1939 and spring of 1940, eventually forcing a change of government.

For m
Sean O'Hara
Most books on WWII, even those focusing on the Phoney War/Fall of France period tend to gloss over the downfall of Neville Chamberlain and ascension of Winston Churchill. The inadequacy of Chamberlain is so self-evident that it's impossible to imagine in hindsight that he could've held on. And Churchill, the voice in the wilderness prophesying Hitler's danger -- how could anyone other than him have become Prime Minister? The inevitability of it all is so obvious in hindsight that there's no reas ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book both absorbing and moving. It's about the Tory backbenchers who brought down the Chamberlain government in 1940, with emphasis on who they were, how and why they did it, and what happened to them after. We don't talk a lot about political bravery, these days, but this is a spectacular illustration of what it means.

The book is structured as an overall chronological narrative from about 1937 to 1941, interwoven with long biographical digressions. The author in particular is inte
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I had never given much thought to how Churchill came to power in World War II. I knew about Neville Chamberlain (he of appeasement, Munich and "peace in our time" fame), but it had never really occurred to me to wonder how England got from Chamberlain to Churchill. If you had asked me, I probably would have speculated that there had been an election, without ever realizing that I was thinking in American terms.

As I said, the subtitle gives the whole story: Chamberlain and Churchill were both mem
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
For someone like me who (immodestly) thinks they have a thorough understanding of the events of World War II, this book shook my apparently shallow knowledge of how Churchill came to power in May 1940 just as the Germans were about to launch their invasion of France. It also completely overturned my shallow knowledge of Neville Chamberlain, a man doomed to remembrance as Hitler's appeaser.

Much history is told via the 'great man' thesis. You might think that Churchill came to power through his ow
Someone gave me this book a while back and it lingered on the shelf, as I didn't think it sounded all that interesting.... Boy, was I wrong!

I picked it up as part of a book challenge to 'read something on your shelf that you haven't read', and am very glad I did. This is a really excellent book - entertaining, and informative about a very important time in history (pre-WWII).

How different the world might have been had those men not taken a stand to remove Chamberlain or had England continued al
It's not often that I find a book of history that is so enthralling that the narrative pulls you along to the finish, even when you already know the result. This book detailing the period in England beginning in the late 1930s as the country began to realize the growing threat of Nazi Germany is that kind of history. At times I became so caught up in the story that when I put the book down I actually felt a slight disconnect realizing that I wasn't in pre-World War II England. Lynne Olson focuse ...more
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marisa by: Robin Adair
As we all know, Winston Churchill led Britain during the "darkest hours" of World War II. His place in history is so entrenched, it's hard to imagine anyone else as Prime Minister during this tumultuous time. As Lynne Olson brilliantly outlines in her book "Troublesome Young Men", it was anything but a "given" that Churchill would take over from the misguided Neville Chamberlain. In fact, it may not have happened at all if it wasn't for a group of young rebellious Tories who broke ranks with the ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a good introduction to the appeasement days in late 1930s Britain. It spells out how backbencher anti-appeasement Tories gradually accumulated the numbers to indirectly force the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

I said indirectly. I had for whatever reason thought Chamberlain lost the no-confidence vote shortly after the invasion of France. Not true; he won, but by narrow enough margin that, after vacillating, and even dreaming of scheming, he decided to step down.

On the biographical s
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Troublesome Young Men is a history of Britain’s lead up to World War II, in particular the demise of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin brought about by members of his own party who were deeply opposed to his appeasement strategy.
Hindsight is always 20-20 and never more so than is the case with anyone who thought that Hitler was harmless and could be managed. It is all too easy to criticize Chamberlin for his naiveté. However, I found it more interesting to evaluate at his actions as Prime Mins
Paul Cool
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men (2007) succeeds in rewriting history by convincingly explaining how Winston Churchill came to the prime ministership of the UK just in time to save his nation, and indeed the West, from the previously unstoppable scourge of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. And what happened is not what you thought. Most histories leave the impression that everyone simply realized at the critical moment that Churchill was the only man for the job. He was, but it was the courageous, unapp ...more
Chuck Waldron
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am well into Lynne Olson's captivating story of the group of men in the British government in the 1930s who had principle enough to put their careers at risk to challenge what they saw as the greatest risk, how woefully unprepared the conservatives under Baldwin and Chamberlain were to face the upcoming threat of war with Nazi Germany. History records Churchill's role he so famously filled, but Olson has researched the gallant group of young Conservatives that took the risk and prevailed. Olso ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admire Churchill so I enjoyed this different perspective on him: his rise to prime minister and the men who helped make it happen. This is not a biography of Churchill as much it is about his cohorts who advocated on his behalf and at great political cost. Nonetheless, it was helpful to get a more balanced view of his life and understand his weaknesses as well as strengths. I was appalled by the account of Chamberlain and my distaste for him grew as a result. It was also an interesting comment ...more
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Before I began writing books full time, I worked for more than ten years as a journalist, including stints as Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press and White House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. I've written seven books of history, including the New York Times bestsellers "Those Angry Days" and "Citizens of London." My latest book, "Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and th ...more
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