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In Harold Nicolson’s own words ‘This study of Lord Curzon represents the third volume of a trilogy on British diplomacy covering the years from 1870 to 1924. The first volume of that trilogy was a biography entitled Lord Carnock: A Study in the Old Diplomacy. The second volume was a critical survey of the Paris conference called Peacemaking, 1919.’ All three volumes are reissued in Faber Finds.
Curzon himself, not a modest man it must be admitted, rated highly the work of his final years. In his ‘Literary Testament’ dictated only a few hours before his death he said, ‘As to my work as Foreign Secretary from 1918 to 1924 – a period of unparalleled difficulty in international affairs and of great personal worry and sometimes tribulation . . . – I court the fullest publicity as to my conduct in those anxious years and can imagine no better justification than the publication of any or all the telegrams, despatches, minutes and records of interviews for which I was responsible.’
Some of the chapter headings alone remind us of what an eventful period it was: Armistice, The Eastern Question, Smyrna, Persia, Egypt, Reparation, Chanak and Lausanne.
It is perhaps a pity that Harold Nicolson didn’t write the official biography of Lord Curzon (he was a candidate) but what we have here is a work that is, in the words of David Gilmour, another biographer of Curzon, ‘acute, jaunty, readable and sympathetic.’
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