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Nigel Hamilton

Author of JFK: Reckless Youth

28 Works 1,967 Members 28 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Nigel Hamilton is a best-selling and award-winning biographer of President John F. Kennedy, General Bernard Montgomery, and President Bill Clinton, among other subjects. His book The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 was long-listed for the National Book Award.

Includes the name: Nigel Hamilton

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Works by Nigel Hamilton

JFK: Reckless Youth (1992) 420 copies
Biography: A Brief History (2007) 50 copies
Brothers Mann (1978) 35 copies


Common Knowledge



Most leaders during a time of war have the advantage of leaving memoirs - Churchill's six volume History of World War II - to help us understand their reasons for the decisions they made. Franklin Roosevelt did not. Nigel Hamilton's three volume set attempts to do this on his behalf. Hamilton does not spend as much time on the events of the battles as many other works which makes this set less a history than a psychological biography. The Mantle of Command focuses on the political aspect of a sitting President during his unprecedented third term having to shift his way of thinking from mostly domestic issues as America is trying to pull itself out of the Great Depression to a focus on more international issues as America becomes "the arsenal of Democracy." It further shows the difficulty in the early part of the war to bring his top military leaders into line without totally alienating them. Until I read this volume, I was not aware how divided the Chiefs of Staff were in their planning or of their reluctance to accept Roosevelt's strategy. The leadership and political acumen Roosevelt shows is truly amazing.

Hamilton's writing style is perfect for most of today's readers. His narrative is highly organized, yet easy to follow. By not dwelling on the minute to minute details of battles but the general development of the war, he makes the history more personal to the average reader. This is the type of work that might cause a mildly curious person to want to learn more about Operation Torch and serve as a springboard to broaden their interest.

For those who want to see hard hitting accounts of battles this work may be disappointing. However, for those who want to see a person in a leadership position develop and broaden his leadership skills, this is an excellent work. This set of three definitely belongs on the shelves of the student of America's and the world's greatest war.
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Hedgepeth | 3 other reviews | Feb 10, 2024 |
A worthy historical account, but also the most openly opinionated history text I have ever read. Admittedly, other historians may still offer their opinion by what they include or not include in their narratives, but they would have done it much more subtlety by letting the reader "jump" to the conclusion that the author may have made clear. In this case, the author quite often offers a conclusion, albeit with considerable prior evidence to back that conclusion up. I'm just not so used to the author being so blatant about it. However, all of this gets off the main point and advantage of this historical account on FDR that gives the book weight and value, this first in a trilogy is specifically about a president, namely Roosevelt, as the Commander-in-Chief of the United States, leading up to and throughout World War II. This book takes us into Pearl Harbor and to the landing of U.S. troops in North Africa in late 1942. I have already read a few individual accounts of World War II, but more comprehensively about the European and Pacific theaters of war via the first two volumes of Ian W. Toll's excellent Pacific War trilogy, which covered the eastern Pacific half of the the Pacific Theater, namely the naval half, as well as the first volume of Rick Atkinson's equally excellent Liberation Trilogy, which covers the European Theater of the war. With that two-sided background of the 1941-1942 war period from a military history perspective, it was easy for me to follow and assess for myself the White House-based, Commander-in-Chief part of the war. Frankly, I was impressed by this narrative of the first part of the war. The author gives great credence to FDR's skills at this point in time. The average reader will likely be more, not less, impressed by him as a president. Douglas MacArthur, unfortunately will not be. I had already read two other historical accounts of MacArthur, both from World War II and the Korean War that were far from flattering. This book introduced new material to me that makes me wonder why he was ever a general. (Think Donald Trump but without bone spurs.) On a different note, this author had what I would call a strange summary of the American landing in North Africa. To believe this author, the landing was all but child's play, while Rick Atkinson's account made it clear that was not the case. Perhaps, the degree to which this was a "walk in the park" is a product of how many American deaths is considered acceptable for a park walk. Regardless, I look forward to reading the other two volumes of this trilogy, but will be ready for critical assessment of the author's further accounts.… (more)
larryerick | 3 other reviews | Jan 21, 2022 |
Sadly, this is only the first volume of a projected trilogy that never came to be, concluding as the protagonist wins election to the U.S. Congress in 1946, but before he takes his seat. After its appearance, the family and other keepers of the flame closed off any further access, so the author moved on to other projects. It’s interesting to read the book asking why this would be so, for reading it increased my admiration of Kennedy. I found it remarkable that such a charming, intelligent, courageous individual came from that family.
It must be conceded that the author repeats more than necessary what a dysfunctional family this was. Does the reader need to be reminded quite this often that “the Ambassador” was a tyrant and an isolationist, or that Rose primly refused to acknowledge what was going on in the lives of the children she abandoned to a series of nannies and boarding schools? This might explain why the author was shut off. Or perhaps it is his devotion to detailing one trait in which Jack did take after his father, his overactive sexual life of compulsion mixed with indifference toward his conquests. Then again, it might be his revelation of the lengths to which JFK’s Addison’s and venereal disease were covered up, not only in his lifetime, but long after his death. Since the protagonist is not even thirty when the book closes, he was clearly just getting up to speed. What more revelations were to come?
Hamilton does a good job untangling myth and reality in the PT 109 incident, and shows the uses to which it was put to launch JFK’s career. One might regret that the author devotes less attention to Kennedy’s political opinions than to other matters, but this leads to one of Hamilton’s contentions, an insight he shares with other observers: Kennedy relished the process of politics, but had a detachment from political stances. This, often seen as simultaneously his greatest strength and weakness as a politician, is traced by Hamilton to an emotional stunting for which his parents were to blame. Yet while it might be true that Kennedy did not care about domestic political issues, Hamilton traces his precocious awakening and grasp of international affairs. In part because of his father’s position, but also in no small measure to his own wit, initiative, and inquisitive nature, Kennedy personally met statesmen of the older generation, many of whom spotted his potential. Even here, though, Hamilton sees the psychology of Kennedy’s family of origin at work. One constant of Kennedy’s entire career was a resolute anti-communism. Hamilton suggests this was rooted in the ways Stalin reminded JFK of his father.
A big book, but despite some repetitiousness, a fascinating read. Recommended.
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HenrySt123 | 2 other reviews | Jul 19, 2021 |
Breezy biographies of the presidents from FDR to Bush, parsed into formative years, public career and personal ethics. Not as much Suetonius as "Lives of the Saints," except they aren't. Occasional lapses in detail (Gerald Ford played for the Michigan State Wolverines?) but the author's choice of broad strokes is the attraction. My father read chapters of the manuscript for the author's brother.
rynk | 3 other reviews | Jul 11, 2021 |


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