… looking like flies in milk. The Archbishop of Canterbury supports appeasement and other lords claim that Hitler was a wonderful man…The mould of ages lies visibly on the House of Lords. Even the air is stale and yellow. The peers are ready to lick the Nazi leader’s boots like a beaten dog. They’ll pay for this, and I’ll see it happen.
Members of the House of Lords discussing the crisis in Europe in a March 1938 debate, as described by Ivan Maisky.
Gert went galloping off to order this after hearing an interview with Gabriel Gorodetsky on our excellent Radio National. Gorodetsky compares Maisky’s diaries to Pepys’:
an incredible mix of personal observations, pyschological insights, piercing observation and insatiable curiosity…one of the most astute witnesses of Britain in the 1930’s and 40’s….the combination of the personal and the public and the private and the literary abilities make the two diaries very similar.
Ivan Maisky was an extraordinary figure. Gregarious and hugely popular Russian Ambassador to Britain in the lead up to World War II, he kept a very detailed diary in spite of the fact that under Stalin it was a very dangerous thing to do. He knew everyone: Lloyd George, Anthony Eden, Beaverbrook, Churchill, HG Wells, John Maynard Keynes, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Bernard Shaw… In fact Stalin was rather jealous of his popularity. Amazingly, he survived Stalin, but only just: two weeks before Stalin died he was being interrogated in the Lubyanka where he was held for two years as “a British spy”. He lived on to the age of 91.
Maisky’s diaries were discovered by chance by Gorodetsky, Fellow of All Souls College and Emeritus Prof of History at Tel Aviv U. Yale University Press is going to publish them in full – 3 volumes of 700 pages – but this one, excerpts from the diaries and commentary by Gorodetsky -is for the general reader.
Nicholas Shakespeare reviews the book here: