Correlli Barnett
Correlli Douglas Barnett CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 FRSL (born 28 June 1927) is an English military historian, who has also written works of economic history
Economic history
Economic history is the study of economies or economic phenomena in the past. Analysis in economic history is undertaken using a combination of historical methods, statistical methods and by applying economic theory to historical situations and institutions...

, particularly on the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's post-war "industrial decline".

Personal life

Barnett was born on the 28 June 1927 in Norbury
Norbury is a town in the London Borough of Croydon, also crossing the London Borough of Merton. It shares the postcode London SW16 with nearby Streatham. Norbury is south of Charing Cross.-History:...

, Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

, the son of Douglas and Kathleen Barnett. He was educated at Trinity School of John Whitgift
Trinity School of John Whitgift
The Trinity School of John Whitgift, usually referred to as Trinity School, is a British independent boys' day school with a co-educational Sixth Form, located in Shirley Park, Croydon. The current building was constructed in 1965 on the site of the former Shirley Hotel...

 in Croydon
Croydon is a town in South London, England, located within the London Borough of Croydon to which it gives its name. It is situated south of Charing Cross...

 and then Exeter College, Oxford
Exeter College, Oxford
Exeter College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England and the fourth oldest college of the University. The main entrance is on the east side of Turl Street...

 where he gained a second class honours degree
Academic degree
An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the degree...

 in Modern History with his special subject being Military History and the Theory of War, gaining an MA
Master of Arts (Oxbridge)
In the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts of these universities are admitted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts on application after six or seven years' seniority as members of the university .There is no examination or study required for the degree...

 in 1954. Barnett later said: "I can safely say there were only two books that I read at Oxford which strongly influenced my subsequent approach – one part of the Special Subject, and the other something which a friend recommended to me. The first was Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

's On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

, which was part of a Special Subject on military history and the theory of war. The other was Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford was an American historian, philosopher of technology, and influential literary critic. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer...

's Technics and Civilization
Technics and Civilization
Technics and Civilization, written by Lewis Mumford in the 1930s , gives the history of technology and its interplay in shaping and being shaped by civilizations. According to Mumford, modern technology has its roots in the Middle Ages rather than in the Industrial Revolution...

– if I read it again now I do not know what I would think of it, but certainly that was a starting point for my interest in looking at history in technological terms rather than in the constitutional/political terms prevalent at Oxford".

From 1945 to 1948 he served in the British Army in Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 as a sergeant.

In 1950 Barnett married Ruth Murby. They have two daughters.

Military history

Barnett worked as historical consultant and writer for the BBC television series The Great War
The Great War (documentary)
The Great War is a 26-episode documentary series from 1964 on the First World War. It was a co-production involving the resources of the Imperial War Museum, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation...

(1963–64). He has contributed numerous articles to various newspapers arguing against the 2003 Iraq War.

He is the author of The Desert Generals, a book that attacked the perceived cult of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery
Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC , nicknamed "Monty" and the "Spartan General" was a British Army officer. He saw action in the First World War, when he was seriously wounded, and during the Second World War he commanded the 8th Army from...

 and assessed the roles of his sacked predecessors as commanders in the North Africa campaign, including Richard O'Connor
Richard O'Connor
General Sir Richard Nugent O'Connor KT, GCB, DSO & Bar, MC, ADC was a British Army general who commanded the Western Desert Force in the early years of World War II...

, who drove the Italians from Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

 in late 1940, and Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck
Claude Auchinleck
Field Marshal Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, OBE , nicknamed "The Auk", was a British army commander during World War II. He was a career soldier who spent much of his military career in India, where he developed a love of the country and a lasting affinity for the soldiers...

 (whom he called "The Victor of Alamein"), who forced Rommel
Erwin Rommel was a German World War II field marshal.Rommel may also refer to:*Rommel *Rommel Adducul , Filipino basketball player*Rommel Fernández , first Panamanian footballer to play in Europe...

 to a halt at the First Battle of El Alamein
First Battle of El Alamein
The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert...

, only to be dismissed by Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 for his pains. He pointed out that Montgomery enjoyed massive superiority of men and materiel at the Second Battle of El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

, and described him as an "emotional cripple", a description, he noted in subsequent editions, borne out "in rich detail" by the Nigel Hamilton biography. However, Barnett's conclusions are attacked by Field Marshal Michael Carver in his book 'Dilemmas of the Desert War'; Carver calls Barnett "naive" and notes numerous flaws in his work.

He also published Britain and Her Army 1509-1970, which as a survey combines the political, the social and the military over the grand sweep of Britain's post-medieval history.

In several of his works (The Desert Generals, The Swordbearers) Barnett portrays the British armed forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

 as hidebound by tradition (e.g. cavalry regiments allegedly reluctant to adopt modern tank tactics
Armoured warfare
Armoured warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war....

) and by technology inferior to that of the Germans
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. This position is also attacked by Carver, who notes that during Operation Crusader
Operation Crusader
Operation Crusader was a military operation by the British Eighth Army between 18 November–30 December 1941. The operation successfully relieved the 1941 Siege of Tobruk....

 and during the Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala
The Battle of Gazala was an important battle of the Second World War Western Desert Campaign, fought around the port of Tobruk in Libya from 26 May-21 June 1942...

, British technology was a match, or in some cases, better than that utilised by the German and Italian armies. Barnett makes this point of the British armour
British Official Armour Specification
The British Official Armour Specification is a set of standards for armour construction for armoured fighting vehicles prior to and into World War II.Standards applicable to British tanks of World War II are as follows:...

 in the desert, and of Jellicoe
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

's Grand Fleet at Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

 in 1916.

In his Bonaparte (1978), he takes a more critical view of Napoleon Bonaparte than is customary, portraying him almost as a Mediterranean bandit keen to dish out crowns and honours to cronies and members of his blood family, and stressing how much many of his most famous successes owed to bluff and luck (e.g. the fortuitous arrival of General Louis Desaix at the Battle of Marengo).

The Pride and Fall Sequence

Barnett's The Pride and Fall sequence comprises: The Collapse of British Power; The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation; The Lost Victory: British Dreams, British Realities, 1945-50; and The Verdict of Peace: Britain Between Her Yesterday and the Future.

In sum, the sequence describes the decline of British power during the twentieth century, a decline attributed by the author to a change in the values of Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

's governing élite from the late eighteenth century, and one which was encouraged by evangelical and non-conformist Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Barnett claims that the statesmen of the eighteenth century were men "hard of mind and hard of will" who regarded "national power as the essential foundation of national independence; commercial wealth as a means to power; and war as among the means to all three". Furthermore, they regarded it as "natural and inevitable that nations should be engaged in a ceaseless struggle for survival, prosperity and predominance". The British national character, Barnett argues, underwent a profound moral revolution in the nineteenth century which came to have a deep effect on British foreign policy; foreign policy was now to be conducted in a reverence of highly ethical standards rather than an "expedient and opportunist pursuit of England's interests". Barnett came to this conclusion by beginning "with a colour-coded flow-chart which logically traced back step by step to their origins the chains of causation of all the ‘total-strategic’ factors in Britain's plight in 1940-1941: political, military, economic, technological. These various chains eventually converged on a common primary cause: a mutation in the values – indeed the very character – of the British governing classes which began in the early nineteenth century. This mutation supplied the starting-point of my narrative, and thereafter, in Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell
John Enoch Powell, MBE was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party MP and Minister of Health . He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in opposition to mass immigration from...

's words in his review, was my ‘guiding and interpretative thread through the events of the twenty inter-war years’."

A. J. P. Taylor
A. J. P. Taylor
Alan John Percivale Taylor, FBA was a British historian of the 20th century and renowned academic who became well known to millions through his popular television lectures.-Early life:...

 said of The Collapse of British Power: "This is fine fighting stuff, powerfully based on the historical records". Robert Blake
Robert Blake, Baron Blake
Robert Norman William Blake, Baron Blake was an English historian. He is best known for his 1966 biography of Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, and for The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill, which grew out of his 1968 Ford lectures...

 said the book was "Pungently written, perceptive and controversial". Rab Butler
Rab Butler
Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Saffron Walden, KG CH DL PC , who invariably signed his name R. A. Butler and was familiarly known as Rab, was a British Conservative politician...

 said that "The book should be praised for its profound research...It is written in excellent prose and with great historical ability which will be valuable to historians and challenging to any of us. However, to read alone it gives a false conception of Britain as we know her today, and is the sort of work which must be read in the company of others if one is to get a clear conception of the change of British status...I have some sympathy with the author's criticism of the defects of the English education system in those vital days, not only in the arts but also in the technical field...What is important, however, to realize in reading Mr Barnett's book is that the greatness of the Victorian age was made up of very much those qualities which he describes as leading to Britain's decline".

Peter Hennessy
Peter Hennessy
Peter John Hennessy, Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield, FBA is an English historian of government. Since 1992, he has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London.-Early life:...

 claims The Audit of War "acquired an instant vogue when published in 1986". Paul Addison
Paul Addison
Paul Addison is a British author and historian, specializing in the British experience in the Second World War and its effects on post-war society. After graduating from Nuffield College, Oxford, in 1967, Addison became a Lecturer at Edinburgh University and subsequently a Reader, for 23 years...

 has called The Audit of War as "the most thorough and sustained assault so far" on wartime orthodoxy. Addison recognised that Barnett "is a withering critic of nineteenth-century laissez-faire capitalism and its legacy for twentieth-century Britain. To this extent he shares some common ground with Marxist historians and quotes E. P. Thompson
E. P. Thompson
Edward Palmer Thompson was a British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular The Making of the English Working Class...

 with approval. But he is no Marxist himself, and his ideal model of the relationship between state and society is Bismarckian. The development of modern Germany, through the creation of a state dedicated to the pursuit of national efficiency in a ruthlessly Darwinian world, is held up by Barnett as the example which Britain could, and should, have followed. Britain's tradition of collectivism he interprets as a decadent, “romanticizing humanism, anti-industrial, riddled with illusions, and perpetuated by the public-school system”." Addison criticised Barnett's thesis in The Audit of War as resting "on a number of simplifications. First, he divorced the history of Britain from its European context and thereby distorts the perspective. Secondly, he fails to acknowledge the political imperatives behind the reconstruction programme. Thirdly, he neglects the politics of industrial conservatism. Fourthly, his analysis is remarkably selective, singling out one factor – the welfare state – and one government, as uniquely responsible for difficulties that no other government, before or since, has surmounted".

Roger Scruton
Roger Scruton
Roger Vernon Scruton is a conservative English philosopher and writer. He is the author of over 30 books, including Art and Imagination , Sexual Desire , The Aesthetics of Music , and A Political Philosophy: Arguments For Conservatism...

 has claimed that whilst Barnett's thesis against public schools was set forth in "a series of brilliant books", his view of education is mistaken: "Relevance in education is a chimerical objective and the English knew this. Who is to guess what will be relevant to a student's interests in ten years' time? Even in the applied sciences, it is not relevance that forms and transforms the curriculum, but knowledge". Scruton goes on to say: "And for what life of the mind would Correlli Barnett have us prepared? Certainly not one that offers what has been offered to him: namely a synoptic vision of a national identity. If we examine the complaints made by Barnett, we cannot fail to be struck by the fact that they contain no comparative judgement. Set beside which élite did the English fail so badly? In which country of the modern world do we find the educational system which compares so favourably with the English college? Which European nations, unhampered by the code of the gentleman, have shown us the way to successful empire building and retreated with credit from their colonies? All such comparisons point to the amazing success of the English. By devoting their formative years to useless things, they made themselves supremely useful. And by internalising the code of honour they did not, as Barnett supposes, make themselves defenceless in a world of chicanery and crime, but endowed themselves with the only real defence that human life can offer – the instinctive trust between strangers, which enables them in whatever dangerous circumstances to act together as a team".


During the February 1974 general election
United Kingdom general election, February 1974
The United Kingdom's general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the first election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party,...

 Barnett wrote a letter to The Times: "It depresses me to the point of desperation that debate in this General Election only touches the fringes of the fundamental question before this country. This question is, of course, our chronic unsuccess as a competitive industrial power; our continual relative decline...This election...ought to be about the fundamental reshaping of the structure and attitudes of British industry (including our anarchic trade union organization; by legislation if necessary). Yet the Conservative Party only skirts the question, while the Labour Party ignores it totally...Who would believe, listening to the election argument, that this country stood on the verge of final eclipse as a leading power and industrial nation?" In 1974 Barnett said of Britain's economic crisis as one of low-wage, low-investment and low-productivity:

...the peculiar structure, history and attitudes of British trades unionism is—and has been for a century—largely, although not wholly, responsible for this dismal cycle. You cannot pay high wages unless you have already achieved high productivity. You cannot achieve high productivity unless the work-force is prepared to operate modern machines to the utmost of the machines' capacity. Yet for all the glib talk by trades union leaders about improving productivity, everyone knows that British industry is fettered by demarcations and other restrictive practices aimed at preserving somebody's “property rights” in a particular task...the necessary switch to a high-wage economy cannot be achieved in isolation, by the process of “free collective bargaining” (ie, extortion of money by menaces or force), but only in step with a parallel switch to high productivity and investment. Are Mr Scanlon
Hugh Scanlon
Hugh Parr Scanlon, Baron Scanlon was a British trade union leader.Scanlon was born in Melbourne, Australia to parents who had emigrated from Britain...

's members—and other British workers—prepared to match the efficiency, flexibility, cooperativeness and zeal of German workers—or do they really simply want more money for going on as they are?

After the Marxist historian's E. P. Thompson
E. P. Thompson
Edward Palmer Thompson was a British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular The Making of the English Working Class...

 planned Dimbleby Lecture on the Cold War was cancelled in 1981, Barnett asked whether he (Thompson) saw:

...any connexion between the internal nature of the Soviet empire as an oligarchic tyranny and its external policies? As a former communist he must know that the Soviet regime is of its very nature and from earliest origins a minority conspiracy that has gained and maintained power by force and trickery; that because of this inherent nature it always has been and remains terrified of independent centres of thought or power, whether within the Russian empire or beyond its present reach. It is the conjunction of such a regime, and its manifested wish to dominate others, with armed forces powerful beyond the needs of mere defence that is the engine of the present “armaments race”. Who believes that Nato and its armaments would exist if Russia had been a Western-style open society these last 60 years? The first requirement for large-scale nuclear or any other kind of disarmament is the withering away of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union.

In 1982 Barnett said of Britain's Trident missile system
UK Trident programme
The UK Trident programme is the United Kingdom's Trident missile-based nuclear weapons programme. Under the programme, the Royal Navy operates 58 nuclear-armed Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and around 200 nuclear warheads on 4 Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines from...


The American decision to sell us Trident only makes sense on the supposition that Washington absolutely trusts Britain to be a docile ally which would not step out of line...The question therefore arises of how closely Great Britain wishes to align herself with the United States over the next 40 years; of what unstated quid pro quos by way of support for American policy outside Europe may be involved. In a word, is Trident a reassertion of the “special relationship”? If that is the case, how well does such a relationship with the United States marry with the United Kingdom's membership of the EEC, and with her European policy in general? Are we not in danger of falling into mid-Atlantic between Europe and America? And should we not, at this period in our history, be aligning ourselves clearly with Europe in evolving a distinct European world policy, rather than leaning towards Washington.

After Britain's victory in the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 Barnett spoke of the "courage, professionalism and ultimate success of our Falklands task force" but added:

The lesson of the Falklands crises is not that we need a blue-water surface fleet in case of similar residual bits of pink on the map come under attack, but that we should bring out foreign policy into congruence with our defence policy and shed such unprofitable bits of pink in good time. The real guilty men of the crisis are the MPs of both parties who, in the past, blocked possible deals with the Argentine with emotional cries of “sell-out” without apparently reckoning the possible cost of defending the Falklands against the value of the islands to the United Kingdom. Can it now be really argued that a capability to do another Falklands somewhere in the wide oceans is more important to our security of this country than the preservation of Western Europe, our own outer rampart and our greatest market?

Barnett said of the Franks Report which investigated the Falklands War: "...the British Establishment has sat in judgment on the British Establishment and found it not guilty...What is therefore needed is a critical examination of the Foreign Office as an institution: its collective "house style" and outlook; the personalities and characters of its leading figures. Only then shall we understand how British policy evolves in terms of a specific situation like the Falklands".

In an interview in 1996 Barnett stated his beliefs that Britain's future lay with a form of federated Europe, including the adoption of the European single currency
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

. He criticised Eurosceptics
Euroscepticism is a general term used to describe criticism of the European Union , and opposition to the process of European integration, existing throughout the political spectrum. Traditionally, the main source of euroscepticism has been the notion that integration weakens the nation state...

 as "emotional idealists nostalgic for a lost past".

Writing in The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

in 1998, Barnett criticised the RAND Corporation
RAND Corporation is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company. It is currently financed by the U.S. government and private endowment, corporations including the healthcare industry, universities...

 for its "naive belief that technology can solve any human problem", citing its support the Revolution in Military Affairs
Revolution in Military Affairs
The military concept of Revolution in Military Affairs is a theory about the future of warfare, often connected to technological and organizational recommendations for change in the United States military and others....

 theory. Instead of this, Barnett argues that Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

's "Theory of War" as a continuation of politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 still holds true, giving examples such as the Provisional IRA's campaign ("the classic contemporary demonstration of Clausewitzian principles in action") and Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 ("where Nato has simply frozen a war which will certainly break out again if and when the intervention forces leave"). Barnett claimed that the world will in the future continue to be "an arena of complex rivalries and direct collisions of interest rather than a 'world order' or a 'world community', and that human groups engaged in such rivalries will from time to time resort to force as an instrument of their politics". Barnett concluded the article by claiming that the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 was an "expensive figment of liberal wishful thinking".

As a military historian Barnett has often written on various contemporary conflicts involving Britain. He supported the British attempt to regain the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 during the Falklands War of 1982, but also opposed British participation in the Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

 of 1999, arguing that Yugoslavia was "a sovereign state committing no aggression beyond its own borders, [the military action against it] is a breach of the UN Charter and likewise of the North Atlantic Treaty
North Atlantic Treaty
The North Atlantic Treaty is the treaty that brought NATO into existence, signed in Washington, D.C. on 4 April 1949. The original twelve nations that signed it and thus became the founding members of NATO were:...

". Furthermore, on March 30, 1999 he claimed that the wars' course had vindicated his original stance on "Nato's ill-thought-out policy, based on emotion and simplistic moralising...In particular, it has plunged the Kosovans, the objects of Nato's solicitude, into their present calamity". Later that year Barnett returned to the subject, saying that the 80 day-long air campaign against Serbian forces demonstrated "that air power is a clumsy means of political coercion" and "that Bosnia should have served as a warning to us not to get entangled over Kosovo, and that if we did get entangled, we would finish up to our necks in trouble – which we have".

In early August 2002 Barnett wrote to The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

opposing the American plan of invading Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, rejecting the claim that those opposed to the war were the equivalent of the appeasers
The term appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Historian Paul Kennedy defines it as "the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and...

 of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 in the 1930s. He claimed that whereas Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 was disrupting the balance of power
Balance of power in international relations
In international relations, a balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. The concept describes a state of affairs in the international system and explains the behavior of states in that system...

 in Europe, Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

's Iraq posed no threat to the region. Moreover he argued that the opposition stemmed from the view that it "would be a breach of international law to attack a sovereign state and member of the UN that is not currently guilty of any external aggression; and two, that the execution of such an attack could lead to prolonged and unforeseeable adverse military and political consequences".

In December of that year Barnett argued that in the light of the British Government's decision to allow the United States to use bases in Britain for its proposed anti-missile defence system ("Star Wars Mk II") Britain "should surely re-examine the utility to this country of the "special relationship
Special relationship
The Special Relationship is a phrase used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural, economic, military and historical relations between the United Kingdom and the United States, following its use in a 1946 speech by British statesman Winston Churchill...

" with America at the present degree of intimacy".

In January 2003 Barnett wrote that Britain's close relationship with the United States put Britain "in greater danger from Islamic terrorism rather than confers security against it. If we join in an attack on Iraq as America's satellite, that danger will become more acute".

After the Iraqi Army
Iraqi Army
The Iraqi Army is the land component of the Iraqi military, active in various forms since being formed by the British during their mandate over the country after World War I....

's defeat by coalition forces, Barnett claimed that those "who predicted a prolonged messy struggle in the streets have been confounded" and that he did not believe Saddam Hussein "would be so foolish as to deploy the Republican Guard
Iraqi Republican Guard
The Iraqi Republican Guard was a branch of the Iraqi military during the presidency of Saddam Hussein. It later became the Republican Guard Corps, and then the Republican Guard Forces Command with its expansion into two corps....

 in the open to be smashed by overwhelming US firepower". However Barnett viewed the war as threatening "the very basis of the present world order of sovereign states. We must remember that the United Nations was set up to prevent 1930s-style cross-frontier aggression". He further claimed that the reasons behind the invasion gave ammunition to states like Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

 to launch invasions themselves. Writing in August 2003 Barnett claimed that his predictions on the aftermath of the war had come to pass, saying that "some of us are on record since summer 2002 as warning that an attack on Iraq would end with the attackers bogged down in a politico-military mess of some kind or other". In September that same year Barnett likened the Iraq War to the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 of 1956.

In December 2003 Barnett published an article in The Spectator, asserting that Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 was winning the "war on terror"—a label Barnett rejects because "you cannot in logic wage war against a phenomenon, only against a specific enemy... America is combating not 'terrorism' but a specific terrorist network, al-Qa'eda". Barnett further claimed that terrorist organisations are "entirely rational in purpose and conduct" in that they conform to Clausewitzian ideas. He claims the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were mistaken in that they "opened up long American flanks vulnerable to increasing guerrilla attack: a classic case of strategic overextension" and that Saddam Hussein's regime had no links to Al-Qaeda. He claims that the United States Army in Iraq should be replaced with UN troops from Muslims states to quell resentment and to "isolate the insurgents". In order to defeat Al-Qaeda, Barnett argues, the United States should "recognise that combating terrorists is essentially a job for special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

 like the SAS, for the police or gendarmerie (or troops trained in a gendarmerie role) and, above all, for good intelligence (meaning, at best, spies inside al-Qa'eda cells) – and not a job for heavy-weight hi-tech firepower".

After Lord Hutton published his report
Hutton Inquiry
The Hutton Inquiry was a 2003 judicial inquiry in the UK chaired by Lord Hutton, who was appointed by the Labour government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, a biological warfare expert and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee...

 in early 2004, Barnett wrote that Lord Hutton's "conclusions are totally at variance with the wealth of documentary evidence and witness statements presented to his inquiry and published on the internet", citing Lord Hutton's claim that "there was no dishonourable or underhand strategy" in leaking Dr. David Kelly's name when Downing Street
Downing Street
Downing Street in London, England has for over two hundred years housed the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an...

 and the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 "conspired" to do so. Furthermore he argued that Lord Hutton's "judgement is so unbalanced in its treatment of the BBC and of Downing Street and the MoD as to be worthless" except as a way for Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 to "escape" from an investigation on "whether or not he did take us to war on a false prospectus".

After fellow military historian Sir John Keegan
John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

 demanded to know why those who opposed the Iraq War wanted Saddam Hussein to remain in power, Barnett replied that "America, Britain, the Middle East and the wider world would be vastly better off in terms of peace and stability if Saddam were still gripping Iraq, and we were still gripping Saddam as we had been from 1991 to 2003". He explained that the condition of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein "is of no relevance" to non-Iraqis; secondly, he argued that Saddam Hussein "had presented no international danger since he was soundly beaten in the 1991 Gulf war
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

. He possessed no weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

...and he was subject to close Anglo-American surveillance of the "no-fly zone
Iraqi no-fly zones
The Iraqi no-fly zones were a set of two separate no-fly zones , and were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom and France after the Gulf War of 1991 to protect the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones...

""; thirdly, "Saddam had provided a highly competent ally, if a tacit one, in the so-called "war against global terror"" due to his opposition to Al-Qaeda.

During the 2005 general election
United Kingdom general election, 2005
The United Kingdom general election of 2005 was held on Thursday, 5 May 2005 to elect 646 members to the British House of Commons. The Labour Party under Tony Blair won its third consecutive victory, but with a majority of 66, reduced from 160....

 Barnett argued that George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and his friends "were bent on toppling Saddam Hussein in pursuit of an ideological mission to convert the Middle East to democracy" before Bush came to power in January 2001 and that the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 "simply provided them with a convenient cover story". Barnett concluded by saying that Blair was "wholly unworthy of our trust. This is the central fact of this election, and we should vote accordingly".

In late September 2005 Barnett argued that "‘to cut and run’ [from Iraq] would in fact be the morally brave thing to do" since the "current strategy is failing to produce the hoped-for results, but on the contrary is running ever deeper into difficulties and danger, and yet with the final result all in doubt". Barnett contrasted Blair to his predecessor, Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

, and his military withdrawals in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, claiming that no British lives were lost in them.

In October 2005 he said of Margaret Thatcher:

Ever since the war we had lived in a form of state socialism with tremendous controls and regulations over economic and social life. I can remember when you couldn't even buy a house abroad without special permission from the Bank of England. People who think the pre-Thatcher years were a golden age really didn't live through them: just ask anyone who rode on the clapped-out railways or tried to make a telephone call when the Post Office ran the phones. When she came to power she transformed the country. The moribund industries relying on taxpayer funding - all gone. The trade unions - all gone. She abolished exchange controls, completely liquidated the state sector of industry and threw the economy wide open. It's certainly true that she was so powerful a person that cabinet government in the collegiate sense began to diminish. More and more they were like a collection of staff officers around the general. Blair has taken that further and deliberately adopted a presidential style in every possible way. The main difference was that she had genuine feeling, conviction and leadership. In my view, during the last eight years, Blair has proved a very plausible conman who promises much but hasn't achieved it.

During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in mid-2006 Barnett wrote that it was "grotesquely out of proportion" to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the damage inflicted on Israel by Hezbollah. He argued that Israel "was born out of a terrorist struggle in 1945-48 against Britain" and that the "Arab resentment of Israeli hegemony...powers both Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 and Hezbollah as they follow the path of terrorism first mapped out by the Stern Gang and the Irgun Zvei Leumi in the 1940s".


Barnett is a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge
Churchill College, Cambridge
Churchill College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.In 1958, a Trust was established with Sir Winston Churchill as its Chairman of Trustees, to build and endow a college for 60 fellows and 540 Students as a national and Commonwealth memorial to Winston Churchill; its...

 and from 1977 to 1995 he was the Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill Archives Centre
The Churchill Archives Centre is one of the largest repositories in the United Kingdom for the preservation and study of modern personal papers. It is best known for housing the Churchill Papers, the massive archive of Sir Winston Churchill, as well as the private papers of Baroness Thatcher...

. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

, the Royal Historical Society
Royal Historical Society
The Royal Historical Society was founded in 1868. The premier society in the United Kingdom which promotes and defends the scholarly study of the past, it is based at University College London...

 and the Royal Society of Arts
Royal Society of Arts
The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce is a British multi-disciplinary institution, based in London. The name Royal Society of Arts is frequently used for brevity...

. From 1973 to 1985 he was a member of the Council of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


There were some Cabinet Ministers in Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

's government who were influenced by Barnett's works. Sir Keith Joseph
Keith Joseph
Keith St John Joseph, Baron Joseph, Bt, CH, PC , was a British barrister and politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet under three Prime Ministers , and is widely regarded to have been the "power behind the throne" in the creation of what came to be known as...

, Education Secretary from 1981 to 1986, admired Barnett's work about the anti-business culture in education and in an interview with Anthony Seldon
Anthony Seldon
Dr. Anthony F. Seldon MA, PhD, FRSA, MBA, FRHistS is a political commentator best known as Tony Blair's biographer and the Master of Wellington College...

 he proclaimed: "I'm a Correlli Barnett supporter". Nigel Lawson
Nigel Lawson
Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, PC , is a British Conservative politician and journalist. He was a Member of Parliament representing the constituency of Blaby from 1974–92, and served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of Margaret Thatcher from June 1983 to October 1989...

, Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989, also cited Barnett's views on education as an influence, specifically The Audit of War. In 1995 when Michael Heseltine
Michael Heseltine
Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC is a British businessman, Conservative politician and patron of the Tory Reform Group. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001 and was a prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major...

 became Deputy Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a senior member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not a permanent position, existing only at the discretion of the Prime Minister, who may appoint to other offices...

 in John Major
John Major
Sir John Major, is a British Conservative politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990–1997...

's Cabinet, he presented each member of the Cabinet with copies of Barnett's The Lost Victory. Barnett's comment that "an attack on Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 would effectively launch world war three" was cited by Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 in his essay "A Predator Becomes More Dangerous Once Wounded".


  • The Hump Organisation (1957)
  • The Channel Tunnel (with Humphrey Slater, 1958)
  • The Desert Generals (Kimber, 1960). A study of O'Connor, Alan Cunningham, Ritchie, Auchinleck and Montgomery.
  • The Swordbearers: Supreme Command in the First World War (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1963). A study of Moltke
    Helmuth von Moltke the Younger
    Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke , also known as Moltke the Younger, was a nephew of Field Marshal Count Moltke and served as the Chief of the German General Staff from 1906 to 1914. The two are often differentiated as Moltke the Elder and Moltke the Younger...

    , Jellicoe
    John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
    Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

    , Pétain
    Philippe Pétain
    Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain , generally known as Philippe Pétain or Marshal Pétain , was a French general who reached the distinction of Marshal of France, and was later Chief of State of Vichy France , from 1940 to 1944...

     and Ludendorff.
  • The Battle of El Alamein (Macmillan, 1964)
  • Britain and Her Army, 1509–1970 (Allen Lane, 1970)
  • The Collapse of British Power (Eyre Methuen, 1972)
  • The First Churchill: Marlborough, Soldier and Statesman (Eyre Methuen, 1974). An accompanying television programme was made.
  • Strategy and Society (Manchester University Press, 1976)
  • Human Factor and British Industrial Decline: An Historical Perspective (Working Together Campaign, 1977)
  • Bonaparte (Allen & Unwin, 1978)
  • The Great War (Park Lane Press, 1979)
  • The Audit of War: The Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation (Macmillan, 1986)
  • Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War (W W Norton & Co Inc, 1991)
  • The Lost Victory: British Dreams and British Realities, 1945-50 (Macmillan, 1995)
  • The Verdict of Peace: Britain between her Yesterday and the Future (Macmillan, 2001)
  • Post-conquest Civil Affairs: Comparing War's End in Iraq and in Germany (Foreign Policy Centre
    Foreign Policy Centre
    The Foreign Policy Centre is a British think tank specialising in foreign policy. It was formed in 1998 and launched by Tony Blair with the aim of developing a "vision of a fair and rule-based world order". It is pro-European. It has its origins on the centre-left of British politics, but works...

    , 2005)
  • Pétain (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, forthcoming)


  • ‘The New Military Balance’, The History of the Twentieth Century, 24 (1968).
  • ‘The Guilt: The Illogical Promise’, in G. A. Panichas (ed.), Promise of Greatness. The War of 1914-1918 (Littlehampton Book Services, 1968), pp. 560-572.
  • ‘The Education of Military Elites’, in Rupert Wilkinson (ed.), Governing Elites: Studies in Training and Selection (Oxford University Press, 1964).
  • ‘Offensive 1918’, in Noble Frankland and Christopher Dowling (eds.), Decisive Battles of the Twentieth Century (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1976), pp. 62-80.
  • ‘Auchinleck’, in Michael Carver (ed.), The War Lords. Military Commanders of the Twentieth Century (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976), pp. 260-273.
  • ‘Technology, Education and Industrial and Economic Strength, Education for Capability: Cantor Lecture 1, 13th November, 1978’, Journal of The Royal Society of Arts, cxxvii (5271), pp. 117-130.
  • ‘The Long Term Industrial Performance in the United Kingdom: The Role of Education and Research, 1850–1939’, in Derek J. Morris (ed.), The Economic System of the United Kingdom. Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 668-689.

Further reading

  • D. Edgerton, ‘The Prophet Militant and Industrial: The Peculiarities of Correlli Barnett’, Twentieth Century British History, vol. 2, n. 3 (1991).
  • J. Tomlinson, ‘Correlli Barnett's History: The Case of Marshall Aid’, Twentieth Century British History, vol. 8, no. 2 (1997).

External links

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