Readers' Guide: Troublesome Young Men by Lynne Olson

Troublesome Young Men

by: Lynne Olson

Guide Created By: Ella
Discussion Leader(s): Ella & Harold
Read our discussion of this book

Book DescriptionBook cover for Troublesome Young Men Lynne Olson writes a story that comes alive with the history of England during one of its most perilous periods and bring us a fascinating tale of TROUBLESOME YOUNG MEN, highly ambitious, powerful, wealthy young men, with their love of life, their love affairs, who put their careers in jeopardy to oust the old and bring in a new government willing to face the evil that was upon them, confronting the menace of Hitler and his invasion of neighboring countries.

Relevant Links

C_Span interview with Author Lynne Olson

Short biography of Winston Churchill

Another short history of Churchill

Short biography of Neville Chamberlain

Some of the key figures and events related to Neville Chambelain

Background about Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicholson

Overview of Lady Violet Bonham Charter's political career

Summary of the career of Lady Astor who was the first woman to be elected to Parliament

History of Macmillan & Co., the famous publishing house

Information about economist John Maynard Keynes

Text of Mein Kampf

Short biography of Jan Masaryk, (pg.134) Czechoslovakia's ambassador in London and son of the country's first president.

Overview of the Dieppe Raid, the WWII Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. No major objectives of the raid were accomplished.

Information about the Maginot Line

Information about King George VI (Prince Albert) who was the last English sovereign to actively be engaged in battle

Information about the Treaty of Versailles, including the terms and consequences of the treaty

Information about the Parliamant of the United Kingdom

History of the campaigns to give women the vote and to allow them to stand as candidates for election to Parliament

Summary of 19th Century English parliamentary laws extending the franchise to a larger and larger electorate.

Article about the UK's 2010 General Election

List of Prime Ministers of Great Britain

Background Photos

Photos of Chartwell, Winston Churchill's beloved home

Images of Westminster Palace, England's Capitol Building

Photo of evacuation of children from London

Photos of Sissinghurst Castle Garden created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, poet and gardening writer, and her husband Harold Nicolson, author and diplomat.

Photo of the of the three Allied leaders sitting down at Yalta

Photo of the Memorial to Major John Ronald Cartland

Questions for Consideration

For generations, the old boy network, small, tight-knit and insular - dominated British government and society. Is it true today, do you think? Do you see parallels in our government?

Isn't it true that "party loyalty" is necessary to get ahead in our own government, to get the power, to get the chairmanships of the "right" committees? David Margesson, the chief whip of the Tory party, a prime example, never doubted the rightness of his party; Would more doubts have made a difference?

In the Introduction Edward R. Murrow reporting from England in 1939 states: "the machine is out of control, we are all passengers on an express train traveling at high speed through a dark tunnel toward an unknown destiny. The suspicion recurs that the train may have no engineer, no one who can handle it." What are your thoughts on this statement, does it resonate with anything in the USA in your lifetime?

How did the USA public react to what was going on in Germany in the decade of the thirties? How did the public in England react?

How did the leaders, the political leaders, of both countries react?

Neville Chamberlain, how did he come to office, how did he stay in so long? Were you shocked by some of the facet of the man's personality? What amazed you the most?

Many of the men that the author has focused on in these first few chapters are veterans of WWI. Are you surprised by their attitudes toward impending war?

Consequently, are you surprised by the attitude of the older men in Parliament?

Duff Cooper, just one of the troubled young men, visited Germany in 1933 and upon returning home delivered a speech on the dangers of Nazism, only to be denounced as a "warmonger, by Lord Beaverbrook's newspapers. s Cooper was just one of many. Does the public pay enough attention to world news or do we weary of news?

The difficulty of balancing ambition and conscience is as true today as it was in the decade of the thirties? What can influence politicians to use their conscience, their moral values?

Lady Violet Bonham Carter, a lifetime friend of Churchill and one that rivaled his command of language, believed that the duties of motherhood constrained her from entering the political arena. Had she lived today in England would she have believed differently and would she be a force in politics? Are women equal to men in Parliament today?

Is it true that one must have the ability to be an excellent speaker to be a leader, regardless of your intellectual abilities?

There were two possible leaders during this year, 1939 ( Eden and Churchill) .Why did not either one of them want to challenge Chamberlain?

Why was Czechoslovakia important to both Germany and England?

"We decide what to do and then send for the newspapers and tell them to sell it to the public." Neville Chamberlain's policies kept the public ignorant of the growing crisis. Did this, in the end, help or hurt the British public? How?

How was the growing international crisis in Europe treated by the press or the president in America during this period?

Was Chamberlain fully cognizant of the disparity between Britain's armed forces and Germany's soldiers? If so, was he correct to try to find a way to end the dispute with Germany?

Had England declared war on Germany in 1938, what would have been the result?

Chamberlain wrote to his sister after his visit to Hitler in1938 that Hitler was a man who could be true to his word . Is it a quality of leadership to correctly judge the character of a foreign leader? Can you think of any instances in history where such a quality would have been beneficial to America?

When Chamberlain returned from Munich he was received by the King, Queen of England on the balcony to waving crowds, the first time a ruling monarch had allowed a commoner to be acknowledged from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Has this ever occurred since?

Duff Cooper resigned from the Government in protest over Chamberlain's agreement with Hitler? Was this the right thing to do? Is it ever?

Do you feel the author is unduly harsh in her criticism of Chamberlain? Is it wrong to attempt to avoid a war, a reconciliation, in order to save lives of your countryman?

RETRIBUTION. Punishment, banishment from your position in government for your views. The dangers of dissent. This is representative of a good government?

The Duchess of Atholl's (Kitty) story in the House of Commons was an example of how women were regarded in this era. Can you think of any other examples of gender discrimination?

The "dirty tricks" campaign was reminiscent of our own President Nixon's presidency which caused his impeachment. But these tactics against Prime Minister Chamberlain's enemies caused fractures that lasted for years.

WAITING FOR A LEAD. Why was Churchill regarded as "too rash, too prone to mistakes in judgment," undesirable qualities? Yet others thought he had "unflinching courage and matchless eloquence." What is your opinion of Churchill in 1939?

What finally began to wake up the public as to the dangers of Nazism?

What made Chamberlain change his mind about Hitler and declare that Britain would go to the aid of Poland if their independence was threatened? What were the advantages and disadvantages of this policy at this time?

Why did Churchill remain silent during this period?

Are you familiar with the Maginot Line, France's defense in case of war?

On August 23, 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact which stunned Great Britain.

Joe Kennedy, who was then U.S. Ambassador to England, informed the State Department that the British government wanted Roosevelt to put pressure on the Poles to make concessions to Hitler . Did you know that? What was America's reaction to that? How did Great Britain react to the news?

How did the newspaper accounts of British blunders play in America?

Do you think the age of Chamberlain was a factor in his indecisiveness?

What did you think of the parliamentary procedures in renouncing a prime minister?

What were the tactics for "getting rid of the government"?

Do you know of other prime ministers that have been ousted from the British parliament and what tactics were used?

Did you find the way of "voting" a better way than a ballot?

If you had been Chamberlain's friend, could you have walked down the "no" corridor?

Were you surprised by Churchill's speech in defense of Chamberlain?

Why was Churchill so hesitant in taking on the job of Prime Minister? Could he have taken a more active role earlier and made a difference in the war?