Max Aitkin, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman, and one of tenchildren to grow up in the provincial backwater of New Brunswick,overcame enormous odds (including the skepticism of family,friends, and the world at large) to become Lord Beaverbrook, one ofthe dominant figures in twentieth century media and politics. Atthe time of his death in 1964, Beaverbrook’s London newspapers, theDAILY EXPRESS, the SUNDAY EXPRESS, and the EVENING STANDARD, had acombined circulation of more than four million readers. Author ofseveral influential books of contemporary history, Beaverbrook wasa master shaper of public opinion yet curiously ineffective in hiscampaigns for particular political changes.
Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie do an excellent job ofexplaining Beaverbrook’s meteoric rise and are evenhanded inportraying his lighter and darker sides, scrupulously presentingthe evidence pro and con, astutely evaluating Beaverbrook’s ownclaims to importance, and frankly admitting the paucity of evidencein certain cases. It is still very difficult, for example, tounderstand the precise methods by which Beaverbrook attained hisfortune, the role women played in his life, and what records weredestroyed by Beaverbrook, his family, and his authorizedbiographer, A.J.P. Taylor.
Beaverbrook took British newspapers from the nineteenth century,when parties controlled the press, into the twentieth century, whenthe press made the parties increasingly attentive to publicopinion. If his newspapers had lost much of their influence by thetime he died, it is nevertheless the case that he had helpedtransform the nature of both politics and media in the twentiethcentury.
Sources for Further Study
Columbia Journalism Review. XXXII, May, 1993, p.73.
Contemporary Review. CCLXII, February, 1993, p.106.
London Review of Books. XIV, October 22, 1992, p.20.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. February 28, 1993, p.2.
The New Republic. CCVIII, May 10, 1993, p.46.
The New Yorker. LXIX, March 1, 1993, p.109.
Newsweek. CXXI, January 18, 1993, p.56.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, November 30, 1992, p.44.
The Times Literary Supplement. October 9, 1992, p.5.
The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, January 17, 1993, p.8.