For students interested in the political history of Britain during the early years of the Great War, Lord Beaverbrook's Politicians and the War, 1914-1916 is now essential reading. This, however, has not always been the case. The historiographical fortunes of this important study, Beaverbrook's modus operandi, and his preoccupations as a historian are the main concerns of this paper. Examination of these issues, combined with a reassessment of of certain key themes and incidents in Politicians and the War allow for a reevaluation not only of the book as a major source for the period but also of that wonderful and partisan fusion of politics and history who was Max Aitken, the first and only Lord Beaverbrook.
Beaverbrook, as A.J.P. Taylor's vast biography makes clear, was a man of many parts. Politics colored almost everything he did. His politics were those of the Unionist (later the Conservative) Party and, as a Canadian colonial who had come to Britain to augment further his considerable fortune, he identified strongly with the Tariff Reform wing of the party in the years before the First World War. He was Unionist MP for Ashton-under-Lyne from 1910 to 1916. Within the Unionist Party his closest friend was Andrew Bonar Law, another Canadian born politician, who in 1911 became Leader of the party and was thus a central figure in the tumultuous events examined in Politicians and the War. Aitken also had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the Liberal Party. They, too, provided him with another perspective on the politics of the wartime period; one of them, David Lloyd George, in one of his earliest acts as Prime Minister in December 1916, elevated Aitken to the House of Lords where he took the title of Lord Beaverbrook.