Forgotten Patriot: A life of Alfred, Viscount Milner of St James's and Cape Town, 1854-1925
J. Lee Thompson

About the Author :
J. Lee Thompson is Associate Professor of History at Lamar University. He holds a PhD in Modern British history taken at Texas A&M University under Professor R. J. Q. Adams. Dr. Thompson’s previous books are Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics, 1865-1922 (2000), and Politician, the Press and Propaganda: Lord Northcliffe and the Great War, 1914-1919, (1999). He has just begun work on The Proconsuls, a comparative study of the lives and careers of Lords Cromer, Curzon, Kitchener, and Milner. Dr. Thompson is 2005-2006 President of the Western Conference on British Studies and on the Council of the North American Conference on British Studies. In 2006 he was a Visiting Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge.

Forgotten Patriot is the story of one man’s almost Roman dedication to duty, principle, and the British Empire. Alfred Milner rose from middle-class obscurity to haughty South African High Commissioner and then, after a decade in the wilderness, found redemption as the right hand of David Lloyd George in the five-man War Cabinet of 1916-1918. Revered and reviled, Milner inspired the imperial faithful, including his famous “kindergarten,” while at the same time serving as a lightning rod for critics of Empire. No matter the cost in blood and treasure, Milner believed absolutely that the measures he took to further the imperial cause were justified. This single-minded self-righteousness often blinded him to the realities, political and otherwise, of major events in which he played a central role.

This work covers the entire sweep of Milner’s career, exploring fully in themselves overlooked areas, including Milner’s place in the newspaper “information milieu,” his attempts to bring working men into the Unionist fold (before, during, and after the Great War), his conspiratorial role in the 1914 Ulster Crisis, his key, but mostly forgotten, place in the First World War, the Peace of Paris and, throughout, his private life. The book reveals, as has no other, relationships with Margot Tennant (later Asquith), to whom Milner first proposed marriage, his mistress Cecile Duval, the novelist Elinor Glyn, and his two-decades-long liaison with Violet Cecil, who became his wife in 1921, only four years before Milner’s death.

Forgotten Patriot is the first study in which Milner’s “constructive” imperialism, forged by his early twenties and the dominant force in his life, is a major theme. The book reconsiders in depth a lifelong imperial struggle, at home and abroad, including Egypt, South Africa, and Canada, as well as Milner’s kindergarten of young male acolytes of empire and the later Round Table movement, while adding a neglected female cadre of supporters of his imperial vision. At the same time, the book underlines the many battles with Milner’s great contemporaries, including Henry Asquith, Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener, and David Lloyd George among others, all brought into sharper focus. The first life in twenty-five years of Milner, who joined Cromer and Curzon as the preeminent imperial proconsuls of his era, includes much new material from extensive original archival research in the United Kingdom, North America, and South Africa, coupled with a synthesis of the published work of the last quarter century.

ISBN 0-8386-4121-0, $65.00

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