Tim Coates has been doing battle on behalf of citizens, readers, and authors as he’s tirelessly campaigned for improved public libraries in the UK. Now he’s written a history that seems appropriate for our time and also tells us something about his own efforts. The book is called Delane’s War:

150 years ago a British Government sent an ill-prepared, poorly equipped army to war in a foreign land. What has changed?

Foreword by Patrick Mercer, author of To Do and Die Delane’s War is the story of how John Delane, editor of The Times, brought about the resignation of the entire cabinet of the British Government over its conduct of the Crimean War. In the aftermath Britain came close to revolution. The British went to war ill-prepared, poorly equipped and desperately undermanned. Within a matter of weeks their numbers had been decimated by disease and the harsh rigours of the Crimean winter through their inadequate clothing. In addition, poor intelligence had not predicted a spirited Russian defence. Using the first war reporters and “embedded correspondents” The Times revealed to England the terrible drama as it unfolded, in a premonition of modern war journalism. Lack of censorship allowed
The Times’ correspondent William Howard Russell to send back reports on astonishing military incompetence. Delane printed them verbatim and ran excoriating editorials against those in command. He also ran the world’s first newspaper appeals, which would inspire Florence Nightingale to visit the Crimea and work in the military hospitals at Scutari.

Delane’s War describes the four months between October 1854 and January 1855, during which time the Government and Army tried to silence and deride Delane and his newspaper for his coverage of the war, accusing him of treachery, deception and exaggeration. Delane was steadfast in his editorial line and would not be ignored. Eventually a dramatic debate in Parliament brought about the largest ever defeat of a British Government in office. With the resignations of ministers, the lying of politicians, the aloofness of generals and the suffering of the troops, this book paints a sadly recognisable picture. From it, however, John Delane stands out as one of the heroes of Victorian England.

Click here to pre-order it from Amazon UK. The publication date is 12 October 2009. And do visit Tim’s remarkable and historic blog, archived by the British Library as a part of British political history (and hosted and sponsored by Berkshire Publishing, by the way): The Good Library Blog.

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