Historian Fromkin’s focus isn’t so much on the personal history between President Teddy Roosevelt and King Edward VII of Britain (indeed, the two men never actually meet in Fromkin’s narrative), as it is about the shifting national alliances in the Atlantic world before World War I. Fromkin skillfully describes how Edward, after the 1901 death of his mother, Queen Victoria, moved his country toward an alliance with France and in opposition to Germany, ruled by his nephew Kaiser William II. President Roosevelt and the king both favored this crucial diplomatic shift, which would later lead to the two world wars of the 20th century. As Fromkin shows, much of the European diplomacy of this era was personal. The Great Powers were mainly monarchies with family interconnections. Fromkin analyzes the kaiser’s “passionate dislike of his uncle,” King Edward, and traces that animosity to William’s strict military upbringing, compared with Edward’s playboy lifestyle. Kaiser “William’s whole view of Great Power foreign policy over the course of two decades,” Fromkin explains, “was colored by his undying hatred” of his royal British uncle. Fromkin also explores how Roosevelt helped Edward reach his goals: Roosevelt, writes the author, “was Anglophile” and believed the English-speaking peoples were destined to rule the world. When the kaiser attempted to destroy Britain’s new diplomatic arrangement with France, Roosevelt sided with Edward. Germany “charged it was being encircled by its enemies,” concludes Fromkin, and would unsuccessfully fight two wars to shift this established strategic alliance.
About the Author
Chuck Leddy is a member of the National Book Critics Circle who writes frequently about American history. He reviews books regularly for The Boston Globe, as well as Civil War Times and American History magazines. He is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine.