History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900by Andrew Roberts
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In 1900, where Churchill ended the fourth volume of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples, the United States had not yet emerged onto the world scene as a great power. Meanwhile, the British Empire was in decline but did not yet know it. Any number of other powers might have won primacy in the twentieth century and beyond, including Germany, Russia, possibly even France. Yet the coming century was to belong to the English-speaking peoples, who successively and successfully fought the Kaiser's Germany, Axis aggression and Soviet Communism, and who are now struggling against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Andrew Roberts brilliantly reveals what made the English-speaking people the preeminent political culture since 1900, and how they have defended their primacy from the many assaults upon them. What connects those countries where the majority of the population speaks English as a first language—the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies and Ireland—is far greater than what separates them, and the development of their history since 1900 has been a phenomenal success story. Authoritative and engrossing, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 is an enthralling account of the century in which the political culture of one linguistic world-grouping comprehensively triumphed over all others. Roberts's History proves especially invaluable as the United States today looks to other parts of the English-speaking world as its best, closest and most dependable allies.
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A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
By Andrew Roberts
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Andrew Roberts
All right reserved.
Shouldering 'The White Man's Burden'
'Dear Teddy, I came over here meaning to join the Boers, who I was told were Republicans fighting Monarchists; but when I got here I found the Boers talked Dutch while the British talked English, so I joined the latter.'
Letter from a Rough Rider veteran to Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt1
'If new nations come to power . . . the attitude of we who speak English should be one of ready recognition of the rights of the newcomers, of desire to avoid giving them just offense, and at the same time of preparedness in body and mind to hold our own if our interests are menaced.'
Theodore Roosevelt to Cecil Spring-Rice, 19042
Theodore Roosevelt was brave, intelligent, well-travelled and had a photographic memory. He felt shame at his father's not having served in the CivilWar, yet otherwise regarded him as 'the best man I ever knew', and he always 'strove for his father's posthumous blessing'.3 Ever since shooting a crane at a lagoon near Thebes in adolescence, he loved slaughtering avifauna in vast quantities. He wanted to be a natural scientist while at Harvard--taking a 97 in zoology and graduating magna cum laude--butpreferred the great outdoors to microscopes. An asthmatic, he was obsessed with the need to prove himself physically and was keen on boxing, rowing, riding, walking, skating, camping and sailing. He didn't smoke or gamble, drank sparingly and seems not to have been much interested in sex.4 His time as US Civil Service Commissioner, head of the New York City Police Board, assistant secretary of the Navy, a dashing Rough Rider cavalry colonel in the Spanish-American War and a corruption-busting governor of New York won him fame early and--along with Czolgosz's fatal bullet in 1901--helped make him at forty-two the youngest of all the presidents before or since. The sheer energy of the man--he leapt over chairs at the White House and once dragged an ambassador off to play tennis in a hailstorm--was part of his charm. On New Year's Day 1907, he shook the hands of no fewer than 8,513 people at a White House reception. The naturalist John Burroughs said that when Roosevelt entered a room, 'it was as if a strong wind had blown the door open'.
Within a few months of taking office, Roosevelt presented an awesome challenge to Congress and the nation. 'The American people must either build and maintain an adequate Navy,' he said, 'or else make up their minds definitely to accept a secondary position in international affairs, not only in politics but in commercial matters.'5 As an early champion and friend of the incredibly influential, though little-known, American naval officer Alfred Thayer Mahan, author of the seminal work The Influence of Sea Power on History 1666-1783, Roosevelt understood international naval power politics like no other previous president. His huge expansion of the US Navy presaged the American eruption onto the global stage that was to be the single most important feature of world politics in what was to be dubbed 'the American Century'.
John F. Kennedy was puzzled that Americans rated Theodore Roosevelt so highly, considering that he never led the nation through any war (an estimation that might more profitably be extended to JFK himself). Roosevelt filled the White House like no other peacetime president; Mark Twain accorded the fact that he was 'the most popular human being that ever existed in the United States' to his 'joyous ebullitions of excited sincerity'. Yet there were solid achievements too: he won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and began constructing the isthmian canal that linked his country's western ocean to its eastern, thus saving US warships from having to make the ninety-day journey around Cape Horn.
The process of splitting Panama from distant Colombia in order for the canal to be built has long been held against Roosevelt in Latin America; yet Panama had rebelled fifty times in fifty years--surely some kind of a record in international relations--and all he had to do in November 1903 was to let the fiftieth rebellion succeed. He sent the warship Nashville to Colon and refused Colombian troops permission to use a US-operated railway, something that international law permitted him to do.6 The entire Panamanian coup was effected with the deaths of, according to the casualty report, 'one Chinaman and an ass', suffered when a stray shell hit Panama City. Senator Samuel Hayakawa of California once said of the Panama Canal, 'We stole it, fair and square,' but the United States in fact paid vast sums for it. The higher direction of the feat of cutting the canal, which opened in 1914, was one of the greatest civil engineering achievements of the English-speaking peoples in the twentieth century, despite the manual work largely being undertaken by labourers from the British West Indies who suffered a high mortality rate.
In his foreign policy, Roosevelt fiercely defended the Monroe Doctrine, especially against German imprecations over Venezuela in 1902. When time after time during that crisis thewar-games between the 'Blue Fleet' (American) and the 'Black Fleet' (German) undertaken at the US Naval War College resulted in Black Fleet victories, he forced on the pace of naval armament, which was ultimately to make the United States a world power by the time he left office in 1909. As one historian has perceptively put it, 'In terms of bloodshed and lives lost, America's rise to great power status could hardly have been more harmless.'7
Nor was Roosevelt's expansionism doctrinaire; he handed Cuba her independence in May 1902, 'after a brief period of military government that transformed the island from an abused, insanitary and poverty-stricken Spanish colony to a healthy new nation amply equipped to govern itself '.8 Most of his interventions in Central America were undertaken reluctantly and at the . . .
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Meet the Author
Andrew Roberts is the author of Masters and Commanders and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. His other books include Napoleon and Wellington, Eminent Churchillians, and Salisbury, which won the Wolfson History Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a PhD in history from Cambridge University and writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. He lives in New York City.
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I don't usually submit reviews but after reading this book, I felt I had to say something. Unlike Winston Churchill's original books, Andrew Roberts takes an extreme conservative, right-wing view of English and American history. Churchill certainly embellished his history with pro-Anglo and pro-American views, but Roberts goes too far. He definitely believes that the end justifies the means and nothing England and America has ever done to the Indians (American and Asian), blacks, South African Boers, Latin Americans or anyone else matters since in the end it all turned out OK. It's too bad Churchill's entertaning and informative history had to end on such a sour note.