Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana

Overview

"Winston Churchill's declaration in W November 1942, just as the tide of the Second World War was beginning to turn, pugnaciously affirmed his loyalty to the worldwide institution that he had served for most of his life. Britain fought and sacrificed on a worldwide scale to defeat Hitler and his allies - and won. Yet less than five years after Churchill's defiant speech, the British Empire effectively ended with Indian independence in August 1947 and the end of the British mandate in Palestine in May 1948. As the sun set on Britain's empire, the
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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana

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Overview

"Winston Churchill's declaration in W November 1942, just as the tide of the Second World War was beginning to turn, pugnaciously affirmed his loyalty to the worldwide institution that he had served for most of his life. Britain fought and sacrificed on a worldwide scale to defeat Hitler and his allies - and won. Yet less than five years after Churchill's defiant speech, the British Empire effectively ended with Indian independence in August 1947 and the end of the British mandate in Palestine in May 1948. As the sun set on Britain's empire, the age f America as world superpower dawned." How did this rapid change of fortune come about? Peter Clarke's book is the first to explore the abrupt transition from Rule Britannia to Pax Americana. He shows how Roosevelt and his successors were determined that Britain must be sustained both during the war and after, but that the British Empire must not; and how the tension between Allied war aims, suppressed while the fighting was going on, became rapidly apparent when it ended. His swiftly paced narrative draws on letters, diaries, and a host of other primary sources to put us vividly in the presence of the figures around whom history pivoted: Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Stalin, Truman, and other, lesser-known individuals, through whom Clarke shows the human dimension of epochal events.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Britain's collapse as a great power is chronicled in this lively diplomatic history covering the end of WWII through the British withdrawal from India and Palestine in the late 1940s. Historian Clarke (Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-2000) tells a fundamentally prosaic story. Britain, its finances, military power and morale exhausted by the war, found itself marginalized by the superpowers and dependent on American aid; when imperial commitments in India and Greece grew unaffordable, according to Clarke, Britain ditched them rather abruptly, along with its central role in world affairs. Drawing on participants' diaries, Clarke offers a fine-grained, well-paced narrative of British statesmen playing their weak hand in one negotiation after another, begging for economic concessions from the hard-nosed Americans, strategic concessions from an indifferent Stalin and political concessions from impatient subjects. At the story's center is Winston Churchill, embodiment of Britain's faltering imperial pretensions. In Clarke's caustic portrait, Churchill is vain, pompous and infantile (showily urinating on Germany's Siegfried line, for example), forever disguising a humiliating decline with grand rhetoric. The opposite of great man historiography, Clarke's sympathetic but sardonic account shows anxious leaders struggling to catch up with a world that has passed them by. 16 pages of b&w photos; maps. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An account of the British Empire's abrupt decline in influence around the globe following World War II. Clarke (Modern British History/Cambridge Univ.; Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000, 2004, etc.) takes a look at the pivotal events that shaped Great Britain's fortunes following the nationwide jubilation of 1945 and also examines how America evolved into a worldwide superpower. The "thousand days" of the title covers a stretch between 1944 and 1947. The author presents a clear, detailed account of events, casting Winston Churchill as the key figure at the center of Britain's postwar misfortunes. A brief prologue outlines how Britain headed into shaky economic territory during the war, with huge debts accrued in Churchill's valiant effort to emerge victorious from battle. Then, drawing on disclosures from diaries belonging to figures such as Churchill's Assistant Private Secretary, Sir John Colville, and the former prime minister's personal physician, Lord Moran, as well as information drawn from contemporary newspapers, Clarke examines how Anglo-American relations fractured in the postwar era. In particular, he frequently returns to the Lend-Lease agreement, which was set up so the United States could provide the allied nations with various wartime supplies. The complications inherent in such a deal helped trigger the enormous friction between the two countries once the war ended. America was no longer willing to loan vast sums of money unless its allies pulled out of India and Palestine; this, in turn, led to the dissolution of the British Empire. Clarke concludes by recalling the negotiations that led to Britain's loss of India, offering some enlightening details on Gandhi'sinvolvement in the process. There are few revelations here, although the author occasionally fleshes out a familiar story with amusing anecdotes, such as those about Churchill's frequently erratic behavior during important meetings. A fairly perfunctory overview, but sufficiently engaging and well-written. For a more lively, probing social history, see David Kynaston's Austerity Britain: 1945-51 (2008). Agent: Sally Harding/The Cooke Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596916760
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/19/2009
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 1,479,820
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.48 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Clarke was professor of of modern British history and master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He is the author of the final volume in the Penguin History of Britain, Hope and Glory, Britain 1900–2000. His other books include The Keynesian Revolution in the Making, 1924–1936.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Maps

Pt. 1 Broad, Sunlit Uplands

Prologue: 1941-4 3

Pt. 2 False Summits

1 The Spirit of Quebec: September 1944 47

2 Setbacks: October-November 1944 67

3 Bad to Worse: November-December 1944 94

4 Battles of the Bulge: December 1944-January 1945 127

5 Awaiting the Big Three: January-February 1945 161

6 Yalta: February 1945 189

Pt. 3 Hollow Victories

7 Faltering and Altering: February-March 1945 225

8 Shadows of Death: March-April 1945 259

9 Justice?: May 1945 293

10 Peace, Politics and Potsdam: June-July 1945 320

Pt. 4 The Liquidation of the British Empire

11 Hopes Betrayed: August-October 1945 365

12 The Costs of Victory: October 1945-April 1946 392

13 Sabotage?: April-November 1946 425

14 Scuttle?: December 1946-August 1947 464

Epilogue 505

Abbreviations 514

The Diarists 515

Bibliography 516

References 521

Acknowledgements 546

Index 549

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