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

Overview

A sweeping, vivid history capturing the sudden end of Britain’s empire and the moment when America became a world superpower.

Britain fought and sacrificed on a worldwide scale to defeat Hitler and his allies—and won. Yet less than three years after victory, the British Empire effectively ended, and the age of America as world superpower dawned. Peter Clarke’s book is the first to analyze the abrupt transition from Rule Britannia to Pax Americana. His swiftly paced narrative ...

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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

A sweeping, vivid history capturing the sudden end of Britain’s empire and the moment when America became a world superpower.

Britain fought and sacrificed on a worldwide scale to defeat Hitler and his allies—and won. Yet less than three years after victory, the British Empire effectively ended, and the age of America as world superpower dawned. Peter Clarke’s book is the first to analyze the abrupt transition from Rule Britannia to Pax Americana. His swiftly paced narrative offers vivid portraits of pivotal figures like Churchill, Gandhi, Truman, and Stalin. The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire shows how events that followed the war reshaped the world as much as the conflict itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] sharp new history…His description of Churchill’s correspondence with Roosevelt is almost moving in its pathos.”—New York Times Book Review

“Peter Clarke’s learned and elegant new character-driven history [reminds] us how sudden Britain’s fall from empire truly was.”—New York Sun

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
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.48 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Clarke was Professor of Modern History and Master of Trinity Hall at Cambridge. His many books include the acclaimed final volume of the Penguin History of Britain, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000, and A Question of Leadership: Gladstone to Blair. He lives in Suffolk, England, and Pender Island, British Columbia.

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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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