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To Keep the British Isles Afloat: FDR's Men in Churchill's London 1941
     

To Keep the British Isles Afloat: FDR's Men in Churchill's London 1941

by Thomas Parrish
 

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An inside look at the work and adventures of Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman in the creation of history's most remarkable international partnership

After the fall of France in June 1940, London became the center of world political theater. For the U.S. president, the vital question was: could Britain, with American help, hold

Overview

An inside look at the work and adventures of Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman in the creation of history's most remarkable international partnership

After the fall of France in June 1940, London became the center of world political theater. For the U.S. president, the vital question was: could Britain, with American help, hold out against the might of Nazi Germany? While keeping the United States officially neutral, Franklin D. Roosevelt devised an unprecedented strategy, leading to the revolutionary idea of lend-lease. But was Winston Churchill—famous as a speechmaker but regarded by many as a reckless politician and possibly a drunk—a good bet? To find the answer, Roosevelt dispatched his closest associate, Harry Hopkins, to Britain on a mission. Hopkins's endorsement of Churchill put an end to FDR's doubts, and with the passage of the Lend-Lease Act the president sent Averell Harriman, a wealthy financier and entrepreneur, to London "to keep the British Isles afloat." For Harriman, the assignment turned out to be the great adventure of a remarkable life.

Filled with vivid details and great storytelling, To Keep the British Isles Afloat explores the still-misunderstood beginnings of the unique Anglo-American alliance in World War II, offering an intriguing new look at Roosevelt's thinking and a fresh perspective on the relationship between the president and the prime minister.

Editorial Reviews

Ted Morgan
“Thomas Parrish’s account of Anglo-American relations in 1941 is a carefully researched and deftly written slice of history showing FDR’s hidden hand at work. It is a lesson on the virtues of diplomacy.”
Curtis Roosevelt
Parrish’s book brings Hopkins and Harriman vividly to life—each was indeed a character, and the author’s perception of FDR’s thinking is exceptionally sensitive. For historians most useful. For the rest of us a very good read, a page turner for me.
Jon Meacham
“A vivid portrait of crucial maneuverings in the most crucial yet little-noted of years, Thomas Parrish’s new book…offers a fresh look at how Churchill’s Britain survived while Roosevelt’s America moved ever so slowly toward forming what became the Grand Alliance.”
Will Swift
“In an engaging, and authoritative voice, Thomas Parrish vividly depicts Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman, and delineates their crucial role in saving Great Britain and, thus, America during the early part of World War II. This book shines a new light on Franklin Roosevelt and his partnership with Winston Churchill”
Alan Packwood
“Plays a valuable role in highlighting an often overlooked period of the Second World War, after the Battle of Britain but before Pearl Harbor, when President Roosevelt struggled to find and implement a policy of all possible material aid and support short of American military involvement and war.
Fraser Harbutt
“Parrish is a skilled writer, adept at conveying an authentic sense of the prevailing atmosphere...1941 is the compelling story here, now illuminated by this account of the successful efforts of two pathfinding American statesmen to help bring the liberal democracies together.”
New York Times Book Review
Parrish, the author of several books about World War II, uses Clare Booth to back into his thesis that a sleepy, isolationist America needed to be roused, and that Roosevelt relied on two remarkable men – Hopkins and Harriman – to help sound the alarm and secure aid for Britain.
Library Journal

Great presidents seem to attract the most talented assistants. This especially characterized the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the early months leading up to U.S. involvement in World War II. Parrish (Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War) has the writing skills and historical knowledge to tackle how FDR moved the nation from isolationism toward support of the British against Nazi Germany. Parrish focuses on how FDR used Harry Hopkins to check up on Winston Churchill and then relied on Averell Harriman to coordinate and implement the lend-lease program in England. Indifferent to class, position, and bureaucratic organization, FDR simply recognized talent; he knew and trusted the individuals he selected for special assignments. Hopkins and Harriman were both self-starters who became part of an effective and honest team. Though this story will be familiar to many scholars, the author incorporates unpublished interviews with Harriman and his associates and captures the essence of FDR, Harriman, and Hopkins. This page-turner will appeal to general readers interested in FDR, Winston Churchill, and World War II.
—William D. Pederson

Kirkus Reviews
Popular historian Parrish (The Submarine: A History, 2004, etc.) looks at the people behind Franklin Roosevelt's lend-lease program with England. After France fell to the Nazis in 1940, President Roosevelt wondered if England, with American assistance, would be able to hold off invading German armies. At the time, the United States was officially neutral in the conflict, but Roosevelt was determined to do everything in his power to stop Hitler. His "lend-lease" plan sought to supply critical war materials to England and other allies, but he wanted to know if England, and especially Winston Churchill, would be a safe bet. He sent his close friend and advisor Harry Hopkins to England in early 1941 to size up the prime minister. Though Churchill had a reputation for recklessness and drunkenness, Hopkins was impressed with him immediately, and provided a glowing endorsement: "Churchill is the gov't in every sense of the word," he wrote. "This island needs our help now Mr. President with everything we can give them." Soon the lend-lease program was in full swing; England would receive more than $30 billion in supplies during the war. Roosevelt sent another friend, businessman Averell Harriman, to oversee the London end of the operation. "I want you to go over to London," Roosevelt told him, "and recommend everything that we can do, short of war, to keep the British Isles afloat." Parrish brings many of the men involved to vibrant life-particularly Hopkins, a likable, energetic character who died of stomach cancer at the age of 55, just after World War II. The author's emphasis on the personalities of the period transform what could have been a dry explication of war policy into a page-turner.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061357930
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/21/2009
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are Saying About This

Curtis Roosevelt
Parrish’s book brings Hopkins and Harriman vividly to life—each was indeed a character, and the author’s perception of FDR’s thinking is exceptionally sensitive. For historians most useful. For the rest of us a very good read, a page turner for me.
Will Swift
“In an engaging, and authoritative voice, Thomas Parrish vividly depicts Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman, and delineates their crucial role in saving Great Britain and, thus, America during the early part of World War II. This book shines a new light on Franklin Roosevelt and his partnership with Winston Churchill”
Jon Meacham
“A vivid portrait of crucial maneuverings in the most crucial yet little-noted of years, Thomas Parrish’s new book…offers a fresh look at how Churchill’s Britain survived while Roosevelt’s America moved ever so slowly toward forming what became the Grand Alliance.”
Fraser Harbutt
“Parrish is a skilled writer, adept at conveying an authentic sense of the prevailing atmosphere...1941 is the compelling story here, now illuminated by this account of the successful efforts of two pathfinding American statesmen to help bring the liberal democracies together.”
Alan Packwood
“Plays a valuable role in highlighting an often overlooked period of the Second World War, after the Battle of Britain but before Pearl Harbor, when President Roosevelt struggled to find and implement a policy of all possible material aid and support short of American military involvement and war.
Ted Morgan
“Thomas Parrish’s account of Anglo-American relations in 1941 is a carefully researched and deftly written slice of history showing FDR’s hidden hand at work. It is a lesson on the virtues of diplomacy.”

Meet the Author

Thomas Parrish is the author of a number of distinguished popular histories, including Berlin in the Balance, The Submarine: A History, and Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War. He lives in Berea, Kentucky.

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