The empires of the future are the empires of the mind… Winston Churchill


The last thousand days of the British empire : Churchill, Roosevelt, and the birth of the Pax Americana New York : Bloomsbury Press : Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, c 2008 Peter Clarke Decolonization Colonies Great Britain History 20th century Book. xxvii, 559 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 516-545) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

A history of the sudden end of the British Empire and the moment when America became a world superpower. “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire,” was Winston Churchill’s empty brag in November 1942, just as the tide of the Second World War was beginning to turn. With America to back him he pugnaciously affirmed his loyalty to the worldwide institution that he had served for most of his life yet less than five years after Churchill’s braggadocio, 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 of America as world superpower dawned.

How did this rapid change of fortune come about? Peter Clarke’s book is the first to analyze the abrupt transition from Rule Britannia to Pax Americana. His swift-paced narrative makes superb use of letters and diaries to provide vivid portraits of the figures around whom history pivoted: Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Stalin, Truman, and a host of lesser-known figures through whom Clarke brilliantly shows the human dimension of epochal events.

Clarke traces the intimate and conflicted nature of the “special relationship,” showing 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 reveals how the tension between Allied war aims, suppressed while the fighting was going on, became rapidly apparent when it ended. The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire is a captivating work of popular history that shows how the events that followed the war reshaped the world as profoundly as the conflict itself – the one thing it does not adequately do is fix the blame for the chaos that followed the empire on the policies of the empire.

 

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