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An account of the former British prime minister's seventy-year relationship with the United States describes how his work during the First and Second World Wars laid a foundation of a century-long alliance between the countries and established a key policy of cooperation that continues to this day. 75,000 first printing.
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Martin Gilbert was named Winston Churchill's official biographer in 1968. He is the author of seventy-five books, among them the single-volume Churchill: A Life, his twin histories The First World War and The Second World War, the comprehensive Israel: A History, and his three-volume History of the Twentieth Century. An Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and a Distinguished Fellow of Hillsdale College, Michigan, he was knighted in 1995 "for services to British history and international relations," and in 1999 he was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by the University of Oxford for the totality of his published work.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Evil would be the counsellors, dark would be the day when we embarked on that most foolish, futile, and fatal of all wars -- a war with the United States.
-- Winston Churchill, 13 May 1901
George Washington was part of his family pedigree. Three of his ancestors had fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War. His mother was an American, born in Brooklyn in 1854. He himself was an honorary citizen of the United States. He was Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader, whose links with America are the focus of this book.
The story of Churchill and America spans ninety years. The special relationship he felt with the United States, and strove to establish -- not always successfully -- remains a central aspect of international relations. "Whatever the pathway of the future may bring," he told an American audience in 1932, "we can face it more safely, more comfortably, and more happily if we travel it together, like good companions. We have quarrelled in the past, but even in our quarrels great leaders on both sides were agreed on principles." Churchill added: "Let our common tongue, our common basic law, our joint heritage of literature and ideals, the red tie of kinship, become the sponge of obliteration of all the unpleasantness of the past."
Churchill spent much of his seventy adult years in close contact with the United States. He made sixteen journeys across the Atlantic. A British political opponent once called him "Half alien -- and wholly reprehensible." A First World War colleague said of him: "There's a lot of Yankee in Winston. He knows how to hustle and how to make others hustle too." Many Americans were attracted to Churchill's personality. "Unlike most Englishmen," one of his secretaries recalled, "he is naturally at ease among Americans, who seem to understand him better than his own countrymen." President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed it in a telegram to Churchill during the Second World War: "It is fun being in the same decade as you."
Churchill was proud of his American ancestry. During a discussion at the Truman White House in 1952, to standardize the type of rifle to be used by the two countries' armies, the following exchange took place between Churchill and the senior British officer present:
Field Marshal Slim: "Well, I suppose we could experiment with a bastard rifle, partly American, partly British."
Churchill: "Kindly moderate your language, Field Marshal. It may be recalled that I am myself partly British, partly American."
In two world wars, in both of which Britain's future was endangered, Churchill's was the chief British voice urging, and attaining, the closest possible cooperation with the United States. After the United States had entered the First World War, Churchill told the British War Cabinet that "the intermingling of British and American units on the field of battle and their endurance of losses and suffering together may exert an immeasurable effect upon the future destiny of the English-speaking peoples." As Minister of Munitions he worked to ensure that the two armies would be well mingled and well supplied.
Speaking on 4 July 1918, to a large Anglo-American gathering in London, Churchill, having just returned from the Western Front, declared: "When I have seen during the past few weeks the splendour of American manhood striding forward on all the roads of France and Flanders, I have experienced emotions which words cannot describe." The only recompense Britain sought from American participation in the First World War was the "supreme reconciliation" of Britain and the United States. If the two armies and the two nations "worked well together to secure victory in 1918, Britain and the United States may act permanently together."
Such sentiments were not shared by all Churchill's fellow countrymen. Throughout his life one of Churchill's battles was against the sometimes latent, sometimes strong anti-Americanism that could be found throughout British society. He was always urging his friends, his colleagues, and, as Prime Minister, his War Cabinet, not to alien-ate the United States, whatever vexations American policy might be causing.
In 1944, as victory came closer, Churchill saw a bolder and brighter future for the Anglo-American relationship than victory alone. In a speech in London at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 November 1944, in celebration of American Thanksgiving Day, he spoke of how "in three or four years the United States has in sober fact become the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world -- that, I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving." But he also spoke of "a greater Thanksgiving Day, which still shines ahead, which beckons the bold and loyal and warm-hearted."
That future Thanksgiving Day would be "when this union of action which has been forced upon us by our common hatred of tyranny, which we have maintained during these dark and fearful days, shall become a lasting union of sympathy and good-feeling and loyalty and hope between all the British and American peoples, wherever they may dwell. Then, indeed," Churchill declared, "there will be a Day of Thanksgiving, and one in which all the world will share."
During the Second World War it is doubtful whether Britain could have sustained itself against the Nazi onslaught, or maintained itself at war, without Churchill's almost daily efforts to win the United States to the British and Allied cause: first as a benign neutral providing vast amounts of war material, and then as an ally willing to put the defeat of Germany before that of Japan. When the Cold War began with the Soviet Union, Churchill told his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden: "The similarity and unity which we have with the United States will grow and it is indispensable to our safety." To ensure that unity and safety, Churchill worked closely for the next decade with Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Truman and Eisenhower were important in Churchill's efforts to forge a common Anglo-American policy and theme, but no world leaders had such a long, constructive, intimate, frustrating, disputatious and affectionate relationship as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill said of the President whom he met so many times and corresponded with so frequently over a period of five years: "I have wooed President Roosevelt as a man might woo a maid." There were many quarrels, but, as Churchill once telegraphed to Roosevelt, using one of his favorite Latin quotations: "Amantium irae amoris integratio est." When one of Churchill's secretaries said she did not know what this meant, Churchill told her: "It means the wrath of lovers hots up their love." Roosevelt's staff translated the quotation for him somewhat more prosaically, and more accurately, as "Lovers' quarrels always go with true love."
These pages tell the story of Churchill's lifelong "true love" of the United States. It was a love affair that began with his first visit to New York in 1895 and was still in evidence during his final visit in 1961. At the beginning of 1942 Churchill told King George VI that Britain and the United States "were now 'married' after many months of 'walking out.' " As with all close and sustained relationships, it was replete with ups and downs, uncertainties and disagreements, even anger, but its high points were sustained and remarkable, and of deep benefit to both nations. Churchill's determination to maintain, repair, strengthen and make full use of the ties between the two countries is unique in the annals of Anglo-American relations.
Martin Gilbert Merton College, Oxford 18 May 2005
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