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

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9781596915312: The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana
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A sweeping, brilliantly vivid history of the sudden end of the British Empire and the moment when America became a world superpower―published on the sixtieth anniversary of Britain's withdrawal from Palestine.
"I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire." Winston Churchill's famous statement in 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 global 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 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.

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About 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.

From 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)
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