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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: The Demise of a Superpower, 1944-47 Kindle Edition
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But, a very minor point and this book deserves to be widely read.
The Last Thousand Days is well written, and a lucid analysis of a critical phase in modern British history.
Clarke dates the end of the British Empire as the date of Indian Independence, and so the last thousand days spans the second world war from late 1944 through to mid-1947. Churchill does not appear as the all-conquering titan that he does in many other accounts. Clarke presents him as a very human-figure, and as he perceptively points out is much the stronger for it. Clarke also draws entertaining portraits of the major players determining British policy during this period and succeeds in pulling together many strands - negotiation between the Big Three, disagreements over the future of Palestine, attempts to create a workable solution in India that would prevent partition - to create a dramatic but insightful narrative.
His central argument though - that the cost of American involvement in the war put Britain in an economic position that made the end of Empire inevitable - is well argued and compelling. Churchill not only lacked the foresight to perceive what the impact of the Lend-Lease terms were, but along with British officials ignored issues they knew would create difficulties in the hope that they would be resolved in Britain's favour at a crunch moment. This is a well-argued book and definitely worth investigation.
Clem Attlee recognised the denouement more clearly than Churchill, who was still impassioned with the rhetoric of Empire, and at Potsdam philosophically referred to "the way the course of the war had dealt the cards". The shadow of decline is a long one, stretching beyond the end of Churchill's Iron Curtain to more modern events in Iraq and Afghanistan and the British, long betrayed by forces within and without the country, have yet to find their way.
I read the book and drew new perceptions of Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Bradley and began to realise that there were two distinct wars fought between 1939 and 1945. The first, the war for Britain and Western Europe's survival, was fought from 1939 to 1942. The second, which resulted in Britain's destruction as a world power and the oppression of most of Eastern Europe, was fought from 1942 to 1945. Britain survived the Nazis and guaranteed the liberation of Western Europe, only to be destroyed by enemies masquerading as friends. The two emergent superpowers of 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union, who between them thrust Britain into post-war impotence, soon fell out and Eastern Europe had to endure another 40 years before its final liberation. An excellent book. Highly recommended.
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