Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain's place 1900-1975

by D. Cameron Watt

David Carlton | Published in

D. Cameron Watt (or plain Donald Watt as some of us used to know him) is a most respectable fellow. A pillar of Chatham House and holder of the Stevenson Chair of International History in the University of London, he would no doubt hate to be mistaken for a British Gaullist or a radical critic of the Atlanticist consensus. But such is his honesty and integrity as an historian that he has now given us an analysis of the history of the Anglo-American relationship that is certain to produce chortles of sardonic delight in Paris should a translation be issued (as I trust will happen).

Largely based on the Wiles Lectures delivered in 1981 by the author at Queen's University, Belfast, this book is international history at its best. Against all his instincts Professor Watt is driven to acknowledge how little substance there has usually been to the 'Special Relationship' and how strikingly self-serving and unsentimental most American policy-makers were when they contemplated the future of the British Empire. The common language evidently did not help much. For Presidents as different as Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower refused to show any preference for London over Paris and indeed, maddeningly, tended to bracket them together. For example, Professor Watt quotes Wilson as having written in July 1917: 'England and France have not the same view with regard to peace that we have by any means. When the war is over we can force them to our way of thinking, because by that time they will, among other thing, be financially in our hands'.

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