The Magazine

Hands Across the Sea

America, Britain, and the defense of freedom.

Mar 19, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 26 • By EDWARD SHORT
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What sets A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 apart is its passionate sincerity. Yes, it is admirably researched and enviably well-written; it is full of revisionist fireworks. It is, in parts, laugh-out-loud funny. (See Roberts's animadversions on Harold Wilson's foreign secretary, George Brown.) But it is also a cry from the heart. Roberts believes in Anglo-American collaboration because he believes in freedom. He believes in what Churchill said at the 1943 Harvard commencement:

Law, language, literature--these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all a love of personal freedom . . . these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples . . . Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal . . .

What Harvard would make of this now is anybody's guess, but how refreshing to read Andrew Roberts defend it today in this rousing, brilliant, irresistible book.

Edward Short is the author of a forthcoming book about John Henry Newman and his contemporaries.