The Magazine

Not So Special

Why the author doesn’t like Churchill’s ‘History of the English-Speaking Peoples.’

Sep 24, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 02 • By EDWARD SHORT
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Yet there is something even more distasteful about his handling of the “special relationship.” After calling Churchill’s respect for Anglo-American collaboration into question, he suggests that Churchill advocated this collaboration “to turn his soft words into hard cash, dollars and pounds alike.” Here, perhaps, is more envy than spite: As Clarke himself documents, Churchill was consistently well paid for his work, but that is no reason to insinuate that he only advocated the “special relationship”—or any opinion or policy—to swell his bank balance. 

Clarke may flail at Churchill for not paying attention to his publisher’s deadlines, or for failing to deliver on its agreed scope at a time when he was defending Britain against the full fury of Nazi aggression. But he cannot fault him for casting aspersions on the character of those with whom he disagreed. The eloquent eulogy that Churchill delivered in the House of Commons on the death of Neville Chamberlain was moving proof of that. In the meantime, readers seeking a more balanced and incisive study of the “special relationship” should repair to Andrew Roberts’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 (2007), which nicely exposes the sophisticated cynicism that is evident on nearly every page of Mr. Churchill’s Profession.

Edward Short is the author of Newman and His Contemporaries and the forthcoming Newman and His Family.