Andrew Roberts: Newsweek celebrates his history of English-speaking peoples

Historians in the News

A new book assessing the Anglo-American alliance picks up where Churchill's 'A History of the English-Speaking Peoples' left off.


The last time the United States and Britain threatened to go to war against each other was in 1895. As European powers raced to expand their empires, Britain coveted a mineral-rich slice of Venezuela along the border of its colony British Guiana. Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, President Grover Cleveland vowed to "resist by every means" British adventuring in the Caribbean. The prospect of taking on Britain thrilled some jingoistic Americans, including Theodore Roosevelt, who was at the time a New York City police commissioner. "Let the fight come if it must," he wrote to his friend Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge. "I don't care whether the seacoast cities are bombarded or not; we would take Canada."

Fighting a war with England, whose Navy floated 55 battleships against America's three, because of a border dispute in Venezuela was a preposterous idea. (TR was still going through the Sturm und Drang period of adolescence, explained philosopher William James.) Both governments calmed down when Britain realized it faced a bigger threat—Germany—to the British Empire's designs on Africa.

The naval bombardment of New York thus averted, British and American leaders saw that their peoples were better served as partners than rivals. So began the "Special Relationship." The partnership has been a good thing for much of the rest of the world, argues Andrew Roberts in his new book, "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900." Roberts takes his inspiration from Winston Churchill's four-volume work by the same title. Churchill's history ended in 1901, just at the beginning of the high age of the English-speaking peoples (defined as nations in which a majority are English-speakers). The idea is redolent of Mahan, Kipling and imperialism; even the most devoted adherents of the Anglo-American world view are hard pressed to square the English-speaking peoples' love of liberty and the rule of law with the condescending and cruel racial views that prevailed in London and Washington in the age Churchill and now Roberts have so lovingly chronicled....
Read entire article at Evan Thomas in a two-page spread in Newsweek

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