Simon Heffer

Decline and Fall

The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire

By

Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 559pp £25 order from our bookshop

The endless fascination with the military events that brought about the end of the Second World War has perhaps disguised the importance of the diplomatic and political ones that ran concurrent with them. Peter Clarke’s book, as its title suggests, deals with one particular legacy of the denouement: how Britain’s empire became not just politically untenable (there had been plenty of signs of that in India for the preceding quarter-century) but economically unviable. In a way the title is misleading: there is much less emphasis on the dismantling of empire in the text than one might expect. What is dealt with in much greater detail are the international political processes that drove the final nails into Britain’s coffin as a leading world power, notably the relations between the ‘Big Three’ of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill. After Clarke has told that particular story, the decline of Britain as an imperial power comes as no surprise at all.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter