The twenty-first of February 1947 marked a signal moment in the history of the British Empire. Britain told the USA that it would no longer pay for Greece, where the British had been supporting the royalist, anti-communist side. Greece had mattered because of its crucial role in Britain’s communications with India. To keep the country within Britain’s influence, Churchill had even struck a bargain with Stalin in 1944, in effect recognising Stalin’s control of the rest of eastern Europe in exchange for a free hand in Greece. When the Greek communists appealed to Stalin for help, they got none. But Greece was complicated and expensive, and by February 1947 the British had had enough of imperial problems. They had been wrestling with the Indian one and were also trying to keep the peace between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. British finances were a mess and on top of everything else the domestic winter was one of the worst ever: the British people were freezing and constantly hungry. The Americans were the only hope. In March 1947 they agreed to help out in Greece. In June they went much further and launched the Marshall Plan, offering a huge sum to aid the reconstruction of western Europe.
Most writers regard this as the moment when the American Rome took over from the British Greece. In The Audit of War (1986) Correlli Barnett wrote less than respectfully of the British economic war effort and in The Lost Victory (1995) was scornful of the sheer waste involved in Great