‘A clear and gripping historical narrative. This is a highly enjoyable book, to be dipped into at bedtime, as well as an important one to be studied and pondered.’ John O’Sullivan, National Review
‘Readers familiar with the work of Andrew Roberts will know that he is one of the very best historians now working. His books on Lord Halifax, Churchill and Hitler, Napoleon and Wellington, and Waterloo all showcase his ebullient originality. His magisterial biography of the conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury is a dazzling portrait of a fascinating man whose exemplary statesmanship is too little studied by present-day conservatives. Roberts is also a prolific reviewer who brings to his reviews the same rigor and panache that he brings to his books. His latest study should delight his fans and win him many new readers. It deserves as wide a readership as it can possibly get.
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900 is a superb reappraisal of the achievements and lost opportunities of the “special relationship,” which persuasively makes the case that America and the United Kingdom are “infinitely stronger than their constituent parts”- a truth that needs retelling at a time when the freedom not only of the English-speaking peoples but of all peoples is so clearly threatened by Islamic terrorists.
What sets A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900apart is its passionate sincerity. Yes, it is admirably researched and enviably well-written. It is full of revisionist fireworks. It is, in parts, laugh-aloud funny. (See Robert’s animadversions on Harold Wilson’s foreign secretary.) 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 told Harvard in 1943: ‘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 such sentiments today is anyone’s guess but it is encouraging to have someone as capable as Andrew Roberts going to bat for them in his rousing, unputdownable, brilliant book.’ Edward Short, The Weekly Standard
‘Instead of emulating other historians who have portrayed the twentieth century as a cesspit of almost uninterrupted warfare, slaughter, and misery, Roberts snubs reproach and defeatism. His tale is of the triumph of light over the forces of darkness. He is even more at odds with his peers by identifying the common culture of the victors as the principal reason they prevailed. Eventually, Roberts says, just as historians now see no fundamental discontinuity between the republican and imperial eras of Rome, they will not see a great distinction between the British Empire-led and the American Republican-led periods of English-speaking world dominance between the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries.
This book must rank as one of the great interventions in the culture wars of the past three decades. Roberts’s assessments overturn prevailing liberal attitudes about so many contentious issues that the work amounts to a seismic shift in historical interpretation.
The author’s reputation among academic critics would not have been enhanced by George W. Bush’s disclosure in October last year that he was reading the book, nor by his gift of it to Tony Blair during a White House visit in December. Australian Prime Minister John Howard read it over the Christmas holidays. There are good reasons why any political leader of the English-speaking peoples should study this book carefully, not only to provide a perspective on his own role but also for some practical advice.
Whether the English-speaking political culture of our own time retains enough resolve to rebut its domestic detractors and pursue its Islamist attackers to a satisfactory conclusion must remain an open question for now. But the historical record that Roberts traces in this exhilarating book does not give our enemies much comfort that we won’t.’ Keith Windschuttle, The New Criterion
‘It was a good idea to bring the story up to date, and a capital one to entrust the task to Mr. Roberts, who has taken on the Churchillian mantle, if not yet as a politician, then certainly as a historian. From every point of view, Mr. Roberts stands in comparison with the giant on whose shoulders he sits. His prose is vivacious, even mischievous, and pugnacious without ever becoming tediously polemical. He has mastered a prodigious quantity of material, drawn from wide knowledge of the archival sources and the copious reading of a genuinely cultivated mind. Above all, Mr. Roberts has a cracking good tale to tell, and he tells it very well.
Mr. Roberts writes books not for specialists but for the general public, and he is successful enough to be able to subsist as a private rather than a tenured scholar. Consequently, he is free not only of academic jargon but also of the prejudices against Judaeo-Christian values that predominate in the universities of the West. Mr. Roberts has his own prejudices, of course: in favour of patriotism, and even imperialism, of the Anglo-American varieties, and against “the politics of the preemptive cringe.”
Mr. Roberts is well-known throughout the English-speaking world as a conservative, and this book will delight all who are tired of liberal narratives. In this sense, he is a revisionist – as are all conservative historians who, like him, challenge the assumption that history is a matter of impersonal abstractions – globalization, secularization, decolonization, urbanization, or any number of others – rather than of individuals and peoples.
If Mr. Roberts’s splendid and thoroughly Churchillian sequel has one overriding message, it is that the English-speaking peoples are invincible for as long as – and only for as long as – they are united in a common purpose. Hitler and Stalin both came close to world domination by exploiting trans-Atlantic divisions, and now the Islamo-fascists and their apologists in the West are playing the same game. The Anglo-Saxons are not infallible – Mr. Roberts lists “a long and at times shameful catalogue of myopia and failed statesmanship” – yet they are overwhelmingly the force for good in our world. He gives the last word to Churchill, in a speech at Harvard: “As long as we are together, nothing is impossible.” We ignore the greatest Anglo-American’s parting shot at our peril.’Daniel Johnson, The New York Sun
‘I suspect many on the left will dismiss this book as typical right-wing rodomontade, but the tremendous depth of Mr. Roberts’ scholarship will silence his critics. Like the great Athenian historian, Thucydides, who synthesized the four successive wars between Athens and Sparta into one great narrative he called “The Peloponnesian War,” Mr. Roberts does the same by taking “the four distinct but successive attacks on the security of the English-speaking peoples by Wilhelmine Germany, the Axis powers, Soviet communism and now Islamic fundamentalism” and posits that they “ought to be seen as one overall century-long struggle between the English-speaking peoples’ democratic pluralism and fascist intolerance of different varieties.”
Perhaps Mr. Roberts’ greatest skill as an historian is his creative analyses of the numbers. Like a scientist with a microscope, he studies them from all angles until they yield a never-before-seen truth.
Mr. Roberts has a touch of Shakespeare in him because he delights in offering comic relief at just the right moments to offset the horrors of history. The wit is quintessentially British-dry.
Of all the events covered in the book, it is his inspired re-creation of D-Day that stands above the rest. The calculus of the decisive battle of World War II is breathtakingly chronicled. It is without a doubt one of the most in-depth accounts on that subject ever written and could stand alone as a work of literature.
“A History of the English-speaking Peoples Since 1900” is a feel-good history, a much needed shot in the arm for all English-speaking peoples who may be inclined at the present moment to feel a bit uncomfortable about their place in the scheme of things.’Richard Horan, The Washington Times
‘This is a very stimulating and original book that combines this well-established author’s gift for careful research with his taste for rational contrariety and love of the comical and the obscure…Andrew Roberts elegantly makes the case that the United States and the old Commonwealth have carried most of the freight for Western civilization for more than a hundred years, and that is something all of those nationalities should remember with pride, and a status they should long retain. This is an excellent book.’ Conrad Black,American Spectator
Mr. Roberts elaborates Churchillian themes in a book that is both hugely entertaining and pointedly admonitory. His wide-ranging curiosity and nimble prose will captivate readers who don’t otherwise think much about 20th-century history or the imperatives of the Anglosphere. The book is a trove of anecdote, information and apothegm. Mr. Roberts’s tough-mindedness, though, also guarantees that his book will make many enemies. The guardians of established opinion will be especially displeased. Roger Kimball, The Wall Street Journal
‘Andrew Roberts is one of the most astoundingly insightful and original historians of his age. Roberts’ masterpiece – possibly the most significant book he will ever write; surely the year’s key historical publication – is an eloquent and wholly persuasive rebuttal to weaselly escapism. Roberts has carried on Churchill’s work and done the world a service.’ James Delingpole, Catholic Herald
‘Roberts boldly dons Churchill’s own mantle, setting out to continue where Churchill’s four volumes left off, which was in 1901. The mantle fits. Roberts’s bulldog style makes a refreshing change from those historians who would prefer to apologise for the misdeeds of British and American imperialism. And there is substance to his thesis. In Andrew Roberts, the Anglo-American(-Australian-Canadian-Kiwi) Special Relationship has found an advocate of Churchillian eloquence. It has seldom needed one more.’ Professor Niall Ferguson, Mail on Sunday
‘With much of the West engaged in self-flagellation and a baffling inability to recognise a mounting threat in its midst, Andrew Roberts steps into the fray with a trenchant, timely and powerfully Churchillian defence of the Anglo-American world.’ Justin Marozzi, The Sunday Telegraph
‘Magnificently provoking. … A worthy successor to Churchill’s history of the same subject. … This is not a book for those who like their history written in various shades of apologetic grey. This is history written with the author’s heart on his sleeve. This is a work of astonishing range and depth, combining as it does a polemical flair with sure-footed scholarship. It disinters a recent past that it then re-interpreted to exhilarating – and very contemporary – effect. Macaulay could not have done it better himself.’ Hywel Williams, New Statesman
‘Macaulay hoped that his History of England would replace the latest novel on drawing room tables, and it may well have done so. Andrew Roberts may harbour a similar ambition, and find it fulfilled. Certainly this book is more entertaining than many novels. It is a splendid example of Whig history, a patriotic history as lively and partisan as Macaulay’s: full of detail, enlivened by brilliant pen-portraits, opinionated and provocative. It will have some readers purring in happy agreement, and others tearing their hair in fury.’Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
‘Roberts’s masterful history takes up where Churchill left off in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. It accomplishes what Paul Johnson so often accomplishes, giving the conservative side of history with fact and elegance.’ Robert E. Tyrrell’s Book of the Year in The American Spectator
‘This book is deeply researched, very well written and full of fresh thinking. Roberts has spread his scholarely net far and wide, catching minnows and leviathans in the process. … Andrew Roberts has written an extraordinarily wide-ranging, stimulating and necessary book. We should be grateful for that.’ Denis Judd, History Today
‘This book takes no prisoners. It is a bold, uncompromising trumpet blast in celebration of the political, economic and cultural achievements of the English-Speaking Peoples in the 20th century and until the present day. … Roberts is never without a trenchant opinion or a scathing denunciation of humbug. In robust prose and armed with immense learning, he is always readable and never loses sight of his overarching theme.’ Christopher Silvester, Daily Express
‘This book makes exhilarating reading if you believe all has been and remains right with the world as long as the English-speaking peoples are in charge.’ Peter Lewis, Daily Mail
‘With passion and scholarship, the historian Andrew Roberts embraces the faith of Winston Churchill that the English speaking peoples are “ the last best hope of mankind.” He has Churchillian courage. This is manifest not only in daring to compress in 650 pages a century of endeavour in the four continents nourished by the English disaspora (by comparison with the four volumes Churchill required to reach the death of Queen Victoria.) He is as unafraid in his selections and his judgments and characterizations. He marches vigorously into minefields of controversy, marshaling his evidence and his sequences with great skill. Throughout he is cogent in argument and lucid in his prose. He has to be highly selective, but he seizes the summits from which we can contemplate an amazing panorama: the light of knowledge where there was the darkness of ignorance, reason where there were the mists of superstition, triumph in the havoc of war, new vistas of freedom and decency, and altogether the advancement of civilization. Given the confusions of multiculturalism in England, the irresolution in the face of a new Islamic totalitarianism, and the widespread resurgence of a puerile anti-Americanism, here is a history that is as timely as it is valuable. Churchill asked in 1941, what kind of people do they think we are? Here is an answer.’Harold Evans, Author of The American Century
‘Andrew Roberts’s account of the two successive Anglo-Saxon global powers exchanging the baton sometime during World War Two, could not be more timely. A passionate English patriot, Roberts has produced a brilliant revisionist history of the English-speaking peoples which deserves to be put into the hands of every teenager, but which has so much detailed substance that any adult not stupefied by Big Brother will revel in it too, not least the author’s use of the betting books of the Beefsteak and Brooks’s as a commentary on how London ‘clubbistas’ viewed world affairs. Technically speaking, the book is no mean feat of editorial imagination, since despite his modest avowals of arbitrary idiosyncracy, Roberts provides simultaneous narratives of the countries where English is the dominant language (Australia, Canada, Great Britain, the Anglophone Caribbean, New Zealand, and the USA) as well as marvelously provocative accounts of major events and common civilisational traits. A Maori spokesmen expressed this very well in 1918 as he outlined why his people had fought so courageously for the British Crown:
‘We know of the Samoans, our kin: we know of the Eastern and Western natives of German Africa, and we know of the extermination of the Hereros, and that is enough for us. For seventy-eight years we have been, not under the rule of the British, but taking part in the ruling of ourselves, and we know by experience that the foundations of British sovereignty are based upon the eternal principles of liberty, equity and justice’.
Indeed, the alacrity with which people from around the world rushed to support Britain in various hours of peril is probably the most moving theme in the book, taking all of seventy-five minutes in the case of Australia’s prime minister Robert Menzies following intelligence of Neville Chamberlain’s announcement of war with Nazi Germany in September 1939. What they were ready to defend was eloquently expressed by Churchill three years later:
‘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’.
The book gives a real sense of place, no mean achievement given the enormous distances (and size) of many of the countries he has on his huge canvas. Having recently been to Newcastle, NSW I was grateful to Roberts for an account of that great coal exporting port that was more vivid than my own photographs. Law and language receive generous attention; literature and Christianity (especially in its specific Anglican forms) are handled more fitfully, although Roberts is excellent on the corrosive anglophobic output of one influential Los Angeles suburb-Hollywood.
Speaking of Anglophobia, at virtually all times, English-speaking Ireland consists of a dismally mean-minded and resentful counterpoint to the general evolution of the ‘Anglosphere’, one of the many refreshing and robustly argued opinions with which Roberts’s book abounds. These will occasion much incensed scurrying in academia, the last demented redoubt for views not generally held by those without tenure. Of this self-serving racket Roberts observes: ‘Since the 1960s the universities across the English-speaking world have seen department after department captured by the radical Left, whose grip on appointments and tenured posts has been near impossible to loosen, even after the collapse of communism across Europe in 1989’.
Not much of the left-liberal creed of cultural self-repudiation remains intact after Roberts has sliced and slashed his way through. He brings a healthy scepticism to bear on various supranational endeavours, from the League of Nations to the UN via the European Union. From concentration camps in the Boer War to the ‘gulag’ of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Roberts soberly rejects all arguments that strive for moral equivalence between aberrations and what in the case of the totalitarian regimes was calculated and systemic, resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people rather than a few naked Iraqis being arranged for the cameras of Appalachian morons. He is devastating on the subject of an entire cast of cynically gullible stooges, including George Bernard Shaw, Walter Duranty, Christopher Hill, Jane Fonda, and, inevitably, Eric Hobsbawm. He defends the use of atomic weapons against the Japanese, the Vietnam and Falklands wars, the state of Israel, and makes one of the best cases I have read for the second coalition campaign against Iraq.
The book is rich in vivid characterizations of the major players. Roberts clearly admires three US presidents the Left loves to loath- Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush, while being relatively critical of Kennedy and Clinton, the latter culpably responsible for doing next to nothing to eradicate Al Qaeda. More locally, Roberts is comprehensively damning of Mountbatten, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, and John Major, while recognizing fellow patriots in Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, along with Australia’s John Howard, the best living exponents of the Churchillian creed of sticking fast to America without forfeiting one’s independence. This is a richly exuberant book by one of the Anglosphere’s most accomplished historians; that it won’t go down well with the Guardian, New York Times, or Sydney Morning Herald is all the greater recommendation for it.’ Michael Burleigh in The Literary Review, September 2006
‘Engaging, entertaining, and opinionated, Andrew Roberts’ new book is a brisk tour through the epic years of the 20th century. Churchill would have approved of Roberts’ style, which is anything but bland. Readers will find much to think about in these pages, and much to argue with; depending on your point of view, Roberts can be illuminating or infuriating – and sometimes both at once.’Jon Meacham, Editor of Newsweek
‘Thought-provoking, erudite, and opinionated in the best sense of the term, Andrew Roberts boldly picks up where Winston Churchill left off and provides a sweeping history of the great struggles of the last century. Always unabashed and interesting, Roberts is one of Britain’s most talented young historians, and in these pages, American readers will delight in discovering him.’ Jay Winik, author of April 1865
‘In an earlier age, it was often said that to be born an Englishman was to have won first prize in the lottery of life. Roberts’s vision is a more inclusive one: he bestows that birthright on everybody born into the English-speaking peoples, and he is willing, even eager, to share his bounty with all who deserve it.’ Brendan Simms, The Evening Standard
‘The so-called Special Relationship between the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is alive and well in this elegantly written interpretive history. By focusing on why English has become the dominant language in the world British historian Andrew Roberts shines a fresh light on today’s geopolitical realities. A truly smart and important book.’ Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Tulane University and author ofThe Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
‘Roberts has not written a Whig history. In the history of the English-speaking peoples, there are severe failures as well as successes. Nevertheless, the important question – and the defining one for the next decade of British and American politics – is how we put things right. To that end, one of the unifying themes in this book is that it is when we have retreated from the world that we have been at our worst and our weakest: the appeasement of the 1930s, the malaise that set in after the Suez debacle and the failure to prevent genocide on our doorstep in Europe in the 1990s. It is, moreover, no coincidence that these moments have coincided with the lowest ebbs in our relationship to the United States. Tellingly, the most scathing critiques are reserved for the Major government of the early 1990s and, in particular, its spectacular failure to intervene to prevent the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men at Srebrenica in July 1995. Now that some of the foreign policy “sages” from this era of laissez-faire little England conservatism are back in vogue, Roberts’s work serves as a timely reminder of why things changed in the first place.’ John Bew, Social Affairs Unit Web Review
‘If the title appears grandiloquent, it is meant to be. This is not so much a history as a call to arms. Andrew Roberts has clothed himself in the mantle of Winston Churchill and picks up where Churchill left off. The united phalanx of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, he declaims, has saved the world in ‘one overall, century-long struggle between the English-speaking people’s democratic pluralism and fascist intolerance of different varieties’: Prussian imperialism, Nazism, Soviet communism and now the ‘feudal, theocratic, tribal, obscurantist’ challenge of Islamic fundamentalism.’ Tim Gardam, The Observer
‘Andrew Roberts covers an immense range of topics with a highly readable style and does so with almost surgical precision. Roberts cleverly identifies four external assaults on the English-speaking peoples over the past century. Three of these have been successfully and principally overcome by them acting in unity: Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany and Soviet Communism. The fourth, Islamicist terrorism, is still being confronted, but it must fall to the English-speaking peoples to see the struggle through to a successful conclusion. This can be seen as a magnum opus (it took four years to write) and an absorbing, worthy follow-up to Sir Winston’s own four volumes.’ Paul Courtenay, ‘Finest Hour‘ (magazine of the International Churchill Society)
‘To continue the great work of Winston Churchill is a mighty challenge, but Andrew Roberts carries it off brilliantly. Like Churchill, Roberts is a fearless writer.’ Tim Newark, Military Illustrated
‘This history of the English-Speaking Peoples contains many good things, including a perceptive, revisionist account of Suez. It is beautifully written and will be widely read.’ Vernon Bogdanor, The Financial Times