In November 1945, Churchill was invited to give one of a series of annual lectures at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri. The letter of invitation was annotated by President Truman who offered to introduce Churchill, and therefore guaranteed a high profile event.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
Churchill, 5 March 1946
Churchill’s speech, given on 5 March 1946, was to prove enormously influential. Originally entitled ‘The Sinews of Peace’, it became better known as the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech because of his use of a phrase now in common use. This was Churchill’s first public declaration of the Cold War, in which he warned the western world about the ‘iron curtain’ that was descending over Europe, drawn down by the Russians, and called for greater Anglo-US cooperation, in what he called a ‘special relationship’, in the battle against Soviet expansionism. Click here to see Churchill give this speech in the presence of US President Harry S. Truman.
Kevin Ruane, Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War, Bloomsbury, 2016, 402 pages, $34.95. ISBN 978–1472523389
Review by Christopher Sterling
Chris Sterling, recently retired after thirty-five years of teaching and administration at George Washington University, is a frequent reviewer for Finest Hour.
One of those relatively rare academic writers who can make document-based research both readable and interesting (and I say that as a retired academic), Kevin Ruane takes his readers back to the 1940–55 era of rapid atomic and thermonuclear weapon development to illustrate just how dominant fear of the bomb was in policymaking circles. He centers his history on the socalled “special relationship” between the US and Britain, though for much of this period, “special” meant precious little, as the British quickly learned.
Following by only three years Graham Farmelo’s well-received Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (Basic Books, 2013) [Reviewed in FH 162], Ruane had a difficult task on his hands. The two British authors take a different approach to their accounts of the same period and people. For one thing, Farmelo is a physicist, while Ruane is an historian. The differences in their studies build on the authors’ academic training by emphasizing different aspects of the complex story. Briefly, Farmelo focuses more on the scientists who did the work while, Ruane centers his study on Churchill himself.
Ruane sees Churchill as playing three related yet quite different roles: the “bomb-maker” during the Second World War; the “atomic diplomatist” during the decade after 1945; and the “nuclear peacemaker” toward the end of his second period as prime minister (1951– 55). His well-written study melds Churchill and key figures close to him—Frederick Lindemann (the “Prof” as the simplifier of complex technologies), Anthony Eden (frustrated by years of waiting for Churchill to retire), Sir John Anderson (chief official of the British “tube alloys” research), Roosevelt (the American president with on-again, off-again views on working with the British in tube alloys), and many others on both sides of the Atlantic.
Richard Crowder, Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World, London and New York: I. B.Tarus, 2015, xii + 308 pages, $35. IBSN 978-1784531027
Most histories of the early Cold War, especially those written by Americans, give center stage to US statesmen, notably Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, and George Marshall. Richard Crowder, a youngish British diplomat educated at Oxford and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, focuses his engagingly readable account on the other side of the Atlantic. His narrative provides equal time to such British figures as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, and Duff Cooper. It also gives more attention to continental European leaders than they customarily receive.
It is significant that a Labour government led Britain into the Cold War with remarkably little internal dissent. Bevin, a former trade union leader with a rudimentary formal education was at first glance an unlikely foreign secretary. He is perhaps too easily caricatured. The author quotes him as telling the eminent career diplomat Gladwyn Jebb, “Must be kinda queer for a chap like you to see a chap like me sitting in a chair like this….Ain’t never ’appened before in ’istory” (120). At times Bevin could be too rough and blunt for his own good— as when, in an incident Mr. Cooper passes over, he accused American leaders of supporting mass Jewish immigration to Palestine because “they did not want too many of them in New York” (quoted in Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis, 317). Read More >
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