Journalist and historian Moss (Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain, and the Fateful Summer of 1940, 2003, etc.) examines the years 1946-49, when the United States assumed the role of world leader.
The end of World War II brought about many significant questions. Would Britain remain a world power? Would the Russians, America’s uneasy wartime ally, remain friendly? Would Europe, devastated in nearly every way, simply go belly up? Would Germany revert to its warlike ways? Would America return to its traditional isolationism? We know now that the answer to all these questions was a resounding “no,” but at the time the contours of any new world order remained unclear. Readers deeply interested in the period should look elsewhere for detail, but Moss’s nutshell version of the creation of the postwar world includes all the major events and cites all the crucial players. Though he alludes to other global episodes that played a role—Mao’s assumption of power in China, the Soviet acquisition of the nuclear bomb, the fighting in Palestine between Arabs and Jews—the author focuses on Europe and the transfer of power from Britain to the United States. Moss offers a close-up view of the ravaged British economy, the war weariness of the people and the initial reluctance, then resignation, with which Britain, loath to think itself so weak, passed the baton to the Americans. Against the backdrop of the nascent Cold War, through the Marshall Plan and NATO and out of motives both humanitarian and self-interested, America inserted itself into European affairs with characteristic enthusiasm and cultural insensitivity. Moss adroitly conveys the mixture of relief, resentment, awe and dismay that this shift engendered, noting that while U.S. military, cultural and economic dominance abides, the mantle of global leadership still rests uneasily on American shoulders.
A handy guide to the creation of a world order that remains, in many respects, undisturbed.