America and Britain at Peace and War
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 Britain's former ambassador to the US attempts a comprehensive survey of Anglo-American diplomatic relations. Renwick gets off to a bad start by first declaring himself unwilling to attempt an ``interpretation'' of the history of relations between the US and Great Britain, and then embarking on a summary history of those relations since the War of 1812. Facts have to be put in order, and putting them in order is a matter of interpretation. So what we get is interpretation after all, and Sir Robin's account of events before WW II combines conventional history at the textbook level with mistakes based on wishful thinking. An example of the latter is his assertion that everyone in Great Britain was united behind a desire to see slavery eliminated from the American South at the time of the Civil War. The narrative becomes more lively with the advent of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and gets better as we approach the present. Sir Robin obviously believes that things have turned out well, despite some close calls. His blow-by-blow approach to history helps to make sense of the misunderstandings that led to the Suez crisis of 1956. But even in his account of recent events, the author's insistence on disguising his own point of view behind a bland narrative interferes with opportunities to make the book interesting. Whether dealing with the broad sweep of 19th-century history, or the intimate personal relationships that have forged Anglo-American diplomacy during the last half-century, Sir Robin's attempt to let the facts speak for themselves does little to help readers understand the true nature of America's special relationship with Great Britain. One is left wishing for a more assertive, and personal, history of Anglo-American relations since 1940.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8129-2709-5
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996