“That Hell-hole Of Yours”

In 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Britain’s poorest, most dismal African colony, and what he saw there fired him with a fervor that helped found the United Nations

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not look favorably on European colonialism. Like most Americans, he believed that the self-determination clause of the 1941 Atlantic Charter should apply to all peoples, not just Europeans. In the war’s early years he so disagreed with Britain’s prime minister, Winston Churchill, on the future of the British Empire that the two heads of state tacitly agreed to avoid discussing the topic.Read more »

Are We Really Going The Way Of The British Empire?

Those who believe America’s power is on the wane look to the example of Britain’s shockingly quick collapse. But the similarities may be less alarming than they seem.

In 1987 Paul Kennedy published his eighth book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. The first seven had established his reputation as an admirably capable professional historian, and he was pleasantly surprised when this one became celebrated far outside academic precincts. He also must have been astonished when he found himself the object of political invective. Read more »

Men Of The Revolution: 15. Frederick Mackenzie

Of the British officers who served in America during the Revolution, the names Howe and Clinton, Burgoyne and Cornwallis, are the ones that echo across the years. There is some irony to this, since none of those captains—with the possible exception of Cornwallis—had any notable claim to posterity’s attention for their accomplishments on this side of the Atlantic. Yet just as they had in their day the perquisites of rank, so they were accorded the privilege of fame. Read more »

England’s Vietnam: The American Revolution

A domino theory, distant wilderness warfare, the notion of “defensive enclaves,” hawks, doves, hired mercenaries, possible intervention by hostile powers, a Little trouble telling friendly natives from unfriendly—George III went through the whole routine

If it is true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, America’s last three Presidents might have profited by examining the ghostly footsteps of America’s last king before pursuing their adventure in Vietnam. As the United States concludes a decade of war in Southeast Asia, it is worth recalling the time, two centuries ago, when Britain faced the same agonizing problems in America that we have met in Vietnam.Read more »

Of Raleigh And The First Plantation

The Elizabethans and America: Part II -- The fate of the Virginia Colony rested on the endurance of adventurers, the financing of London merchants, and the favor of a courtier with his demanding spinster Queen.

In the marvelous 1580s everything was beginning to ripen together in the heat of the tension between England and Spain. Poetry and the drama that had been so sparse and backward were coming to a head with Sidney and Spenser and Marlowe; the first Elizabethan madrigals appear in the very year the war against Spain begins. And this is the moment when the idea of American colonization takes shape and wing—or, perhaps I should say, takes sail.

The Elizabethans And America

“To push back the consciousness of American beginnings, beyond Jamestown, beyond the Pilgrims, to the highwater mark of the Elizabethan Age” -- Part One of a New Series.

With this account of the Great Queen and her captains and their struggle to master a great prize—the New World—we commence a series of articles specially prepared for AMERICAN HERITAGE by A. L. Rowse, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of many distinguished books, among them The England of Elizabeth. The series is based on Dr. Rowse’s recent George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures, given at Cambridge University and named for the dean of British historians.Read more »

The Battle That Won An Empire

By a brilliant maneuver young James Wolfe conquered “impregnable” Quebec—and secured North America for the English-speaking peoples

“This will, some time hence, be a vast empire, the seat of power and learning. … Nature has refused them nothing, and there will grow a people out of our little spot, England, that will fill this vast space, and divide this great portion of the globe with the Spaniards, who are possessed of the other half.”

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The Writing Of History

An English Authority Compares British and American Viewpoints

As I write this, crowds of sidewalk superintendents are peering down at the foundations of a great new office building to be erected on a bombed site in the heart of the City of London. What has drawn the crowds is the discovery, in the excavations, of a Second Century temple to Mithras, the God of Light so widely worshiped in the Roman army; the discovery not only of a “Mithraeum” but of the fragments of a fine statue. It is safe to say that few Londoners had heard of Mithras a week or two ago, and that what draws them is not any very scientific spirit. But their sudden wave of curiosity, the sudden, possibly a little artificial, indignation at the impending bulldozing of the site, reflect very well the English attitude to history: that is, a deep, reverential sense of unity with a remote past. This was Londinium; this is London.Read more »