To Keep the British Isles Afloat
FDR's Men in Churchill's London, 1941
By Thomas Parrish
(Smithsonian, Hardcover, 9780061357930, 336pp.)
Publication Date: May 2009
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An inside look at the work and adventures of Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman in the creation of history's most remarkable international partnership
After the fall of France in June 1940, London became the center of world political theater. For the U.S. president, the vital question was: could Britain, with American help, hold out against the might of Nazi Germany? While keeping the United States officially neutral, Franklin D. Roosevelt devised an unprecedented strategy, leading to the revolutionary idea of lend-lease. But was Winston Churchill—famous as a speechmaker but regarded by many as a reckless politician and possibly a drunk—a good bet? To find the answer, Roosevelt dispatched his closest associate, Harry Hopkins, to Britain on a mission. Hopkins's endorsement of Churchill put an end to FDR's doubts, and with the passage of the Lend-Lease Act the president sent Averell Harriman, a wealthy financier and entrepreneur, to London "to keep the British Isles afloat." For Harriman, the assignment turned out to be the great adventure of a remarkable life.
Filled with vivid details and great storytelling, To Keep the British Isles Afloat explores the still-misunderstood beginnings of the unique Anglo-American alliance in World War II, offering an intriguing new look at Roosevelt's thinking and a fresh perspective on the relationship between the president and the prime minister.
Thomas Parrish is the author of a number of distinguished popular histories, including Berlin in the Balance, The Submarine: A History, and Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War. He lives in Berea, Kentucky.
“Thomas Parrish’s account of Anglo-American relations in 1941 is a carefully researched and deftly written slice of history showing FDR’s hidden hand at work. It is a lesson on the virtues of diplomacy.”
-Ted Morgan, author of CHURCHILL
Parrish’s book brings Hopkins and Harriman vividly to life--each was indeed a character, and the author’s perception of FDR’s thinking is exceptionally sensitive. For historians most useful. For the rest of us a very good read, a page turner for me.
-Curtis Roosevelt, author of TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN: Growing Up in the Shadow of my Grandparents, Franklin and Eleanor
“A vivid portrait of crucial maneuverings in the most crucial yet little-noted of years, Thomas Parrish’s new book…offers a fresh look at how Churchill’s Britain survived while Roosevelt’s America moved ever so slowly toward forming what became the Grand Alliance.”
-Jon Meacham, author of FRANKLIN AND WINSTON
“In an engaging, and authoritative voice, Thomas Parrish vividly depicts Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman, and delineates their crucial role in saving Great Britain and, thus, America during the early part of World War II. This book shines a new light on Franklin Roosevelt and his partnership with Winston Churchill”
-Will Swift, author of THE KENNEDYS AMIDST THE GATHERING STORM
“Plays a valuable role in highlighting an often overlooked period of the Second World War, after the Battle of Britain but before Pearl Harbor, when President Roosevelt struggled to find and implement a policy of all possible material aid and support short of American military involvement and war.
-Alan Packwood, Director, The Churchill Archives Centre
“Parrish is a skilled writer, adept at conveying an authentic sense of the prevailing atmosphere...1941 is the compelling story here, now illuminated by this account of the successful efforts of two pathfinding American statesmen to help bring the liberal democracies together.”
-Fraser Harbutt, Department of History, Emory University, author of The Iron Curtain
Parrish, the author of several books about World War II, uses Clare Booth to back into his thesis that a sleepy, isolationist America needed to be roused, and that Roosevelt relied on two remarkable men – Hopkins and Harriman – to help sound the alarm and secure aid for Britain.
-New York Times Book Review