The British Between the Superpowers, 1945-1950

In This Review

The British Between the Superpowers, 1945-1950

By Elisabeth Barker
University of Toronto Press, 1983
270 pp. $20.00
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Elisabeth Barker, a well-known correspondent who was with the BBC and the Political Warfare Executive during the war, reconstructs Britain's role in the first postwar years, almost entirely on the basis of just released Cabinet and Foreign Office papers. A scholarly and readable survey that portrays Britain's travail: its power shrunken, its strategic and economic commitments at odds, and its two former allies often suspicious and difficult-a fact that was largely kept from the public during the war. Ernest Bevin's realism, often couched in his triumphantly idiosyncratic style, found early expression in his memorandum of March 1946: "Without our physical presence in the Mediterranean, we should cut little ice in those states which would fall, like Eastern Europe, under the totalitarian yoke. . . . If we move out of the Mediterranean, Russia will move in."