In This Review

The Rise and Fall of a National Strategy, 1945-63
The Rise and Fall of a National Strategy, 1945-63
Edited by Alan Milward
Frank Cass, 2002, 512 pp

Milward, a historian of European integration, examines here the "national strategy" set by the Labour government following World War II and the turbulent relationship between the United Kingdom and the continental powers. In contrast to Tory critics of British policy, Milward believes that these British leaders had no illusions of grandeur. Rather, they wanted to prepare an orderly retreat from the United Kingdom's past position as a great power to that of a middle power, and they thought they could get good terms from their partners by using British assets while they lasted. Although they resisted being locked up in a Europe moving toward federalism, they wanted military security and prosperity drawn from a close association with Europe. But this "rational way" did not pay off, Milward concludes, for a variety of economic and political reasons. The author's thesis is valiant but not fully convincing, especially in his discussion of how the United Kingdom failed to grasp the implications of its economic decline. Nor does he examine in depth the mix of British prejudices and procrastination in confronting Europe's economic power bloc. Instead, the nation still clings to the conviction that the United Kingdom can remain a strategic partner of a hegemonic United States while participating in the creation of a European entity whose ambitions were always more than economic. Whatever one concludes, this is the most comprehensive work on the subject to date.