In This Review

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
By Andrew Roberts
HarperCollins, 2007, 752 pp

This misnamed book is likely to be remembered chiefly as the last time a serious author attempted to write an Anglocentric history of the twentieth century. Minor episodes in British history enthrall him; major developments elsewhere are passed over in silence. Less a systematic history than a collection of sketches and episodes, the book will introduce a new generation of American readers to a British imperial sensibility that most thought had vanished long ago. For Roberts, Irish independence is a tragedy, India a ghastly mistake. The "Special Relationship" (Roberts always refers to it in capital letters) is seen as a central feature not only of British but also of U.S. foreign policy. George W. Bush is a hero; the invasion of Iraq was just what Winston Churchill would have done. Although this is a sometimes slapdash, sometimes infuriating book, Roberts' learning and wit keep the reader turning the pages. One sputters in indignation, one snorts in disbelief, one rolls one's eyes at the logrolling and the score settling, but one is never bored.