Big Man to Uncle Joe

Max Hastings

  • The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt edited by David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechatnov
    Yale, 660 pp, £25.00, October, ISBN 978 0 300 22682 9

Winston Churchill was the dominant personality on the allied side in the Second World War: not the leader of the most important belligerent, nor even the most influential warlord in the Grand Alliance, but the most significant human being. His prodigious literary skills afterwards enabled him, thanks to the writing, publication and long-lasting celebrity of his war memoirs, immensely to distort the conflict’s historiography. He presented an image of the Western powers fighting shoulder to shoulder that was at odds with the reality of two nations with widely differing war aims: the British sought to sustain themselves as an imperial power, while the United States was indifferent to the drastic shrinkage of Britain’s wealth, and sought an end to all European empires, confident in the durability of its own. Churchill’s account also understated the Soviet Union’s contribution to Hitler’s defeat, and misrepresented the British relationship with Moscow.

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