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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 234–248 | Cite as

The thin end of the wedge: the British Foreign Office, the West Indies and avoiding the Destroyers-Bases Deal, 1938–1940

  • Charlie WhithamEmail author
Article

Abstract

The Destroyer-Bases Deal of September 1940 was a milestone in establishing the special Anglo-American wartime relationship. This article argues that the Deal is best understood in the wider context of British policy towards the West Indies that developed in response to several initiatives from the United States that predated the Deal. Beginning in 1938, the British Foreign Office embarked on a proactive strategy of using the West Indian colonies as bargaining counters in an effort to win American friendship but also to avoid, or at least control, creeping American influence over their far-flung possessions. This perspective better explains the policy context of the Destroyer-Bases Deal and confirms that this landmark bargain signalled not only a turning point in the war but also of British attitudes towards its Empire in the face of mounting American power.

Keywords

Anglo-American diplomacy Destroyers-Bases Deal West Indies colonial policy war debt 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The symbolic importance of the Deal is rightly noted in almost every account of the wartime Anglo-American relationship, but exclusive treatments are fewer, beginning with Phillip Goodhart’s staple Fifty Ships that Saved the World: the Foundation of the Anglo-American Alliance (London: Doubleday, 1965), and upgraded with primary sources byGoogle Scholar
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    By far the most thorough account is that of Robert Shogan, Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill’s Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency (New York: Scribner, 1995), whose primary aim was to showcase the abuse of presidential power. As such, Shogan does not analyse British decision-making as part of a process of policy formation towards the Caribbean that began years earlier.Google Scholar
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    Ian Kershaw’s Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941 (London: Allen Lane, 2007), 209-20, only summarise existing scholarship.Google Scholar
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© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for HumanitiesCardiff Metropolitan UniversityCardiffUK

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