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Here's a book that does not break much new ground, but is still unique and extremely useful. Ms Burk appears to be the first historian to present a complete history of social and political relations between England and America over the past four centuries. It is a task that requires a synthesis of enormous amounts of material and the resulting book is monumental, though predictably somewhat uneven. If you were coming to the material totally ignorant of American and British history you'd get your entire education here.

However, if you're familiar with either or both the level of detail sometimes seems a bit odd, especially the amount of the text that is devoted to the American colonial period. Given that the narrative ultimately concerns the interstices where Britain and America overlap, it is arguable that the intellectual developments associated with Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, John Locke, Joseph Addison and the like are more important than the peculiarities of life in the New World wilderness. Likewise, the political developments embodied in the English Revolution and the Glorious Revolution are vital, since they eventually bore fruit in the American Revolution. Yet these two pivotal struggles are dealt with on one page and only Locke is even mentioned from the group above. This is unfortunate because the closeness of the Anglo-American "Special Relationship" that we know today is more easily understood if you recognize the commonalities of this early period than if you treat the two locals as defined by their differences. The unfortunate separation of America from Britain, which takes up the second part of the book, ought be understood as simply a matter of Englishmen exercising their rights rather than as something actually revolutionary.

That separation though, the resulting squabbles over the role of the new nation, and the moral distance between the two states once Britain abolished slavery, created the pointless and wasteful period of estrangement that forms the third part of Ms Burk's tale. Then, beginning in the 1870's, with slavery behind us, we were able to dispose of most of the outstanding issues and lay the groundwork for the relationship that was cemented in the two world wars. Things may not have always progressed smoothly, and were particularly bumpy once America took over the title of the world's leading power after WWII, but, beginning with the Thatcher-Reagan relationship and reaching an apogee in the recent Bush/Blair years, we've arrived at a point where it is fair to say that the partnership between Britain and America is truly unique in world affairs not just in terms of its closeness but in terms of the way it exercises power in order to liberate other peoples and liberalize universally. As Ms Burk says: "Americans believed themselves a chosen people, with the God-given task of promoting liberty and democracy" while "it was self-evident, many Britons thought, that the Empire benefited its subjects as well as the British themselves." It hardly seems coincidental that it was with the advent of mass media that we came to recognize so much of ourselves in each other and that the two self-righteous peoples began to make common cause, that cause being the global promotion of Anglospheric values. In essence, we became a joint Empire of Ideas.

At any rate, the book builds to this crescendo, even if Ms Burk doesn't conduct the symphony in quite the way I would have. And it's a thrilling drama that richly deserves to captured in one sustained telling, as it is here.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Kathleen Burk Links:

    -Professor Kathleen Burk (Uiniversity College London)
-GOOGLE BOOK: Old World, New World By Kathleen Burk
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Troublemaker By Kathleen Burk
    -ESSAY: A yoke that's wearing thin: The link may go back a long way but Britain protests too much about its 'special relationship' with the United States, says Kathleen Burk, 12/06/96, Times Higher Education Supplement)
    -ESSAY: Brussels sprout wine anyone? (Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater, 9/07/08, The Observer)
    -ESSAY: Oxford affairs: Historian AJP Taylor's heart was broken by his wife, Margaret. While, writes Kathleen Burk, Margaret's was broken by Dylan Thomas and Robert Kee (Kathleen Burk, 2 September 2000, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY: The millionaire history man (Kathleen Burk, 3/22/97, The Spectator)
    -ESSAY: Imperial values: The proposal to create a super-university in London would only benefit Imperial College; what UCL needs is a proper provost (Kathleen Burk, December 2002, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Thirst for knowledge: There is a big difference between liking wine and appreciating it. I wanted to appreciate it Kathleen Burk (Kathleen Burk, August 2002, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Matters of taste: If you are off to the Athens Olympics and the only Greek wine you know is retsina, you are in for a treat. But you may need to learn some Greek (Kathleen Burke, August 2004, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: What to drink for Christmas (Kathleen Burke, January 2004, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Musings on A. J. P. Taylor (Kathleen Burke, Faber Finds)
    -REVIEW: of Andrew Roberts A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES SINCE 1900 (Kathleen Burk, Times Literary Supplement)
    -INTERVIEW: The wine rules: Are you stuck in a wine rut - buying the same old plonk time and time again? Zoe Williams offers some refreshing tips (Zoe Williams, 15 January 2009, The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES: Kathleen Burk (Prospect)
    -ARCHIVES: Kathleen Burk (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World: The Story of Britain and America By Kathleen Burk (Dominic Sandbrook, Literary Review)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Stephen Howe, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Nigel Hamilton, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Philip Horne, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Christopher Meyer , Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Vernon Bogdanor, Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (David Ellwood, History Today)
    -REVIEW: of Old World, New World (Vanessa Curtis, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker: the Life and History of A.J.P. Taylor Kathleen Burk (Dr. Paul Addison, What is History)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker by Kathleen Burk (Richard Pipes, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Michael Dintenfass , Journal of Modern History)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Paul Kennedy, Atlantic Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Roy Hattersley, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Michael Howard, Spectator)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Nicholas Fearn, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (David Pryce-Jones, New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Michael F. Hopkins, Contemporary Review)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Matthew Price, In These Times)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (F. M. Leventhal, Oxford Journals)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Brian Brivati, Times Higher Education)
    -REVIEW: of Troublemaker (Piers Brendon, Independent)
    -REVIEW: of The British Isles since 1945, Kathleen Burk, ed. (Antoine Capet, Cercles)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: We fret over Europe, but the real threat to sovereignty has long been the US: Britain's biggest foreign influence is the one politicians don't dare debate: not immigration, not Brussels, but America (Linda Colley, 23 November 2007, The Guardian)
-REVIEW ESSAY: Why the Anglo-American Brotherhood?: Just within the last three years, four major books, all by distinguished authors, have been published about the unique relationship between Britain and the United States. Why have these two countries changed the modern world? Only the Judeo/Christian Bible contains the master key to discovering the true answer. (John Ross Schroeder, World News & Prophecy)