In his six-volume history of World War II, Winston Churchill deemed the year 1942 as "the hinge of fate," the year in which the German and Japanese armies began to be turned back. John Lukacs suggests that the last days of May 1940 were more important still in turning the tide of war in democracy's favor, for it was in those few days that Churchill convinced his cabinet that Britain should fight on, alone, if need be, against Adolf Hitler's regime. Even as a quarter of a million British troops were being evacuated from Dunkirk, Churchill struggled to reverse the British government's policy of appeasement. In this, he faced opposition from several quarters, including prominent figures within his own Conservative Party. Writing with evident admiration for Churchill--who, he points out, was not well liked, and who had been prime minister for only two weeks when war broke out--Lukacs gives his readers a fly-on-the-wall view of the heated conferences between such well-known participants as Harold Nicholson, Lord Halifax, Neville Chamberlain, and Alexander Cadogan.
"Churchill understood something that not many people understand even now," Lukacs writes in the closing pages of his book. "The greatest threat to Western civilization was not Communism. It was National Socialism. The greatest and most dynamic power in the world was not Soviet Russia. It was the Third Reich of Germany. The greatest revolutionary of the twentieth century was not Lenin or Stalin. It was Hitler." By convincing his government that his view was correct, Churchill afforded Western civilization a slim chance at survival--no small achievement, and one well worth honoring with this fine study. --Gregory McNamee