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Less than a year after the assassination of President Kennedy brought Lyndon B. Johnson to the White House, Harold Wilson became British Prime Minister. Over the next four years, the two men governed their countries through unprecedented crises, both domestic and international. To provide a better understanding of the transatlantic relationship, this volume provides for the first time all the correspondence between Wilson and Johnson from the time Wilson became Prime Minister in October 1964 until Johnson stepped down as President in January 1969. This period witnessed Britain’s accelerated ’retreat from Empire’ and the United States’ correspondingly active role in confronting communist influence across the globe. The letters between Wilson and Johnson reveal the difficulties they faced during this period of transition. In particular, the issue of the Vietnam War looms large, as Wilson’s refusal to commit British forces, and his sponsorship of peace initiatives, served to place severe strain on relations between the two men. Other significant topics which re-occur in the correspondence include American attempts to stiffen Britain’s resolve to preserve the value of the pound, the almost continual British defence reviews, the future of the British Army on the Rhine, the French withdrawal from NATO, the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, East-West relations, Britain’s relations with the EEC, the Prague Spring, and the devaluation of sterling. Drawing on material from the Johnson Presidential Library, Wilson’s private papers at the Bodleian Library, and the National Archives of both the United States and the United Kingdom, this collection provides a direct insight into Anglo-American relations at a pivotal moment. For whilst the United States was undoubtedly a superpower on the rise and Britain a declining influence on the world stage, the letters reveal that Johnson was eager for international allies to demonstrate to the American people that the US did not stan
‘A riveting account of the pre-First World War years . . . The Age of Decadence is an enormously impressive and enjoyable read.’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

‘A magnificent account of a less than magnificent epoch.’ Jonathan Meades, Literary Review

The folk-memory of Britain in the years before the Great War is of a powerful, contented, orderly and thriving country. She commanded a vast empire. She bestrode international commerce. Her citizens were living longer, profiting from civil liberties their grandparents only dreamt of, and enjoying an expanding range of comforts and pastimes. The mood of pride and self-confidence is familiar from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches, newsreels of George V’s coronation and the London’s great Edwardian palaces.

Yet things were very different below the surface. In The Age of Decadence Simon Heffer exposes the contradictions of late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He explains how, despite the nation’s massive power, a mismanaged war against the Boers in South Africa created profound doubts about her imperial destiny. He shows how attempts to secure vital social reforms prompted the twentieth century’s gravest constitutional crisis and coincided with the worst industrial unrest in British history. He describes how politicians who conceded the vote to millions more men disregarded women so utterly that female suffragists’ public protest bordered on terrorism. He depicts a ruling class that fell prey to degeneracy and scandal. He analyses a national psyche that embraced the motor-car, the sensationalist press and the science fiction of H. G. Wells, but also the Arts and Crafts of William Morris and the nostalgia of A. E. Housman. And he concludes with the crisis that in the summer of 1914 threatened the existence of the United Kingdom – a looming civil war in Ireland.

He lights up the era through vivid pen-portraits of the great men and women of the day – including Gladstone, Parnell, Asquith and Churchill, but also Mrs Pankhurst, Beatrice Webb, Baden-Powell, Wilde and Shaw – creating a richly detailed panorama of a great power that, through both accident and arrogance, was forced to face potentially fatal challenges.


‘A devastating critique of prewar Britain . . . disturbingly relevant to the world in which we live.’ Gerard DeGroot, The Times

‘You won’t put it down . . . A really riveting read.’ Rana Mitter, BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking

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