Kennedy New York: Funk, July 1940 It is difficult to read Why England Slept without seeing the shadow of the future president hanging over every word. Why England Slept is the published version of a written by while in his senior year at. It was rated by Professor Henry A. Why England Slept is not overwhelmingly brilliant, and someone not interested in the subject matter may see merely a collection of minutiae from newspapers and publicly available government documents, sprinkled with bits of analysis. Kennedy considers the failed air disarmament talks important enough to devote many pages to it, whereas the history books remember only the successfully-concluded naval disarmament talks of the 1922 Washington Conference. In short, this is a damn fine senior thesis for an international affairs major.
He demonstrates a thorough understanding of British politics and a good grasp of strategy, handles incomplete information sources with ease, and most importantly, is able to see comprehends the viewpoints of both sides. Many senior theses are written at Harvard, but rarely does one achieve a print run in the tens of thousands, or garner an enthusiastic foreword from the publisher of Life magazine. Munich has passed into history as the ugliest example of appeasement — if the democracies had shown strength then, the argument goes, Hitler would have backed down. It took time for these attitudes to change, and it was not until after the Munich conference that rearmament gained the wholehearted support of the whole nation. Except as they related to British rearmament, world events hardly figure in the book. Kennedy lived with his father in Britain at that time and as such witnessed the Luftwaffe's bombings of Britain first-hand.
. Why England Slept assumes that the reader already has a detailed familiarity with events leading up to the Second World War. Confront Hitler in 1938 and perhaps lose the ensuing war, but confront him in 1939 from a position of greater strength and stand a chance of stalling Nazi Germany just long enough for the Soviet Union and United States to bludgeon the Axis Powers into submission through their combined industrial might. There are no exciting tales of bravery and cowardice, of heroes and villains. Young Jack Kennedy had Destiny infused in every fiber of his being. For example, the Spitfire of the Battle of Britain is now considered roughly equal technically to the Bf-109 — it was the tactical situation that gave it superiority. It is enlightening to read a different argument from a book published in 1940.
Why England Slept by John F. Yet without sixty years of conventional wisdom to channel it into a specific way of thinking, Why England Slept takes a refreshingly fresh look at British rearmament. It is notable for its uncommon stance of suggesting instead that an earlier confrontation between the United Kingdom and could well have been more disastrous in the long run, rather than castigating the which the British government pursued at the time. Kennedy develops this argument in a largely chronological account, beginning with the world financial crisis of 1931 and concluding shortly after Munich. Contrary to its reputation, I found its argument to be perfunctory and muddled, and its vivid accounts to be merely a substitute for a substantive analysis of the facts.
But it does provide an intriguing glance at the attitudes of 1940, and at the formative years of a legendary American political figure of the twentieth century. Curious incidents, later to be forgotten amid other important historical events, were still memorable in 1940 — e. Although his sympathies clearly lie with democracy and capitalism, Kennedy thoroughly understands the many legitimate German grievances which set up such a dangerous situation that could be exploited by Hitler. If John Kennedy is characteristic of the younger generation—and I believe he is—many of us would be happy to have the destinies of this Republic handed over to his generation at once. Yet in his earnest argument that democracy and capitalism will naturally oppose the buildup of armaments, we see today a charming naïveté about the political power of the military-industrial complex. The book grew out of his senior thesis at Harvard, and it bears all the hallmarks of a senior thesis — it sticks to one narrowly defined topic, explores it thoroughly, and depends entirely on readings rather than personal experience. Yeomans and cum laude plus by Professor.
Those were simpler times, indeed. Its title is an allusion to 's 1938 book , which also examined the buildup of German power. A 1940 peek at a 1960 figure Although it is interesting to read a contemporary take on events that later passed into canon in a different light, Kennedy does not focus on such flash points as Munich and the Spanish Civil War. Published in 1940, Kennedy's book examines the failures of the to take steps to prevent , and its initial lack of response to 's threats of war. The New Frontier ultimately died in the turbulent sixties amidst racial turmoil and mounting losses in Vietnam, followed by the rude economics lesson of the oil shock. In this reading, Munich was not a lesson about appeasement, but rather about preparedness or deterrence, if you like. It is not history or journalism — it is an intellectual exposition demonstrating the product of a Harvard education.
Not the conventional story of appeasement The book is also revealing for the contemporary attitudes that it addresses. Kennedy devotes a great deal of time to debunk the conventional wisdom about the appeasement of Hitler at Munich. Those from the British sales were donated to , recently , while Kennedy bought a with his income from the book's North-American sales. Contrast it with his much better-known book, the ghostwritten and Pulitzer Prize-winning. Its primary argument is that Britain deeply believed in the League of Nations and in the potential success of international disarmament conferences.
The errors are all sufficiently minor that they do not affect his overall reasoning. It goes by rapidly, for it was written to be digested by his professor in a couple of hours. A particularly persuasive section on p. One would appreciate his thorough knowledge two decades later in the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York Times News Service. Although there are some technical errors in his book, some can be attributed to intelligence deficiencies of the day.
Subtle changes in disposition from year-to-year are tracked with Parliamentary speeches and newspaper editorials. But his vivid oratory and ideals, combined with the mystique of his wife Jacqueline, made the Kennedy legend into something that is discussed even today. However, Kennedy's father, , keen to elevate his son's reputation, encouraged Kennedy to convert the thesis into book form and publish it. Aside from those speeches, the only facts and figures come from military budget figures. In the end, it was production more than technical superiority that won the war.