The Foreign Office’s War, 1939-41
Title Details

354 Pages

15.6 x 23.4 cm

1 b/w illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press

The Foreign Office's War, 1939-41

British Strategic Foreign Policy and the Major Neutral Powers

by Keith Neilson

Edited by T. G. Otte

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
Provides a forceful corrective to the idea that Britain 'stood alone' until the invasion of the Soviet Union and the attack on Pearl Harbor brought about 'the Grand Alliance'.

Based on extensive archival research, the book demonstrates that 1939 to 1941 was a period of intensive diplomatic activity by the British Foreign Office designed to ensure that Britain's potential enemies, especially Soviet Russia, Italy and Japan, remained neutral and that its most desirable potential ally, the United States, remained as friendly as possible until it could be persuaded to join in the conflict. The book highlights the importance of diplomacy towards neutrals for British policy, considers the complexities of the situation, tying together issues such as blockade and the disposition of British forces in various theatres, explores decision making within the British government, examining how the diplomatic considerations of the Foreign Office played into wider debates amongst ministers and senior civil servants, and discusses the various courses towards neutrals, including alternatives, advocated within the Foreign Office. Overall, the book provides a rich, highly nuanced view of British policy in this crucial period.
Preface and Acknowledgments (T.G. Otte)

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Keith Neilson and Modern International History (T.G. Otte)

Chapter 1:On the Eve of War: January to September 1939

Chapter 2:The Baltic, Blockade and Soviet Russia: September 1939 - June 1940

Chapter 3:Defending the Mediterranean: Italy, Russia and the Balkans

Chapter 4: Defending Britain and the Far East: The United States, Japan and Soviet Russia, September 1939-June 1940

Chapter 5: 'Nothing for nothing': From the Fall of France to Operation Barbarossa: July 1940 - June 1941

Epilogue (T.G. Otte)

Appendix I: Members of the American, Central, Eastern, Far Eastern, Northern and Southern Departments, 1939-1941

Appendix II: Dramatis Personae

Appendix III: Keith Neilson, List of Publications


Keith Neilson, Professor of History at the Royal Military College of Canada, was a prolific and highly-regarded historian of twentieth century military and diplomatic history, writing or editing over ten books.

T.G. Otte is Professor of History at the University of East Anglia and author of nineteen books, including By-elections in British Politics, 1832-1914 (Boydell 2013) and Statesman of Europe: A Life of Sir Edward Grey (Allen Lane, 2020).



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Title Details

354 Pages

1.56 x 2.34 cm

1 b/w illus.

Imprint: Boydell Press