THE special relationship between the United States of America and Great Britain was brought out through history.
Professor Kathleen Burk, who was brought up in California but then educated in Oxford, gave an overview of how the two countries, though different, shared many traits.
The talk at the Swindon Festival of Literature’s lunchtime session yesterday coincided with the historian and author’s latest book Old World, New World which encompasses Anglo-American history from 1497 to 2003.
Having just flown in from Norway that morning, Professor Burk gave a chronological overview of that period from discovery and subsequent colonisation for ‘God or gold’ of America through to the Cold War and beyond. She also explained how the First World War had been responsible for the reversal in the balance of power between the two nations from Britain and its empire to how it is today.
It was, she said, the United States of America’s reluctance to get involved in the conflict that had given it a unique and beneficial position as an armament supplier.
She made the point that no matter who sits in the White House or in Downing Street intelligence and bureaucracy will continue and that the countries were linked principally by shared aspirations that might prove impossible to live up to, but that at least one could be proud of.
Due to the sheer length of the period of time she was covering, Professor Burk was unable to go into any real depth on issues she raised, which could be slightly frustrating though she spoke with complete authority.
However, what she did say was tantalising and the insights she offered drew on all aspects of history from economic to social, which made complicated moments in history understandable.
Unfortunately the numerous questions that such a talk provokes were largely left unanswered because time ran short.