Five Days in London, May 1940

  • by John Lukacs
  • Narrated by Geoffrey Howard
  • 6 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the days between May 24th and 28th, 1940, the British War Cabinet held a historical debate over whether to negotiate with Hitler or to continue the war. In this magisterial work, John Lukacs demonstrates the decisive importance of those five days. Lukacs takes us hour by hour into the critical unfolding of events at 10 Downing Street, where Churchill, who had only been prime minister for a fortnight, painfully considered his war responsibilities. We see how the military disasters taking place on the Continent - particularly the plight of the nearly 400,000 British soldiers bottled up in Dunkirk - affected Churchill's fragile political situation, and how the citizenry, though only partly informed about the dangers that faced them, nevertheless began to support Churchill's determination to stand fast.


What the Critics Say

"With a delightful British accent and a professional quality voice, Howard...communicates the tension during those fateful days." (AudioFile)
"[This book] is lucid and splendidly readable, and furthermore, commands a host of dramatic characters....[It] has the power and sweep of Shakespeare's chronicle plays." (Boston Globe)
"Eminent historian Lukacs delivers the crown jewel to his long and distinguished career with this account....It is the work of a man who lives and breathes history, whose knowledge is limitless and tuned to a pitch that rings true." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Less Than Meets the Eye

The publisher describes this work as a "magisterial" account of "decisive" and "historical" debates within Churchill's War Cabinet in London in May 1940. I think a better description would have been "The Peculiar Case of Edward Halifax." According to the text, Halifax, then the Foreign Secretary, suggested an approach to Mussolini to sound out the possibility of his mediating a European settlement with Hitler that would preserve British independence. Churchill rightly rejected the idea as a slippery slope that could sap morale and put England in position of negotiating with the Nazis from weakness--a terrible place to be when England still had the option of fighting it out. There was no real debate in the Cabinet. This was more a case of Churchill remaining courteous to Halifax by letting him speak his mind in Cabinet meetings, given Churchill's political imperative of keeping the Government united at the most perilous time in British history.

Still, the book does a good job of putting the terrible events of May 1940 in context: the uncertain fate of the British Army trapped at Dunkirk, the impending collapse of France, the well-founded fear of a Nazi invasion of England. With the benefit of hindsight, these are simply interesting facts. For those living through them who appreciated the dire situation, they knew their whole way of life and history were hanging by a thread.
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- Michael Moore "mcubed33"

The Hinge of Fate

Was already taken as a title by Churchill himself, but that perfectly incapsulates what is written about here. I've read quite a bit about this period and I find Lukacs account to be compelling, even handed and judicious. It would be easy to lambaste Chamberlain and Halifax for the appeasement policies of the late 1930s though by this time the scales had fallen from Chamberlain's eyes. For Halifax it was more difficult. He belonged as William Manchester described it "England's decent, civilized establishment" and with the collapse of France he saw the prudent course to be a negotiated peace provided it would not be too Draconian. He despaired of Churchill's Romantic die in the last ditch vision, but it was that vision that was required and triumphed. This is the record of five days during which the fate of the West was poised on a razor's edge and it resisted the elemental forces that had brought it to this pass by obeying the single minded determination of a man who belonged to the past and the future but flourished in his unlikely present.
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- Steven L. Wilson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-14-2006
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.