In mid-1940, the British Expeditionary Force desperately attempted to flee the small French port of Dunkirk and reach British shores. France was falling, and the men were well aware that the German army had already conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, and Belgium. Only Britain remained. Churchill then proclaimed to the House of Commons, “Hitler will have to break us in this island or lose the war.” There were, perhaps, no more telling words spoken in World War II. For the following five months, Great Britain waged a heroic, and clandestine, struggle with Nazi Germany—one both psychological and diplomatic—over the fate of the world. World in the Balance recounts these pivotal months. Rallying after Churchill’s speeches, destroying the French fleet so it would not fall to the Germans, fending off Nazi agents from former King Edward VIII, weakening England’s defenses to build up those of Egypt, establishing a dedication to secret radar, and engaging in deft diplomacy—notably saving Gibraltar by keeping Spain neutral and successfully courting favor in the United States—set all the pieces in place for eventual victory over Axis fascism.
Brooke C. Stoddard is the former editor of Military Heritage magazine and the author of several articles on the summer and autumn of 1940. He is also a former editor at Time-Life Books. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Brooke C. Stoddard’s well-judged and clear narrative of five crucial months in 1940 that shaped the course of world history sets a cracking pace as world events conspire to unbalance a flawed and fragile peace and escalate Europe into full-scale war. He successfully weaves together strategy, politics, high-level diplomacy, and important technological developments—demonstrating the timeless nature and close interaction of these factors in any conflict—with compelling frontline accounts that effectively illustrate the human consequences of political-strategic decision making. Stoddard’s timely analysis of a frequently overlooked period of World War II combines a fascinating factual account of actual events with an authoritative consideration of why they took place and their wider consequences."—David J. A. Stone, author of Hitler’s Army, Fighting for the Fatherland, War Summits, Dien Bien Phu 1954, and Wars of the Cold War
"For five months in 1940, the world seemed to be coming to an end. Brooke Stoddard vividly describes how British courage and American support pulled democracy back from the abyss, and he reminds us that the momentum of conflict must be brought firmly to a halt."—Philip Seib, professor of journalism and public diplomacy and director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California and author of Broadcasts from the Blitz