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The Foreign Office and the 1939 Royal Visit to America: Courting the USA in an Era of Isolationism

Peter Bell
Journal of Contemporary History
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct., 2002), pp. 599-616
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3180762
Page Count: 18
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The Foreign Office and the 1939 Royal Visit to America: Courting the USA in an Era of Isolationism
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Abstract

The visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the USA in 1939 proved an immense public relations success, and has rightly been seen as critical in thawing Anglo-American relations in the face of looming conflict, and in paving the way for wartime alliance. The visit's success had been particularly extolled by historians of international propaganda, who regard the event as a classic illustration of the interplay between public relations and diplomacy. Less well known, however, is the anxiety shared within the British government lest the event precipitate an isolationist backlash, engendered by suspicion that the visit might be a ploy to entangle America within an alliance in all but name. What the present article argues, in contrast to existing scholarly accounts, is that the Foreign Office was motivated more by the fear of enhancing neutral opinion within America than by expectations of diplomatic success; and it shows the great insecurity felt in London at the prospect of entering a second global conflict without the backing of the USA.

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