Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The purpose of this dissertation is to examine and assess the role of Philip Henry Kerr, eleventh Marquis of Lothian, the British ambassador to the United States from August 1939 to December 1940. While much of the historiography of Anglo-American relations during the Second World War focuses on the Roosevelt-Churchill axis, this dissertation contends that Lord Lothian played a vital, if not the principal, role in creating that axis and in forging closer relations during the vital months before Pearl Harbor. More generally, this dissertation contends that Lothian is a vital, if not the principal, architect of the “Special Relationship.” Anglo-American relations during the interwar years were characterized by an underlying discord, caused by economic disparity, naval rivalry, and divergent approaches to international security. By December 1940, however, relations were stronger and closer, as many Americans came to appreciate that Britain’s survival was critical to keeping the United States out of the war. Although not exclusively responsible, Lothian played a significant role in affecting this transformation in public opinion. First, he established a British public relations apparatus and initiated a vigorous publicity campaign in the United States, which generated greater awareness of Britain’s increasingly dire military predicament and more widespread popular support for Britain. Second, Lothian helped to broker the celebrated Destroyers-for-Bases deal, by which the United States agreed to provide Britain with fifty destroyers in return for land rights in various British possessions in the Western Hemisphere. Third, Lothian helped to lay the foundations for the Lend-Lease program. Following a brief autumn visit to Britain, he intimated to the American press that London was running out of cash with which to purchase American military supplies. He also urged Churchill to outline the realities of Britain’s position in a long, detailed letter to Roosevelt. These two initiatives presented the Roosevelt administration with a comprehensive view of Britain’s desperate situation that compelled the president to take action. The result was the Lend-Lease Act, which provided Britain with a program of American assistance, hardly compatible with neutrality, and ultimately became the foundation of the Anglo-American alliance during the Second World War.



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Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Veldman, Meredith



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History Commons