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Five Days in London, May 1940
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Five Days in London, May 1940

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  929 ratings  ·  136 reviews
The days from May 24 to May 28, 1940 altered the course of the history of this century, as the members of the British War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler or to continue what became known as the Second World War. The decisive importance of these five days is the focus of John Lukacs’s magisterial new book.

Lukacs takes us hour by hour into the critical unfol
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 11th 2001 by Yale University Press (first published 1999)
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Mikey B.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I took this book off my shelves to re-read, having just seen the film “Darkest Hour” which was fantastic - Churchillian!

In his Memoirs of the Second World War (Their Finest Hour) Churchill, when he assumed the helm of Prime Minister-ship in May of 1940, makes it seem as if all in the British War Cabinet were unanimous in their determination to fight on against Nazi Germany. Not so! Halifax, who Churchill had appointed as Foreign Secretary, made inquiries to approach Italy as an intermediary for
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-two
Very competent historical analysis of a five day period in May 1940 (24th to 28th). This was early in Churchill's premiership, the BEF was in retreat and had reached Dunkirk, France was about to fall and Churchill had opposition within the cabinet from those who wanted to explore whether peace terms were possible.
This is history in detail and Lukacs does it rather well. The relationships between Churchill, Chamberlain and Halifax are examined in detail. Churchill was by no means secure at this t
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picked this up after seeing "Dunkirk." Lukacs' case is that Churchill understood intuitively at the fall of France that Hitler could not be negotiated with, and that capitulation would have ultimately meant the end of Western Civilization. Though I've read that elsewhere, Lukacs gives a picture of meetings inside the British War Cabinet over those five days, when Churchill, newly installed as PM, had to seriously confront the idea of a negotiated peace with the threat of invasion and the disaste ...more
Edmond Dantes
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Letto, dopo aver visto l'ora più buia, che ne è la versione romanzata (con alcuni errori storico/Politici.
Storia dei 5 giorni più lunghi della 2 Guerra Mondiale, un Lunghissimo giorno che durò dal 24 al 28 Maggio e in cui gli inglesi pensarono, anche se solo come retropensiero , di svincolarsi dalla Guerra.
Anche gli eroi hanno dei dubbi, ma alla fine la rettitudine è ricompensata.
Questa " non svolta "della guerra geberò a cascata tutta la storia come noi la conosciamo, Vedasi
John Houghton
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
A poorly organised and written history, that only retains two stars because the story - the five days during which Churchill's war cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler - is inherently fascinating.

This made my frustration with Lukacs' rendering of his material all the greater. There are many examples of bad habits and stylistic foibles that both slow down and mangle the narrative.

Writing style is a matter of personal taste, but surely 'it would not develop' is a simpler and less pompo
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
There was a good deal of info in this pre-war narrative. I’ve read and listened to many of the “during the war” books, but never pre-war.
The discussions and comments about Churchill before he became Prime Minister was interesting. He wasn’t too popular….and yet he was just what the country needed. I had recently viewed the movie Churchill… it portrayed him as very human, his positive and negative qualities. He’ll always be my idol…adore his sense of humor.

I also found the early opinion polls cu
James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The well-known Phony War (Lukacs calls it the Reluctant War) followed Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the subsequent declarations of war by Britain and France. The following May Germany ended the Phony War by invading Belgium. French, British and Belgian forces were quickly overwhelmed by the new German tank-forward, airplane-supported tactics. Belgium capitulated. The beleaguered French and British retreated to the coat where 300,000+ troops were eventually evacuated from Dun ...more
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
(From my Blog) A few posts back, I compared the present upheavals in the Middle East to the dramatic events of October-November 1956 -- both being critical moments in history with future consequences that weren't, or won't be, fully realized until much later. Even better, I now realize, I might have called to mind the brief but critical period between May 24 to 28, 1940.

I've just finished reading Five Days in London, May 1940, by the American historian John Lukacs. Lukacs has views that seem som
Christopher Taylor
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an analysis of what Lukacs refers to as a "hinge" of history, where certain events have very significant results on the unfolding of history. He contends, with significant academic and historical support, that the days in may during the Dunkirk evacuation and Belgium's surrender in WW2 the Churchill government was on a knife's edge and could easily have collapsed, leaving Hallifax in charge. Earl Hallifax had the King's support but was an appeaser who wanted peace and saw no outcome of w ...more
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I do not think in the history of the West, has it been as easy to point to such dramatic turning points, of the rising and falling of many, as the five days in London from May 24 through May 28th, 1940. From the perspective of over 70 years now, I think it is easy to just assume that the events that have happened since then - the winning over fascism, the ascendancy of the West over the communist bloc (led by America and Britain), even the lives that have lived in many cities and towns and their ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nls-audio
I’m always a bit skittish with books that claim that a specific small time period became a hinge on which all of human history swung thereafter. I always get a bit suspicious that this is someone’s thesis desperately seeking importance in an information-saturated world. So I approached this with some care; indeed, it has been on a to-read pile for years. My skittishness was replace by fascination once I got into the book.

Winston Churchill is just hours into his prime ministership as the book beg
Jens Hansen
Aug 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: world-war-2
A serious disappointment. But I also had fairly high expectations.
The structure of the book was incoherent.
The author sometimes travelled a bit too far in time and space. Certainly his remarks about the peace of Amiens should have been kept out of this book. And when the author expects that his readers understand what he means by Foxite and Hollandite Whigs then he certainly overestimates me. But I'm of course a simpleton who only graduated from Oxbridge.
In a few places the author states a fac
John Kaufmann
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Excellent, and short, read about the critical first days of Churchill's government in May 1940 when the British Expeditionary Force was in retreat from the Nazi invasion of France. The story focuses mostly on the deliberations of the British War Cabinet and the existential choices they faced. These questions included whether they should support the French or whether the French were going to quit the fight; whether to evacuate and how to do so; whether to send out feelers for a negotiated settlem ...more
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
The author's writing style is difficult, but the subject was fascinating.
Christine Laquer
Nov 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
When you buy a book from a garage sale, you're especially dependent on the reviews at the front. "Artfully constructed and elegantly narrated" raves the Philadelphia Inquirer. I’ll never trust the Philadelphia Inquirer again.

As a relative newbie to WW2 history, I thought this sounded like an exciting narrative about a key moment in the war. Instead it felt like a rambling love letter to its own "compact" "(if that is the correct adjective)" (hint: it isn't) prose.

Lukacs refers to his own writin
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if "Five Days in London" was source material for the movie "Darkest Hour," but the book was mentioned in a review of the movie. So after I saw the movie (no extra charge for this review: It was quite good), I scurried over to the library to check out the book. I was hoping to find out what in the movie was history and what came from the movie makers' imagination.
The book didn't really answer that question for me, although it's not really that hard to tell which sections of a movie b
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent complement to my recent viewing of the movie, Dunkirk. This fine brief history discusses the critical five day period in British politics around the time of that evacuation. Lukacs makes a compelling argument that this five day period was a critical turning point in World War II and, by implication, in the history of democratic western civilization. It is during this time period that the recently named Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, both solidifies his authority over the cabinet ...more
Kristi Thielen
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As author John Lukacs states, World War II was won not by Great Britain, but by America and Russia. But Great Britain – in the formidable form of Winston Churchill – didn’t lose the war. It was a singularly important achievement.

This book is about those five tense days in 1940 – May 24th to May 28th – in which Britain’s efforts to not lose the war were debated and decided upon.

Short, but written with verve and penetrating insight, Lukacs details a nearly hour-by-hour retelling of the harrowing
John Dudley
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thoughtful study of a critical period at the onset of World War Two. More academic than I anticipated, and at times the account bogs down in the minutiae of British politics and government operations, but the thesis wraps tightly and the key lesson was learned. Churchill and the British were not going to win the war during those 5 days in May, but they certainly could’ve lost it. Winston is not often thought of as a careful pragmatist, but his deft touch here, despite the constantly mounting pre ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read much war history at all, but if they are all this good, I will read more.

It is an impressively short narrative while also providing such a rich background of references and counterpoints (often via the footnotes). This might take some getting used to, as it creates some choppiness of the story. But I enjoyed the nuance and scholarship, too.

Some reviews here are critical of Lukacs's injection of opinion, especially the final Churchill as an "instrument of God", but give him leeway
Mike Nesemann
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
As many other reviewers have noted, Lukacs’ style is certainly a matter of taste, but there is no denying his mastery of the subject material. Although the (very, very amateur) historian in me decried the needless, although enjoyable, Churchill taking the tube scene in Their Darkest Hour, it was great to see a new generation introduced to that most dramatic period. And astonishingly dramatic it was. One could, and many have, that had someone other than Churchill been PM at that point, Hitler wou ...more
Grace Hoffmann
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Having just seen the movie Dunkirk, I wanted to know more about this time in history, and my brother gave me this book, which is a favorite of his. I do feel I know more about the actual events, but the writing style, particularly the author's use of footnotes, make this book sort of hard to read. His feeling that Churchill saved Britain from an ignominious pact with the Nazis does come through. I recommend it for a WWII buff, but not really for general reading.
Pat Dedert
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoyed the movie “Darkest Hour” and are interested in the political history of WW II, you must read this book. I have often asked myself who was more important in saving Western civilization: Churchill or Roosevelt? This book will give you some perspective on Churchill’s contributions and the struggles he had to prevail upon the appeasers in his government. It is real history, with many interesting footnotes to diaries and news of the era.
Stanley Turner
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book from John Lukacs. Lukacs gives detailed day by day events of Winston Churchill’s new premiership. He describes is fairly good detail the pressure Churchill faced taking over for Chamberlain in the Darkest Hour of Great Britain’s history. Definitely worth reading for anyone interested in Winston Churchill...
Walter Mack
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Better Than The Movie

If you liked 'The Darkest Hour', this is a must. Cogent, concise, inspiring, if leadership analyses are your thing, this is for you. Yes, Dunkirk was a miracle.
Steve Herreid
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was motivated to read this book after seeing "Darkest Hour". I found it to be a detailed but very interesting recounting of the events of late May 1940 in London. In many ways it confirmed the historical accuracy of the movie. I really liked this book.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Very interesting subject, not so interesting execution. That being said, the conclusion (written in the 1990s) about Churchill having bought the world 50 years of respite from the kind of global conflagration that has descended since 9/11 is prescient.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great book about a man who understood to avoid the easy peace process and go to the hard path.
"world war II was not won by Great Britain, but by America and Russia. But Great Britain - in the formidable form of Winston Churchill -didn't lose the war"
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Better than the movie, never realized how close England came to suing for peace. The world would be an entirely different place now if they did. Like it is said, the war was won by actions in '43/'44, but it was not lost due to the actions in '40.
History in detail, very well written. It's a bit slow going if you're not a true history buff particularly as the content is predominantly political, concentrating on Churchill's many conflicts with other members of the Government Cabinet.
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Lukacs was born in Budapest to a Roman Catholic father and Jewish mother. His parents divorced before the Second World War. During the Second World War he was forced to serve in a Hungarian labour battalion for Jews. During the German occupation of Hungary in 1944-45 he evaded deportation to the death camps, and survived the siege of Budapest. In 1946, as it became clear that Hungary was going to ...more
“It was thus that in 1940 [Hitler] represented a wave of the future. His greatest reactionary opponent, Churchill, was like King Canute, attempting to withstand and sweep back that wave. And––yes, mirabile dictu—this King Canute succeeded: because of his resolution and—allow me to say this—because of God’s will, of which, like every human being, he was but an instrument. He was surely no saint, he was not a religious man, and he had many faults. Yet so it happened.” 0 likes
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