The Grand Alliance and Victory in the Second World War

States may make alliances out of self-interest, fear, or ideology. The ensuing relationships are rarely easy, however, especially when put to the test of war. Alliances can either make and keep the peace, or they can lead to conflict. In so doing, they have helped to shape, for better or worse, the modern world. This series of lectures examines the nature, dynamics, and types of alliances, suggesting reasons why they either succeed or fail. While alliances have been a feature of state-to-state relations since the ancient world, the main focus of these lectures will be on the 20th century – in particular, the great global conflicts of the First and Second World Wars.

The Grand Alliance between the Big Three – the British Empire, the Soviet Union and the United States – emerged through total war, and each power had its own specific aims and concerns. This final lecture examines the tensions in forging Allied strategy and the planning of the post-war world, asking whether the Grand Alliance could have survived the end of the war or whether the Cold War was indeed inevitable.


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This lecture took place on Thursday 26 May 2022.

Meet the speakers and chair

Michael Cox was a Founding Director of LSE IDEAS. He is an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at LSE. He is an associate Fellow in the US and Americas Programme at Chatham House where he established their original United States Discussion Group, is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History in New York, and writes regularly for the US-based H-Diplo network. His latest book is Agonies of Empire: American Power from Clinton to Biden. Other recent books include The Post-Cold War World (2018), a new edition of J. M. Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of the Peace (2019), and a new volume of E.H. Carr’s Nationalism and After (2021).

Margaret MacMillan is the LSE IDEAS Engelsberg Chair in History and International Affairs for 2021/22 academic year. She is also an Emeritus Professor of International History at the University of Oxford and former Warden of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She specializes in the history of the British Empire and the international history of the 19th and 20th centuries.