One Christmas in Washington: The Secret Meeting Between Roosevelt and Churchill That Changed the World


320 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55278-538-6
DDC 940.53'22'0922





Reviewed by Galen Roger Perras

Galen Roger Perras is an assistant professor of history at the
University of Ottawa.


David Bercuson and Holger Herwig are both senior history professors at
the University of Calgary specializing in military subjects. This book
marks their third co-production effort.

Its subject—the fateful Arcadia meeting in Washington, D.C., in
December 1941 and January 1942 between President Franklin Roosevelt and
Prime Minister Winston Churchill that set Allied strategy for World War
II—is important. Too often, people still hold to the hoary myth that
all was sweetness and light among the leaders of the Great Alliance. The
authors, however, dispel this myth, driving home the tensions and
contretemps that plagued British and American planners in the frantic
weeks that followed Japan’s stunningly successful offensive of early
December 1941. The American Navy distrusted British motives, Roosevelt
disliked British colonialism, and the British military viewed their
American counterparts as naive and pushy, while Churchill, intent on
salvaging British power, found the American president frustratingly
elusive. The authors also make clear that the meeting, which led to the
powerful Combined Chiefs Committee (the agency that drove the Allied war
effort), was exclusively an Anglo–American condominium, much to the
frustration of the Canadians and Australians.

Regrettably, there are errors in the book. The American Ambassador to
Britain, John G. Winant, is mistakenly called Gilbert Winant. Some
sources mentioned in the text are not cited in the endnotes. And while
Bercuson and Herwig thank their researchers for “mining” archival
depositories, the vast majority of the cited material comes from
secondary sources.

One Christmas in Washington is an interesting book, though not one
aimed at an academic audience. The authors clearly had a popular market
in mind, and we still await a serious academic study of the important
Arcadia gathering.


Bercuson, David J., and Holger H. Herwig., “One Christmas in Washington: The Secret Meeting Between Roosevelt and Churchill That Changed the World,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,