Summits: Six Meetings That Shaped the Twentieth Century

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9780141026084: Summits: Six Meetings That Shaped the Twentieth Century

In this incisive and readable book, David Reynolds takes us from the Babylonians right up to Blair and Bush, but the core of his account is six case studies of modern summitry. Using the records of the meetings, he explores how world leaders saw their opponents and how they played their own cards. He also reconstructs the enormous physical and emotional pressures upon them during encounters that could spell life or death for millions. The pioneer of modern summitry was Neville Chamberlain, whose dramatic flights to meet Hitler in September 1938 set patterns and taught lessons for all who followed. Some of the meetings involve a trio of leaders - Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta in 1945; Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat at Camp David in 1978 - but the heart of the story are three superpower duels that span the Cold War. Drawing on newly-opened archives, Reynolds examines the disastrous face-off between Kennedy and Khrushchev at Vienna in 1961, which helped spark the Cuban missile crisis and America's disastrous war in Vietnam. He looks at the Moscow summit between Nixon and Brezhnev in 1972, which began a promising era of detente but whose Machiavellian negotiation by Nixon and Kissinger also helped ensure detente's decline. By contrast, the Reagan-Gorbachev summit at Geneva in 1985 began a series of summits that brought the Cold War to a peaceful end. From it Reynolds draws larger lessons for successful summitry. Written with verve and insight by a prize-winning international historian, "Summits" takes us into the minds of statesmen caught up in a bizarre mixture of competition and camaraderie as they stand, for a moment, on top of the world.

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About the Author:

David Reynolds, FBA, is Professor of International History at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Christ's College. He has held visiting positions at Harvard and at Nihon University in Tokyo. He is the author or editor of ten books on aspects of twentieth-century history, including One World Divisible: A Global History since 1945 (2000) and In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War (2004) which was awarded the Wolfson History Prize. Both of these books are available as Penguin paperbacks. Summits is linked to a BBC TV series written and presented by David Reynolds.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. John F. Kennedy opined that nations in conflict would do better to meet at the summit than at the brink. Reynolds had the intriguing idea of examining the conflicts of the 20th century through the lens of its pivotal summit meetings. Given his Cambridge professorship and eight books on WWII and the Cold War (Command of History), the author's thorough mastery of his subject is reflected in the fluency and assurance of the writing. As he explains, many summits have been vitiated by misplaced trust: at Munich in 1938, Chamberlain believed Hitler would keep his word on Czechoslovakia. In Reynolds's view, Kennedy and Khrushchev failed at Vienna in 1961 in nearly all respects, and their failure had consequences, including Khrushchev's belligerence—and ultimate humiliation—in the Cuban missile crisis. In 1985, Reagan and Gorbachev held what the author believes was the most successful summit of all, a result of careful preparation and the old-fashioned, behind-the-scenes diplomacy of George Shultz. The Camp David summit with Sadat, Carter and Begin, in this account, rivals Munich for sheer drama. The stories of these summits (plus the post-WWII Yalta conference and Nixon/Brezhnev in 1972) reveal the calculation, bluff, mutual incomprehension and good intentions that make meetings at the top risky and, occasionally, productive. (Nov.)
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