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Library Journal Review
Reynolds (international history, Cambridge Univ.) chooses to use the summits between world leaders as hooks for his take on 20th-century history. He is treading the same ground covered in Jonathan Fenby's recent Alliance: The Inside Story of How Roosevelt, Stalin & Churchill Won One War & Began Another. Reynolds's angle is to concentrate on the essential facets of summitry: the face-to-face meeting and the give-and-take among world leaders. He examines at great length the summits that took place during World War II among Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt. Other summits he covers are among Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Pope Gregory VII; between Kennedy and Khrushchev; and between George W. Bush and Tony Blair. He provides detailed information, drawing in part from newly opened Soviet archives, to give readers historical context, explaining the events surrounding each summit and the dynamics of each conference. A fascinating look at historical events through this particular lens, his book is recommended for academic and public libraries.--Harry Willems, Park City P.L., KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
In this well-executed study, Reynolds (Cambridge) examines six summits that decisively shaped the 20th century. The author begins with an overview of summitry throughout the ages, taking readers up through the Paris Conference of 1919 before presenting a thorough examination of the ill-fated Munich Conference. Here, as in subsequent chapters, the fully established historical context strengthens the author's examination of the motives as well as the successes and failures of the principals. For example, Reynolds reveals that Neville Chamberlain's unprecedented willingness to meet with Hitler grew in large part out of his desire to personally assess the character of the Nazi dictator. Given subsequent events, Chamberlain's conclusion that Hitler could be trusted was clearly one of the most disastrous consequences of this summit. Other chapters address Yalta (1945), the Vienna Summit (1961), the Nixon-Brezhnev meeting (1972), Camp David (1979), and Geneva (1985). Reynolds addresses all with consistent analytical skill, and a final chapter examines the history of international summitry since the 1980s. Even those familiar with the topics will find this book worth examining, given the author's appealing writing style and new insights. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries and undergraduate college collections. B. T. Browne Broward Community College
Examining fateful international conferences, historian Reynolds extracts diplomatic lessons from their conduct and their consequences. Regarding two as failures (Chamberlain-Hitler in 1938; Kennedy-Khrushchev in 1961), three as successes (Yalta in 1945; Sadat-Begin-Carter in 1978; Reagan-Gorbachev in 1985), and Nixon-Brezhnev in 1972 as a success that failed, Reynolds renders a three-part analysis of each tête-à-tête. Within a preparation-negotiation-implementation structure, Reynolds narrates the personal dramas between leaders who see themselves as history makers, an exalted self-regard with substance and seen in light of Reynolds' adducing of mental alertness, comprehension of details, and negotiating ability grave risk. Chamberlain proved a terrible tactician, conceding his bottom line (cession of Sudetenland) within minutes of sitting down with Hitler. Canny negotiators who held back their final offer earn Reynolds' better marks for lone-ranger diplomacy. Bargaining skills aside, Reynolds also assesses leaders' personal relationships, which preoccupy the media and the public and can affect the balance of war and peace. With general-interest readability and acuity about diplomatic practice, Reynolds ably gathers two distinct audiences.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2007 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Lucid, authoritative account of big-power diplomatic parleys from Munich to Camp David. World leaders met mano a mano for many centuries before the 20th, notes Reynolds (International History/Cambridge Univ.; In Command of History, 2005, etc.). In 1520, Henry VIII of England and Fran‡ois I of France gathered with their retinues on the outskirts of Calais for two weeks of jousting, feasting and dancing. In 1807, Napoleon and Czar Alexander I gabbed on a ceremonial raft on the Niemen River, at their shared border. But summits became more possible, urgent and significant with the rise of air travel, weapons of mass destruction and, somewhat later, television. The first truly modern summit, held at Munich in 1938, branded in public memory the image of Britain's Neville Chamberlain, umbrella in hand, predicting "peace for our time" after talks with Hitler. Winston Churchill coined the term "summit" to describe such meetings in 1950, when climbing to the peak of Mt. Everest was all the rage. Reynolds draws on transcripts to recreate six notable meetings. Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin brought false assumptions to 1945 talks at Yalta about Germany's future while sleeping among bedbugs in the Livadia Palace. John F. Kennedy's "disastrous" 1961 Vienna summit with Nikita Khrushchev seeded the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam quagmire. At the 1972 Moscow talks on missile accords, Leonid Brezhnev tried to unsettle Richard Nixon by playing with a toy cannon. Reynolds offers revealing insights into the quirks and negotiating skills of leaders, finding Menachem Begin the savviest in 1978 sessions with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat at Camp David, and Ronald Reagan well-prepared after reading 24 briefing papers while en route to his successful 1985 talks in Geneva with Mikhail Gorbachev. Bound to please both specialists and general readers. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.