Roosevelt and Churchill during the Atlantic Conference, August 1941, on the deck of ‘HMS Prince of Wales’, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. (Getty Images/ullstein bild)

Just how special was the ‘special relationship’ in the Second World War? (Part 1, 1939–41)

The US and the UK have often been said to have a special relationship based on a common language, religious and political beliefs and a close trading relationship. They’ve also been military allies in the First and Second World Wars. But what was the real nature of this relationship during the Second World War? Was it just a friendly understanding between the political leaders of each nation: Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States? Was it a mutually selfish one that happened to benefit both in the period of the war before America formally joined in the fighting? Or was it a close, positive bond based on commonly agreed principles which would aim to spread democracy and freedom around the world once the war had been won? Or was it a relationship which changed over time depending on the challenges each country faced and how they decided to tackle these challenges?

Your challenge

We have a box of sources from the Churchill Archive for you to investigate.

  • Your challenge is to study the sources in the Source Box and use them to explain whether the relationship between Britain and America really was special and if so, in what ways.
  • Your teacher will be able to help you with a recording framework and suggestions on how to present your work.