When Churchill assumed office on May 10, many observers expected England to capitulate and to become a Nazi satellite. Eighty days later, it was clear to all, including Hitler, England would never capitulate and would, in all likelihood, prevail. Yet nothing changed on the ground in this time, no battles were won, and in material terms England, unharmed in May, was by August battered by the blitz.
Lukacs’ argument, originally stated in the brilliant Five Days In London and expanded here to the full eighty days, is that Churchill embodied the difference and that the force of the argument he propounded literally changed the world. An outcome that seemed reasonable in early May had, by May 10, been rejected forever by England’s government and, by August, what had seemed sensible and inevitable had become unthinkable because, in the end, Churchill would consider nothing else.