December, 1941: The World On the Brink – In Conversation with Professor Brendan Simms

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December, 1941: The World On the Brink – In Conversation with Professor Brendan Simms

23rd November 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Amidst an unprecedented global crisis, a British naval squadron sets out for the Indo-Pacific. Facing a rising Asian power, the force is designed to demonstrate Britain’s commitment to deter aggression and uphold regional order. But British policymakers are unsure whether they will receive support from the world’s most powerful nation, the United States, if the status quo is challenged. A resurgence of American isolationism is fuelling concerns that it cannot be relied on in a crisis. If war erupts in Asia will the U.S. intervene or stand aloof? As tensions rise, there is a growing feeling among politicians, generals and the wider public that the world is on the brink.

This is not the background to the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group 21 current operational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. It is the state of the world eighty years ago, in Autumn 1941, when Britain, seeking to deter a Japanese attack on its colonies and those of the allied Dutch East Indies, dispatched the battle cruiser Repulse and the battleship Prince of Wales on a fateful mission to East Asian waters.

By that time, war had already changed much of the world beyond recognition. Nazi Germany occupied most of the European continent, while in Asia, the Second Sino-Japanese War had turned China into a battleground. But these conflicts were not yet inextricably linked. Above all, the world’s leading industrial power, the United States, was still formally at peace. The outcome of these two conflicts, and the future of the world, seemed open. Eighty years on, with international relations again in a state of flux, politicians and strategists would benefit from revisiting that pivotal period in the twentieth century to help avoid a catastrophic conflict.

The Henry Jackson Society cordially invites you to join Professor Simms in examining the historical record, and contemplating the role of the United States and the United Kingdom in our contemporary uncertain times.



Professor Brendan Simms is Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge and President of the Henry Jackson Society, and co-author (with Charlie Laderman) of Hitler’s American Gamble. Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War (Penguin/Basic Books, 2021).



Sam Ashworth-Hayes is the Director of Studies at the Henry Jackson Society. Prior to joining HJS, Sam co-founded a start-up using satellite imagery to support the installation of urban green infrastructure, raised funding and built a team to develop prototype products and deliver the first commercial trials. He has also previously worked designing field and lab experiments in behavioural economics, and as a journalist and researcher. Outside of academia Sam writes regularly for outlets including The Spectator, CapX, and National Review on economics and politics, and has made media appearances for the BBC, GB News, and Times Radio. He holds an MPhil in Economics from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelors in the same from the University of York.




On the 23rd of November 2021, Sam Ashworth-Hayes, the Director of Studies at the Henry Jackson Society and Professor Brendan Simms, Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge, and President of the Henry Jackson Society examined the historical record and contemplating the role of the United States and the United Kingdom in our contemporary uncertain times. They discussed the initial war between the Japanese Empire and the United States, and the Japanese Empire and the British Empire, and then moved on to discuss what brought about the real-world war on the 11th of December when Hitler declared War on the United States. They also discussed past international relations and conflicts and lessons that perhaps British policymakers from that period should take away. The discussion concluded with the topic of Hitler’s declaration of war and the shift in international enemies from say the Soviet Union or fascist Italy to Germany.  



23rd November 2021
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, England, SW1P 4QP
21-24 Millbank
Westminster, SW1P 4QP United Kingdom
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Professor Brendan Simms


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