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Atlantic Charter

The Atlantic Charter was a pivotal policy statement issued on 14 August 1941, that, early in World War II, defined the Allied goals for the post-war world. The leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States drafted the work and all the Allies of World War II later confirmed it. The Charter stated the ideal goals of the war: no territorial aggrandizement; no territorial changes made against the wishes of the people; self-determination; restoration of self-government to those deprived of it; reduction of trade restrictions; global cooperation to secure better economic and social conditions for all; freedom from fear and want; freedom of the seas; and abandonment of the use of force, as well as disarmament of aggressor nations. In the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, the Allies pledged adherence to this charter's principles.

The Atlantic Charter set goals for the post-war world and inspired many of the international agreements that shaped the world thereafter. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the post-war independence of European colonies, and much more are derived from the Atlantic Charter.


  • Origin 1
  • Content and analysis 2
  • Origin of the name 3
  • Acceptance by Inter-Allied Council and by United Nations 4
  • Impact on the Axis powers 5
  • Impact on imperial powers and imperial ambitions 6
    • British Empire 6.1
    • Poland 6.2
    • Baltic states 6.3
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • Bibliography 9
  • External links 10


Roosevelt and Churchill aboard ship

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt drafted the Atlantic Charter at the Atlantic Conference (codenamed Riviera) in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.[1] They issued it as a joint declaration on 14 August 1941 although the United States would not officially enter the War until four-months later. The policy was issued as a statement; as such there was no formal, legal document entitled "The Atlantic Charter". It detailed the goals and aims of the Allied powers concerning the war and the post-war world.

Many of the ideas of the Charter came from an ideology of Anglo-American internationalism that sought British and American cooperation for the cause of international security.[2] Roosevelt's attempts to tie Britain to concrete war aims and Churchill's desperation to bind the U.S. to the war effort helped provide motivations for the meeting which produced the Atlantic Charter. It was assumed at the time that Britain and America would have an equal role to play in any post-war international organization that would be based on the principles of the Atlantic Charter.[3]

Churchill and Roosevelt began communicating in 1939; this was their first of their 11 wartime meetings.[4] Both men traveled in secret; Roosevelt was on a ten-day fishing trip.[5] On 9 August 1941, the British battleship

  • BBC News
  • The Atlantic Conference from the Avalon Project
  • Letter from The Ambassador Patrick J. Hurley to the U.S. Secretary of State TEHRAN, April 14, 1945. Describing meeting with Churchill, where Churchill vehemently states that the U.K. is in no way bound to the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
  • The Atlantic Charter

External links

  • Bayly, C.; Harper, T. (2004). Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941–1945. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.  
  • Beschloss, Michael R. (2003). The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941–1945. New York: Simon & Schuster.  
  • Borgwardt, Elizabeth (2007). A new deal for the world: America's vision for human rights. Harvard University Press.  
  • Brinkley, Douglas G.; Facey-Crowther, David, eds. (1994). The Atlantic Charter. Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.  
  • Charmley, John. "Churchill and the American Alliance". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Royal Historical Society). Sixth Series 11.  
  • Churchill, Winston (2010). Triumph and Tragedy: The Second World War. RosettaBooks.  
  • Crawford, Neta C. (2002). Argument and Change in World Politics: Ethics, Decolonization, and Humanitarian Intervention. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. )  
  • Cull, Nicholas (March 1996). "Selling peace: the origins, promotion and fate of the Anglo-American new order during the Second World War". Diplomacy and Statecraft 7 (1).  
  • Gratwick, Harry (2009). Penobscot Bay: People, Ports & Pastimes. The History Press. 
  • Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in retrospect: a profile in history. New York: Harper & Brothers. 
  • Hein, David (July 2013). in 1941"Prince of Wales"Vulnerable: HMS . Journal of Military History 77 (3). 
  • Jordan, Jonathan W. (2015), American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America to Victory in World War II (NAL/Caliber 2015).
  • Hoopes, Townsend; Brinkley, Douglas (2000). FDR and the Creation of the U.N. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.  
  • Kimball, Warren (1997). Forged in war: Churchill, Roosevelt and the Second World War. New York: HarperCollins.  
  • Langer, William L.; Gleason, S. Everett (1953). The Undeclared War 1940-1941: The World Crisis and American Foreign Policy. Harper & Brothers.  
  • Lauren, Paul Gordon (2011). The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. U of Pennsylvania Press. 
  • Louis, William Roger (Summer 1985). "American Anti-Colonialism and the Dissolution of the British Empire".  
  • Louis, William Roger (2006). Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez and Decolonization. London: I.B.Tauris.  
  • Louis, William Roger (1998). More adventures with Britannia: Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain. London: I.B.Tauris.  
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher D. (2008). Sumner Welles, Post-War Planning and the Quest for a New World Order 1937–1943. New York: Columbia University Press.  
  • Prażmowska, Anita (1995). Britain and Poland, 1939–1943: the betrayed ally. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Sauer, Ernst (1955). Grundlehre des Völkerrechts, 2nd edition (in German). Cologne: Carl Heymanns. 
  • Smith, Jean Edward (2008). FDR. New York: Random House LLC.  
  • Sathasivam, Kanishkan (2005). 'Uneasy Neighbors: India, Pakistan, and US Foreign Policy. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.  
  • Stone, Julius (June 1942). "Peace Planning and the Atlantic Charter".  
  • Whitcomb, Roger S. (1998). The Cold War in Retrospect: The Formative Years. Westport, CT: Praeger.  
  • Weigold, Auriol (2008). Churchill, Roosevelt and India: Propaganda During World War II. Taylor & Francis US. 
  • Wrigley, Chris (2002). Winston Churchill: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. 


  1. ^ Langer and Gleason, chapter 21
  2. ^ Cull, pp.4,6
  3. ^ Cull, pp 15, 21.
  4. ^ a b Gunther, pp. 15-16
  5. ^ Weigold, pp.15–16
  6. ^ Gratwick, p. 72
  7. ^ Stone, p. 5
  8. ^ O'Sullivan and Welles
  9. ^ Stone, p. 21
  10. ^ Wrigley, p. 29
  11. ^ "President Roosevelt's message to Congress on the Atlantic Charter". The Avalon Project. Lillian Goldman Law Library. 21 August 1941. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Churchill, p. 393
  13. ^ Lauren|, pp. 140–41
  14. ^ "Inter-Allied Council Statement on the Principles of the Atlantic Charter". The Avalon Project. Lillian Goldman Law Library. 24 September 1941. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Joint Declaration by the United Nations". The Avalon Project. Lillian Goldman Law Library. 1 January 1942. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Sauer, p. 407
  17. ^ Stone, p. 80
  18. ^ Borgwardt, p. 29
  19. ^ Bayly and Harper
  20. ^ Louis (1985) pp. 395–420
  21. ^ Crawford, p. 297
  22. ^ a b Sathasivam, p. 59
  23. ^ Louis, (2006), p. 400
  24. ^ "Second World War Memorials".  
  25. ^ Prażmowska, p. 93
  26. ^ Whitcomb, p. 18;
  27. ^ Louis (1998), p. 224
  28. ^ Hoopes and Brinkley, p. 52


See also

During the war Churchill argued for an interpretation of the charter in order to allow the Soviet Union to continue to control the Baltic states, an interpretation rejected by the U.S. until March 1944.[26] Lord Beaverbrook warned that the Atlantic Charter "would be a menace to our [Britain's] own safety as well as to that of the Soviet Union." The U.S. refused to recognize the Soviet takeover of the Baltics, but did not press the issue against Stalin when he was fighting the Germans.[27] Roosevelt planned to raise the Baltic issue after the war, but he died in April 1945, before fighting had ended in Europe.[28]

Baltic states

Churchill was unhappy with the inclusion of references to peoples' right to "self-determination" and stated that he considered the Charter an "interim and partial statement of war aims designed to reassure all countries of our righteous purpose and not the complete structure which we should build after the victory." An office of the Polish Government in Exile wrote to warn Władysław Sikorski that if the Charter was implemented with regards to national self-determination, it would make the desired Polish annexation of Danzig, East Prussia and parts of German Silesia impossible, which led the Poles to approach Britain asking for a flexible interpretation of the Charter.[25]


Churchill rejected its universal applicability when it came to the self-determination of subject nations such as British India. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1942 wrote to President Roosevelt: "I venture to think that the Allied declaration that the Allies are fighting to make the world safe for the freedom of the individual and for democracy sounds hollow so long as India and for that matter Africa are exploited by Great Britain..."[22] Roosevelt repeatedly brought the need for Indian independence to Churchill's attention, but was repeatedly rebuffed.[22] However Gandhi refused to help either the British or the American war effort against Germany and Japan in any way, leaving Roosevelt no choice but to back Churchill.[23] India was already contributing significantly to the war effort, sending over 2.5 million men (the largest volunteer force in the world at the time) to fight for the Allies, mostly in West Asia and North Africa.[24]

The Americans were insistent that the charter was to acknowledge that the war was being fought to ensure self-determination.[20] The British were forced to agree to these aims but in a September 1941 speech, Churchill stated that the Charter was only meant to apply to states under German occupation, and certainly not to the peoples who formed part of the British Empire.[21]

The acknowledgement that all peoples had a right to self-determination gave hope to independence leaders in British colonies.[19]

Public opinion in Britain and the Commonwealth was delighted with the principles of the meetings but disappointed that the U.S. was not entering the war. Churchill admitted that he had hoped the U.S. would finally decide to commit itself.

British Empire

The problems came not from Germany and Japan, but from those of the allies that had empires and which resisted self-determination—especially the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the Netherlands. Initially it appears that Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed that the third point of Charter was not going to apply to Africa and Asia. However Roosevelt's speechwriter Robert E. Sherwood noted that "it was not long before the people of India, Burma, Malaya, and Indonesia were beginning to ask if the Atlantic Charter extended also to the Pacific and to Asia in general." With a war that could only be won with the help of these allies, Roosevelt's solution was to put some pressure on Britain but to postpone until after the war the issue of self-determination of the colonies.[18]

Impact on imperial powers and imperial ambitions

The most striking feature of the discussion was that an agreement had been made between a range of countries that held diverse opinions, who were accepting that internal policies were relevant to the international problem.[17] The agreement proved to be one of the first steps towards the formation of the United Nations.

The British dropped millions of flysheets over Germany to allay fears of a punitive peace that would destroy the German state. The text cited the Charter as the authoritative statement of the joint commitment of Great Britain and the U.S. "not to admit any economical discrimination of those defeated" and promised that "Germany and the other states can again achieve enduring peace and prosperity."[16]

The Axis powers interpreted these diplomatic agreements as a potential alliance against them. In Tokyo, the Atlantic Charter rallied support for the militarists in the Japanese government, who pushed for a more aggressive approach against the U.S. and Britain.

World map of colonization at the end of the Second World War in 1945

Impact on the Axis powers

The Allied nations and leading organizations quickly and widely endorsed the Charter.[13] At the subsequent meeting of the Inter-Allied Council in London on 24 September 1941, the governments in exile of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Yugoslavia, as well as the Soviet Union, and representatives of the Free French Forces, unanimously adopted adherence to the common principles of policy set forth in the Atlantic Charter.[14] On 1 January 1942, a larger group of nations, who adhered to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, issued a joint Declaration by United Nations stressing their solidarity in the defence against Hitlerism.[15]

Acceptance by Inter-Allied Council and by United Nations

The British War Cabinet replied with its approval and a similar acceptance was telegraphed from Washington. During this process, an error crept into the London text, but this was subsequently corrected. The account in Churchill's The Second World War concludes "A number of verbal alterations were agreed, and the document was then in its final shape", and makes no mention of any signing or ceremony. In Churchill's account of the Yalta Conference he quotes Roosevelt saying of the unwritten British constitution that "it was like the Atlantic Charter - the document did not exist, yet all the world knew about it. Among his papers he had found one copy signed by himself and me, but strange to say both signatures were in his own handwriting."[12]

No signed version ever existed. The document was threshed out through several drafts and the final agreed text was telegraphed to London and Washington. President Roosevelt gave Congress the Charter's content on 21 August 1941.[11] He said later, "There isn't any copy of the Atlantic Charter, so far as I know. I haven't got one. The British haven't got one. The nearest thing you will get is the [message of the] radio operator on Augusta and Prince of Wales. That's the nearest thing you will come to it ... There was no formal document."[4]

When it was released to the public, the Charter was titled "Joint Declaration by the President and the Prime Minister" and was generally known as the "Joint Declaration". The Labour Party newspaper Daily Herald coined the name Atlantic Charter, but Churchill used it in Parliament on 24 August 1941, and has since been generally adopted.[10]

Origin of the name

Only two clauses expressly discuss national, social, and economic conditions necessary post-war, despite this significance.

Clause Four, with respect to international trade, consciously emphasized that both "victor [and] vanquished" would be given market access "on equal terms." This was a repudiation of the punitive trade relations that were established within Europe post-World War I, as exemplified by the Paris Economy Pact.

Although Clause Three clearly states that all peoples have the right to decide their form of government, it fails to say what changes are necessary in both social and economic terms, so as to achieve freedom and peace.[9]

  1. no territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom;
  2. territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the peoples concerned;
  3. all people had a right to self-determination;
  4. trade barriers were to be lowered;
  5. there was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare;
  6. the participants would work for a world free of want and fear;
  7. the participants would work for freedom of the seas;
  8. there was to be disarmament of aggressor nations, and a post-war common disarmament.

The eight principal points of the Charter were:

The Atlantic Charter made clear that America was supporting Britain in the war. Both America and Britain wanted to present their unity, regarding their mutual principles and hopes for the post-war world and the policies they agreed to follow once the Nazis had been defeated.[7] A fundamental aim was to focus on the peace that would follow, and not specific American involvement and war strategy, although American involvement appeared increasingly likely.[8]

Winston Churchill's edited copy of the final draft of the Atlantic Charter
Winston Churchill's edited copy of the final draft of the charter
Printed copy of Atlantic Charter distributed as propaganda

Content and analysis


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