Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain’s House of Commons, fourteen years in the House of Lords, and two in Her Majesty’s prisons, which spawned three volumes of highly acclaimedPrison Diaries. All of his novels and short story collections---including Kane and Abel, Sons of Fortune, and False Impression---have been international bestsellers. Archer is married with two children and lives in London and Cambridge.
Question: How does the typical British person regard the U.S.?
Jeffrey Archer: Well, we look upon you as a closest friends and closest allies. There isn’t a natural affection, finally, enough and among the British for the rest of Europe, perhaps possibly because of two world wars with Germany, and the fact that you came to our support, you backed us when we were in real trouble in the first world war, and in the second world war, more particularly perhaps in the second world war.
People don’t forget that overnight; of course there will come a point when no one remembers it.
Maybe the relationship will change again.
But I find, when I am in America, an immense affection for the British. I am very aware that the British have an immense affection for the Americans. Also, and perhaps even more important, is the significance you have for the British. We are following the battle between Obama and Clinton with almost as much interest as you are. We have double page spreads all most every day ,and we want to see who will be fighting Senator McCain. And we want to know who will win, because whoever is President of the United States will be a great influence on Britain.
This very weak dollar you have at the moment is not helping us and it is not our fault, if I can put it that bluntly, and we have to live with what happens in the United States; and so that is very important to us.
Question: What is America’s proper role on the world stage?
Jeffrey Archer: Well, of course you have led the world for several decades now. Truth is, very few nations realize when that is over.
If you look historically at Britain, we stopped leading the world in about 1910. If you ask people, they would say 1950, but that isn’t true, the decline had already begun 30 or 40 years before.
You will, because you are young enough live, long enough to make a judgment on whether America are still the leading nation on earth in 20, 30 years time.
What will happen with India? What will happen with China? What will happen with many other countries as they shoot up and down? I think it will be difficult because of the financial strength of America.
If you’re not play a leading role for a very long time, because what you have done very cleverly is invest in so many countries, so you have vast stakes in so many countries and they won’t dwindle quickly. When Britain had an empire, we had India and we had Pakistan, well it was all India in those days, and vast parts of Africa, we had Australia and New Zealand, we had that, that was our strength. Of course, as in South Africa.
And when they began do drift away, one by one, quite rightly, turning themselves into independent countries of whom, they only had a relationship with us, that changed, that will changed for you.
The truth--you’ve never been colonizers; one of the strengths of America. If you don’t colonize, you are the first world power that hasn’t colonized. But you now have a massive financial problem, which will not be over in a few minutes, and it will be interesting to see how you come out of the other end of it.
Recorded on: March 15, 2008.