The place and purpose of trusteeship in the post-Second World War world order aroused passions and suspicions that were no less pronounced than those which threatened to disrupt the peace negotiations at Versailles two decades earlier. These tensions, which divided the United States and Great Britain in particular, emanated from a fundamental disagreement over the purpose of trusteeship and its relation to the future of empire in world affairs. British commentators on empire tended to interpret the idea of trusteeship in the context of an imperial tradition that dated back to Edmund Burke's interest in the affairs of the East India Company. They invoked trusteeship as a principle against which to judge colonial administration and, therefore, understood the tutelage of dependent peoples as a justification of empire. Americans, who were born of a very different colonial and political experience, were a great deal less inclined to see trusteeship as a justification of empire than as an alternative to the perpetuation of empire. In this chapter I want to interrogate the claims that structured the terms of this debate, how they shaped the purpose of trusteeship as contemplated in the Charter of the United Nations, and the ideas upon which the anti-colonial movement seized in order to destroy the legitimacy of trusteeship in international society.
The divide that separated American and British attitudes towards trusteeship during the Second World War is most clearly evident in their respective responses to the Atlantic Charter. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt outlined in this historic declaration their hope for a world in which all peoples would enjoy equal economic opportunity and access to raw materials, free and unhindered use of the seas, improved labour standards and social security, a more equitable distribution of wealth, and, significantly, the right 'to choose the government under which they will live'. 1 In this better, more