In his international bestselling book, Neill recounts the history of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, during World War II.    

Below is a summary of LISBON: War in the Shadows of the City of Light 1939-45

For the short six-year period of the war, Lisbon was at the very centre of world attention, and was the only European city in which both the Allies and the Axis powers openly operated. The book is set within the context of a country, Portugal, that was frantically trying to hold on to its self proclaimed wartime neutrality, but which, in reality, was increasingly caught in the middle of the economic, and naval, wars between the Allies and the Nazis. It is not, however, a conventional tale of World War II in that barely a shot was fired, or a bomb dropped. It is an engaging account of intrigue, betrayal, opportunism and double-dealing.

Lisbon was a city in which an apparent German plot in 1940 to kidnap the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was foiled, hundreds of Allied and German agents operated openly, including a young Ian Fleming who was busy planning “Operation Golden Eye” against a backdrop that would later provide inspiration for a number of his James Bond books. The traitor, Kim Philby, ran the Allied espionage operations in Portugal and worked alongside the writers Graham Greene and Malcolm Muggeridge.

Lisbon was the end of the escape line for Allied POW’s, and the city where thousands of refuges, both affluent and less fortunate, flooded into the city. Among the refugees were prominent Jews such as the writer Arthur Koestler; the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst, and the art collector, Peggy Guggenheim. The city was the last port of call for the popular British born Hollywood actor, Leslie Howard, who had been on a propaganda visit to the city, and whose plane was shot down by the Germans over the Bay of Biscay.

For Portugal, and the regime, the war represented a huge success story in which the city of Lisbon, and wider country, not only emerged physically unscathed, but also much richer. The book highlights that even in victory, difficult choices need to be made, and the quiet accord that was reached in which Portugal was allowed to keep nearly all of the Nazi gold it had acquired during the war in return for allowing the US continued access to an airbase on the Azores.

This period in Lisbon’s history holds an almost unique set of events, with a largely positive outcome for Portugal, which took place amidst the death and destruction that characterised much of the rest of wartime Europe.

Using newly released documents, following the opening up of the Salazar Archives and more recently the archives of the Portuguese Secret Police, alongside further unpublished documents from the archives in the UK, USA, Germany, Brazil, Canada and Israel, Neill’s book will challenge the existing versions of Portugal’s role during WWII.

Additional resources:

Read Neill's Authors Note to learn more about the story behind the story.

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Details of Foreign Language Publication: 

Portugal (Editorial Presenca), Lisboa: A Guerra nas Sombras da Cidade da Luz, 1939-1945

Brazil (Editora Rocco), Lisboa: 1939-1945 - Guerra nas Sombras

Spain and Spanish Latin America (Aguilar), Lisboa 1939-1945: La guerra secreta de la Cuidad de la Luz durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial

Australia and New Zealand (Scribe Publications), Lisbon; War in the Shadows of the City of Light


Direct links for media/press enquiries in regard to specific international language publications, please go to the Contact page >> 

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