Britannia's International Relations 1895-1999


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(Prime Minister +Foreign Sec.)


            Cold War, 1898-1914

Salisbury 1895 (Conservative)

Balfour 1902 (Conservative)

+Landsowne (Conservative)

Campbell-Bannerman '05 (Liberal)


Asquith (Liberal)



·         Faschoda Crisis: French expedition was moving from West to East and GB wants to assure link from the Cape to Cairo. F is occupying Fachoda (shortly before Kitchener arrives). GB ultimatum, F accepts to prevent war.



·         Boer War: GB allowed settlements of Dutch colonists in Transvaal and Orange with autonomy. In 1866 discovery of enormous Gold resources (28% of World output) near Johannesburg. Transvaal changes from Hinterland to centre. D tries to influence Dutch settlers, GB citizens have not full political rights in S-Afr. Rhodes tries to overthrow the government in Transvaal. 11/10/'99 Boers declare war. Before GB is getting enforcement, Boers are entering GB territory ("Black Weeks" for GB). In 1900 Change under General Kitchener and Roberts. Bloody guerrilla war.

Consequences: Concentration Camps were set up. Debts left from the war. Vulnerability of Empire and GB army is shown (defeated by peasants). Modernisation of the navy. Education act ('02) and technical schools (like D). Tying Dominions closer (Federation of Australian Colonies '01, the same for S-Afr).

1902 &


·         Alliances with JP: Russia is traditional enemy in Asia (India). Facing Russia allied to F. First alliance with JP: Neutrality if one country is at war with another, help if there is a second country supporting the enemy). For 5 years. Renewed in 1905 and alliance guaranteed even if on power attacks. '04/'05 War between Russia and JP ('05 defeat of Mukden and Russian Revolution). GB reduced naval forces in the region because F was peaceful, Russia defeated and US excluded).


·         Anglo-Russian Agreement: In '00/'01 GB seeks alliance with D (not same interest spheres) to isolate Russia but failure. Rivalries with Russia and entente with F, contradicted treaty between F and Russia. GB reaches agreement with Russia in '07. Russia was weakened after defeat against JP. Tibet was neutralised, Afghanistan went to GB and Persia was divided into North (Russia), South (GB) and a neutral zone)..


·         Anglo-French Entente. (Entente Cordiale) Not alliance more like a colonial agreement to set disputes. F gives up claims on EGY and GB gives up claims for Morocco.



·         Morocco Crisis: D wants to split Entente Cordiale with Morocco (not in GB's sphere of interests, attributed to F). Willhelm II was assuring in Tanger to protect the independence of Morocco. GB is giving its support to F (Entente is in fact strengthened). Conference of Algeciras ('06) D is isolated, F gets Morocco (and Spain North of it). Second Morocco Crisis: '11 F troops against insurrection. D sends ship. International protests and reinforcement of Anti-German feelings in GB (and especially in F). Consultations F and GB (but no commitments).


·         Fleet deployment: in the Mediterranean, role of GB is assured by F.



Generalities: Russia is perceived as biggest threat at the beginning. '00/'01 Treaties with US to assure naval inferiority of GB fleet in American Waters. Because of the US-E war, US started a naval build up and is in 1908 second biggest naval force after GB. D is encircled (risk of a two front war, thus Schlieffenplan) and late for the colonial race (Weltpolitik). Naval Race against D is becoming more important after Anglo-Russian Agreement. From isolation and weakness to relative security ('00-'07). No real commitments were given, only Entente.





            Great War, 1914-1922

George 1916 (Coalition)


+Curzon 1919

Law 1922 (Conservative)




·         Home Rule: Large autonomy for Ireland. Refused by Lords twice in '13. Protestants refuse any secession and build up army. Accepted in '14 its application was delayed to the end of the hostilities.


·         July Crisis: After killing of crown prince A-H lances a strike versus Serbia. A-H is only reliable ally of D thus D is giving its support. Wants to deter Russia from intervention like it did in the Bosnian Crisis. Russia is Mobilising, Schlieffenplan is activated and D attacks BEL and F (while Russia is mobilising). Consequence of the 1912 fleet deployment is that GB should support F in the Canal Zone. GB wants no hegemonic power on the continent and declares the war. GB was bound to assure BEL neutrality. Everybody was expecting a short war. GB was not ready for a war on the continent (mainly naval forces, no conscription). A lot of volunteers, but time for training and armament.


·         Gallipoli: In 1914 the Ottomans entered the War. Problem of strait of Dardanelles: if closed problems for Russia's supply of material. This made after doubts clear to GB were to hit. Churchill led attack on Gallipoli (troops from AUS, New Zealand and GB). Terrible failure. At the same time "Shell Scandal" because there is not enough ammunition on stock for fighting a war. Churchill is scapegoat.


·         Sykes-Picot Agreement: Secretly F and GB decide on sphere of influence. Splitting up the Ottoman Empire (especially Syria and Iraq). Contradiction with promises for independence to Arabs if they fight the Ottomans. Published in '17 by Soviets, Arab world feels offended.



·         Lloyd George: heading a coalition he comes into power in December. Conscription is introduced. No victory is in view, GB is running out of money. War is financed this time with borrowing and not with higher taxes (mainly private US loans).



·         US enters War (April): GB is financially depending on US. Different war aims than GB. Russia signs after revolution armistice. Allied intervention in the civil war. GB's forces are not concentrated on a theatre. GB has extreme aims. Total defeat of Germany and installation of a republic but GB is not a major power on land. To maintain allies will to fight several offensives (which were thus political) like Loos '15, Somme '16, Passchendaele '17.



·         Balfour Declaration: Balfour is announcing the 2 November for GB that they are supporting the creation of a national homeland for Jews in Palestine after the war. One reason might have been to ally the Russian Jews.



·         Armistice Agreement: October/November German Revolution, Emperor abdicates. Growing Bolshevist danger in central Europe. Armistice was negotiated between US and D (without the allies).




·         Ireland: During WW I clandestine Army (Irish Republican Brotherhood), getting weapons from Germany. Easter Uprising in 1916 is violently suppressed by GB. January 1919 independence is unilaterally declared by Sinn Fein dominated parliament. Three years of guerrilla war, terrorist actions and negotiations. '21 moderates accept treaty of London. Split and independence of Ireland (not north), accepted by Parliament in '22).



·         Post War situation: Russia did not collapse thus double threat (Ideology and Indian Boarder). US is catching up. Conference of San Remo '20: GB, I, F on Versailles. Refusing 200 000 men army like in the treaty (only 100 000). GB gets Iraq and Palestine and F gets Syria and Lebanon as League of Nation mandates. TUR signs armistice of Moudros ('18). But not independence like promised for Iraq. Mandate under Feisal (from the Hachemite family, chased from Syria). '32 "independent" but GB controls oil and defence. Conference of Washington '21/'22: 3 treaties, under US leadership. Naval armament reduction: 5(US)-5(GB)-3(JP)-1.75(F)-1.75(I). '22 US Congress refuses to join League of Nation. '29 Great Depression.




Generalities: Jerusalem falls in '17, Baghdad in '18. Becomes main theatre for GB, waiting for the US ground forces. Partly decline of GB. Huge losses of lives. Economic slump. To hold the Gold Standard that is strongly under pressure GB makes a deflationary policy. '19 uprising in India, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ireland is symbol for Dominion centrifugalism. GB was retreating in 1919 from almost all Russian territories. Atatürk formed surprisingly stable governments. RAF to control tribal insurgencies instead of maintaining an administration to run a country (e.g. Iraq, it's cheaper).






            No War, 1919-1940

Baldwin 1923 (Conservatives)


Mac Donald (FS and PM) 1924

(also Foreign Secretary)

Baldwin 1924 (Cons)


Mach Donald 1929 (Lab)


+Reading 1931

+Simon 1931

Baldwin 1935 (Cons)


+Eden (december 1935)

Chamberlain 1937 (National)


·         Paris Peace Conference: D is not invited. Wilson, Clemenceau, George. GB asked for a complete destruction of German fleet, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa want former German Colonies and GB asks for Ottoman territories in the middle East. Colonies become mainly mandates. For this questions Colonies, Seapower and reparations GB and F opposed US. US and GB don't agree with F on the treatment of Germany (F wants complete disarmament). League of Nations as a victor institution to control D. F only gets Alsace-Lorraine and not Rheinland and the Sarre how F asked. D is no threat to GB anymore because of the destruction of its fleet. Versailles was not seen as definitive by US and GB, but it was by F (because of a lack of better alternatives).


·         F and GB: F is forced to give up the Ruhr occupation and F's bid for Rheinland independence is blocked.. GB wants to maintain Entente with France. GB supported a limited rearmament of D.


+Halifax 1938

Churchill 1940 (Coaliton)

+ Halifax


·         Locarno: Rheinland boarders and their inviolability were recognised by F, D and BEL and guaranteed by GB, I. GB gives no commitment to protect alliances concluded by F in Central Europe. D does not recognise the Eastern boarder but refuses the use of violence. '26 D becomes member of the League of Nations.





·         End of Locarno: Economic collapse. New York Stock Crash '29. GB is off the gold standard. Central European Banks are collapsing. F opposed any disarmament without guarantees. '33 Hitler becomes chancellor. D is leaving disarmament conference in Geneva. '35 conscription is reintroduced in Germany and its airforce was equivalent to the RAF. '35 Sarre is going to Hitler and in '36 he is occupying the Rheinland (which is supposed to be demilitarised). This marks the end of the Versailles treaty and the Locarno pact.



·         GB Policy: Chamberlain considered also economic appeasement, like giving Germany colonies back. GB was highly indebted and had high expenditures. Conscription found and end (big election issue in '18). Arms control as alternative to conscription. Defence based on the assumption that no war in the next 10 years. Concept only changed after '32 when JP attacked China and '33 when D left disarmament conference. General Pacifist Mood (Peace Ballots). Weakness of the Air Force because no domestic industries. Public opinion is haunted by the possibility of an bomber attack (no way to defend London because no radar and no fighters, exaggerated estimates of deaths). Fear of knock out reinforced by bombing of Guernica ('37). RAF build up (not army and not navy). '33-'38 less spending for arms than D. When the Pound had to leave the gold, US bankers were blamed. No borrowing until '37 (pre Keynesian phase), than borrowing. But inflation limits. D made a much more excessive deficit spending for rearmament.




·         Asia: '21 Alliance with GB expired (condition for the Washington naval treaty). Limited capacity in Asia (because of naval limitations). Extension in London in '31 of Washington treaty. '30s was time of depression in JP. JP built up strong fleet (breaking the Washington treaty). 31'/'32 Manchuria, '32 Shanghai conquered by JP. Threat to GB in Asia (after Manchuria GB changed it's 10 years rule). Appeasement with JP irritated US. In '37 Sino-JP war, appeasement not possible anymore. '37/'38 US and GB Vessels are sunk on the Yangtze River no sanctions.



·         Stresa Meeting: In April after D denounced clauses of the Versailles treaty (march), the WW I victors (I, F, UK) met in Stresa. They declared to oppose any further changing of treaty clauses that endanger the European peace  and they formed the "Stresa Front". This front was disrupted with the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy.



·         Ethiopia: Invaded by Italy. Fascist Italy new rival but closer than JP. Italy is opposing Anschluss of A to D, GB hopes to weaken the I-D Axis. Trying to appease Mussolini (despite sanctions of the League of Nations and the public opinion). But not negotiation with I, because precondition would be de jure recognition of the status of Ethiopia. Fight between Eden and Chamberlain (Eden anti-Italy leaves government shortly before the Anschluss).



·         Hoare-Laval plan on Ethiopia: GB had to follow the League of Nation sanctions because of the public opinion, but it tried to minimise them because of the fear of war. In December Hoare was send to Paris to conclude an Anglo-French agreement with Italy. When details leaked out, the public was outraged and Hoare had to leave office as scapegoat.




·         Spanish Civil War: Like test for World War (GB, F, D, URSS and I). Third time (after JP and I) when GB antagonised without effective deterrence.



·         Appeasement's peak: First Anschluss of A to D. Then Munich. Hitler wants Sudeten, risk of war. GB and F feel not ready for war (probably D wasn't either) and put pressure on CSR to leave the Sudeten. GB and F accept 29/30 September in Munich the integration of the Sudeten into the Reich. The CSR has then to leave territory to PL. Slovakia is proclaiming independence. 1939 threaten with bomb raids Hascha, the Czech president, signs a treaty with which the Czech Republic becomes the protectorate "Böhmen und Mähren".



·         Securing western Front: Accepting the expansion in the East, GB wanted to build up a strong western front against German expansion. Giving guarantees to the NL and entering staff talks with F (not policy of limited liabilities anymore). The public opposed the Appeasement policy. After panicking about Prague, rumours about planned aggression against GB by D and Italy's invasion of Albania (copying Hitler), GB decided on a doubling of the terrestrial forces and for the first time gave guarantees to Eastern European Countries (PL, GRE, ROM). All this guarantees were no strong commitments and aimed at reassuring F and deter D.



·         Talks with Stalin: Not with serious results but thought as sign. No agreement with URSS because antagonism over PL and bolshevism. Shock about Hitler-Stalin Pact (no warning from intelligence services).

·         The War starts: In September Hitler attacks Poland. F and GB are declaring war to Germany. Many leave London fearing bomb raids. Still old assumptions: Afraid of bombers. D economy seen as in badly shape and thus passivity is the appropriate strategy (playing on time). Thinking that moderates will fight radicals in the German regime and the German Home Front will break sooner or later.



·         Victories of the Axis: May victory over F. Almost no GB troops on the western front. DAN, NOR, NL fall, Hitler is influencing the governments of E, Balkans and SWE. Italy is expanding in Northern Africa, JP in China. GB wanted using F as a shield to have time to rearm. This was impossible now.




Generalities: Bringing D and Russia back into trading system or asking reparations? Germany is main rival, also rivalries with JP. But GB is not like in 00's about overcoming this isolation. The dominions isolationism increased. GB is assuring defence (with increasing naval capacities of JP and I, increasing costs). This lack of support by the Dominions and the US brought GB to appease D. Fear of three front war (D, JP, I). At the end it was clear that GB is forced to face Germany.






            World War, 1940-1947

Churchill 1940 (Coalition)


+Eden 1940 (dec)

Atlee 1945 (Labour)




·         Waiting for the US: GB needs help from US or URSS. Pearl Harbour in 1942. Churchill thinks not to be able to beat D but stands firm (master of bluff). In 41 D has not managed to get control over South West England, which would have been necessary to be able to invade GB. D suffered losses from GB because GB was equipped by radar and fighters. But GB was isolated (F not anymore assuring Mediterranean, penetrates in Northern Africa), Hitler controlled the whole continent.



·         Dominions: Australia, New Zealand and Singapore are afraid because poorly defended. Churchill promised defence but unofficially he said that EGY will have priority. He is convinced that the US will support GB in the Near East and that the main threat to Singapore is naval and it will withstand until reinforcement arrive. JP understands bluff and attacks and succeeds with ease. India was promised a certain degree of independence after the war.



·         Atlantic Charter: Signed  by Churchill and Roosevelt, defining principles of a future peace. No territorial expansion, right of the people to chose their own political system, free access for all to natural ressources. The Charter was accepted by the allies and inspired the UN Charter after the War.




·         Fighting with Allies: Fighting in a heterogeneous Alliance was difficult. URSS (ideology, Stalin, India, also memory of Hitler Stalin Pact). Cultural closeness to US but contested colonial preference and Sterling area, also presence of Trade disputes. This time indebted with government loans (not like WW I). Repayment with concessions. '44 acceptance of US dominance in the Bretton Woods system. US rated interest in Asia higher than in Middle East. US wants invasion over Channel. GB is contributing main terrestrial forces and prefers Northern Africa and then landing in the Italy for the re-conquest of Europe. '42 Operation "Torch" in Morocco and Algeria. Invasion of F is postponed to 44 because of the diverging interests.



·         Teheran: Conference of the three big. Stalin was the victor of this conference, because Roosevelt made concessions hoping for URSS co-operation after the war. Agreement to accept the Lublin Committee as Polish government (communist) and  to move the West boarder of PL further west.  Churchill wanted an offensive on the Balkans to secure influence there but was opposed by US and the URSS. Splitting up D (took back later because not accepted in US).



·         Percentage agreement: Churchill tried to find agreements with URSS. Stalin signed treaty with Churchill in Moscow about spheres of influence. The so called "Percentage Agreement" foresaw no agitation of the URSS in F and I, keeping out of the GRE Civil War and offering RO and BUL for the URSS as its sphere of predominance.



·         Yalta: Conference of the three big. URSS 65 km before Berlin, Westerners not much further than in '44. Confirmation of the Atlantic Charter, URSS will be member of the UN. URSS agrees to go to war against JP and gets concessions in Asia. Decisions on the PL boarder.



·         Potsdam: Conference after War (July/August). Execution of the Yalta decisions (like splitting D in occupying zones). Atlee  for Churchill (at the end of the conference) and Truman for Roosevelt. Installation of People's democracies (with non communist participation but just soviet smokescreen). Polish boarder (see below). German question (reparations, de-nazification, occupied zones etc.). Territorial changes mainly in the East (with forced emigration by the Soviets). No solution for the Saar.



·         Poland: URSS did not negotiate with exiled government in London and accepts only Lublin Committee. Churchill accepts the former Curzon Line to be approximately the eastern boarder of Poland because URSS needed a buffer against D. In the west GB agreed on the Oder-Neisse Line as boarder but there was a disagreement which Neisse (because there are two and Churchill meant the more eastern one).



·         Breaking Alliance: In GB swing to the left. Atlee (Soviet friendly). URSS as new threat, controlling western Communist Parties, seeking treaties with TUR (Dardanelles), Iran etc. F asking for amputation of the Ruhr and the Rheinland. Weakening link with US (wants boys back), focusing on democratisation of JP.




·         Bomb and finances: Two main problems for GB. Bomb: No possessing the atomic bomb. '45 Atomic co-operation with CAN, US and GB. Spy scared Congress stops with Mac Mahon act most parts of this co-operation ('46). Finances: GB is highly indebted and has high military commitments in western Europe. GB is obtaining a write off of debts and pays with the Bretton Woods system and the convertibility of the Sterling. The loan agreement is only ratified by '46 by the US.




·         European Liability: Dunkirk pact on alliance with F. Also engaged in European co-operation (doubts about loyalty of US and very sceptic about URSS). GB sees its role in reorganising Europe. Conscription is maintained ('47) and GB is developing its own atomic bomb (Labour backbencher were opposing this plans). With this program cuts in the defence budget were decided (freeing labour forces, less on defence). No solution for D thus occupation. '47 The GB and US zone in D were unified (opposed by F and URSS).



·         US is taking over: GB announces that it stops supporting GRE and TUR and that it will leave India in '48. US answered with the Truman Plan (TUR and GRE). Also in '48 Palestine will be evacuated and GB won't assure implementation of the UN partition plan. This decisions are not fully reflecting GB's power and were partly taken in a panic. The Nato will bring some relief for the burdens in Europe.




·         The British Empire: GB lost Malaysia, Hong Kong, Burma and India and Australia seemed in Jeopardy in '42. No loss of colonies through conquest. Tighter control of the Empire during the war (like the anti-British government in EGY in '42 which was forced to step down). India: Defence treaty as precondition for independence. The Muslim league supported GB but there was a increasing alienation with the Congress Party. '46 Riots in Northern India. Plans to evacuate all British citizens. Palestine: GB did not want to alienate the Arabs, thus it did not hold the promises of the Balfour declaration. Jewish opposition grew and be came more radical (terrorist attacks). Strategically important. As a mandate more international attention than India. US is favouring immigration, GB has big difficulties to assure law and order. '47 the Palestinian Problem is passed to the UN. Middle East is not that much in the focus anymore.




Generalities: Situation of three "Monroes": GB for Western Europe and its Empire, URSS for Eastern Europe and US for Latin America and Asia. Labour opposes a general rearmament. The 10 years rule from after WW I is now a 5 plus 5 years rule (no war for 5 years, than deterioration for 5 years).






            Superpowers, 1947-1955

+Morrison 1951

Churchill 1951


Eden 1955 (Cons)


+Lloyd (dec. 1955)



·         US and URSS: US and URSS is rising. GB and US maintaining meetings of joint chiefs of staff (-'46).'47 Truman doctrine. '48 announcing of Marshall plan ('48-'50 12 billion $). URSS vetoes participation of eastern European countries. '48 Berlin Blocus and Airlift for 11 month. 48 CSR election result is cancelled by URSS ("Coup de Prague").




·         Defence of Europe: After the pact of Dunkirk '47 between F and GB enlargement. '48 Brussels pact (still directed against Germany). F, GB, Benelux. GB gave up its policy of bilateral treaties. US was stationing (like foreseen in the Spaatz-Tedder agreement of 46) B-29 bombers in GB. The Berlin Blocus led to the transformation of the Brussels pact into the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), signed in '49. The first time the US committed itself to an alliance in Europe (possible through resolution Vandenberg). Only the Korean War of '50 put the "O" into the NATO, before no binding commitments. After the outbreak of this war the risk of Soviet invasion in Europe was perceived as higher. US was sending troops to the continent.




·         GB Defence: Only semi-independence can be achieved. Access to nuclear secret is blocked by US (Mac Mahon law). B-29 (can carry A-bomb) are stationed on GB ground, RAF airfields can be used by US for Berlin Air Lift. USSR tests first bomb in '49 (only expected by GB for '54). Depending on US for nuclear deterrence (with main US bases GB is an aim for URSS attacks). GB wants to assure deterrence without US. GB got the bomb in '52 but US is testing the same year and URSS one year later the H-bomb. It is difficult with densely populated territory against Russia to deter effectively thus military rationale of H-bomb.



·         GB Economics: GB tries to reinstall its pre-war financial role (enlarging the Sterling area). '47 after introduction of the convertibility there is a Sterling Crisis (because there are huge debts in Sterling). Convertibility was installed to get loans in $ from the US. The Sterling is devalued 30% (without consultations of IMF partners). The Pound is relieved after the withdrawal from the Middle East and India. Competitivity increased because of the devaluation. US opposes Sterling Area (Marshall plan as lever, economic co-operation in Europe), GB argues that shortage of $ also in colonies and £ could be bridge. OEEC is wanted by US supranational, successfully opposed by GB ('49).




·         International Politics: '49 Mao in power in China. GB recognises China in '50 (US disagreed). GB sceptical about US involvement in Korean War (fear of turning away from Europe). Agrees to contribute to the troops. Truman considered A-bomb in Korean War, strongly opposed by GB. This produced the tensest moment of US-GB relations in this time. US asks for higher defence expenditures and GB increases them '51-'53. After the battle of Dien Bien Phu in the Indochina war '54 GB is leading negotiations (because US refuses to meet the Chinese). '53 after Stalin's death, Churchill wants rapprochement. '55 D joins NATO. 

The Empire:


·         ANZUS: AUS and New Zealand were afraid of communist intervention (and didn't car about the middle east).Treaty of Mutual Protection between AUS, New Zealand and US. GB is excluded US plays new role.



·         Eastern African Union: Composed of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Aim is to form a counter power to South African expansion.



·         Commonwealth: '47 India and Pakistan are created. '48 Burma becomes independent. Commonwealth was seen as a mean to become a superpower. Ties were more informal than in the Empire. This concept was applied exclusively to the white dominions in the Interwar period. Not British anymore, members have to accept the crown as head of state (even accepted by India). Korean war was joint decision. Attempt to create a common security concept. To the former minimum commitment in colonies, the instrument of financial/social aid was added (at the same time means to weaken anti-imperialist critique of US and URSS).



·         Malaya: '48 State of emergency is pronounced by GB on this colony because of guerrilla action exploiting the Chinese populations disaffection. It took five years and a considerable commitment to defeat the guerrillas (memories of the Boer War came back). Most profitable colony of the Sterling area (members have to convert hard currencies into pounds). Federation of Malaysia is created (without Singapore). Communist Chinese opposed.



·         South Africa: '48 Nationalist Victory, weakening ties. Despite obsessive fear by Afrikaner from Communism, GB manages not to fit S-Africa in a Middle East defence pact of. There was few critics of the Apartheid regime because of economic (Uranium, Gold) and strategic (naval bases) importance of S-Africa.



·         Controlled Devolution: '47 Cohen Report demands self-government (with the aim of "shaping nationalism"). Nation Building as goal. Not only because of anti-imperial pressure, also new strategy: forming a more informal Empire, with client-patron ties.




·         Middle East: Special importance because junction between Pacific and Atlantic. Crucial role for the Suez Canal. Acute dependence on the region because of the oil. '48 Treaty with Transjordan, Arab Legion is under GB control. Social imperialism is mainly power-political strategy. '51 Iran is nationalising refineries and forces GB out. US opposed the use of force. In 53 Mossadegh's regime is toppled by a coup of the CIA (with support of the GB secret service). EGY after the officers coup, gives up the clientalistic relationship. GB withdrawal within 20 months with a re-entering right in case of war is negotiate in 54.



·         Baghdad Pact: Concluded between TUR and Iraq. Aimed against URSS. GB, PAK, Iran joined the same year. Linked to NATO (GB and TUR). PAK and Iraq have no boarder with URSS. US is linked to the treaty but not member.

European Integration:


·         Attitude: For GB EC is a framework for the rapprochement between F and D. GB was only interested in closer co-operation and not only limited liabilities in times of extreme insecurity. Priority was given to the Commonwealth and the GB US relations were judged as more important than the GB Europe relations.




·         ECSC: Proposal for the European Community for Steel and Coal (ECSC). Creation of ECSC. Clear commitment of the six (F, D, Benelux) to supranationality shocks GB (who thought this project will fail). GB does not start talks because a commitment to supranationality is a precondition. Policy of staying aside. CSCE is founded in '52.



·         EDC: The plan for an European defence community (EDC) was first lanced by the French Pleven in '50. It was a response to the US plans of rearmament of D. GB does not want to join the European country but seeks to be associated (same argument like for the Schumann plan). The Commonwealth is given priority. Signed in '52, ratification is refused by the ratification was refused by the French parliament in '54. Bilateral agreements to associate is sought, thus permanent troop commitment for EDC is given. Tradition of reassuring F (Dunkirk, Brussels). The doctrine is no longer that GB will withdraw from continent to defend GB, but GB will fight on the island.



·         Messina Conference: Conference in Sicily. GB is invited to join further discussions on European integration. GB wants to play an independent role and integration is thus not a real option.




Generalities: Many think after the war that there will be three big. There were tensions between US and GB but GB had to rely on US. Despite its role as junior partner it preserved a considerable influence. GB is ready to defend colonies if there are benefits (Malaysia).






            Circles, 1955-1970

Macmillan 1957 (Cons)


+Home 1960

Douglas-Home 1963 (Cons)


Wilson 1964 (Labour)


+Stewart 1965

+Brown 1966

+Stewart 1968



·         Suez Crisis: Debacle for GB. US and GB stop financing of Assuan dam (because Nasser is getting weapons from CSR in '55). Nasser nationalises the Suez Canal (few month before planned GB retreat). Israel attacks and occupies the area. GB and F intervene after setting an ultimatum. Sterling is under strong pressure at this time. US will only help GB if they withdraw. CIA and GB secret service were preparing a joint coup in Syria to prevent the United Arab Republic to come into existence. Suez War is an attempt to overthrow Nasser and not only limited on the Canal issue (he supported the Algerian independence war and considered himself as block free). GB underestimated its isolation in the UN. Blow to GB self esteem, Nasser becomes third world hero, F felt betrayed by GB.


·         Sandy's white paper: The balance of payment problems were aggravated through big spending on armament. Conscription is very unpopular but an attempt to cut it down was blocked in '55 by the army. GB defence scenario is still a world war. Sandy's is minister of defence. Priority is preserving the parity of the Sterling. Conscription is to be phased out from '60 to '62. RAF was cut in half, troops in D were reduced. The paper stated that without strong economy defence cannot be assured. The future defence task of GB will be nuclear deterrence and the ability to fight wars against insurgents in the third world.



·         GB-US re-rapprochement: '57 Increased intelligence co-operation. Thor missiles (medium range) are based on GB (GB's medium range system would not be in place before '62/'65) In '57 URSS launched Sputnik (this meant that URSS had developed a missile with intercontinental range before US). This led to additional agreements between US and GB. '58/'59 review of Mac Mahon act (pushed by Eisenhower), new flow of information and equipment. 1960 giving up "Blue Streak" missile system. Getting from US "Skybolt" (air ground missile) and later when developed "Polaris" (Submarine, unpopular by the Navy, because preference for aircraft carriers).GB was dependent on US and forced to take what ever they offer.



·         The missile Crisis - cooling relations: Macmillan had special relations with JFK. The Cuban Missile crises was an important mark in the GB-US relations. GB was only spectator in the crisis and the myth of being able of influencing US decisions (because of being a nuclear power) exploded. '62 Kennedy decides to cancel the "Skybolt" project. JFK was offering different alternatives, but GB was insisting on "Polaris" as only alternative. JFK accepting (against pressure of state department). Favourable price, few participation in developing for GB. At the same time GB was locked in a dependence for transatlantic nuclear deterrence. Developing own system would have been possible (F did), but to advanced to learn from mistakes but not big enough to restart.



·         Obstructing Europe: In '55 GB stepped out of Brussels talks on further integration and tried to draw Germany with it and to mobilise US support. Strategy of preventing the six from moving on, but in '57 Treaty of Rome. GB tries to get a free trade area with the six with the common market. GB is also afraid that Europe could become a third force in Europe. Strategy like for EDC: Association not integration. Failure because not ready to give up sovereignty and an unrestricted veto right (exceptions for agriculture and overseas territories not problem because like F). F veto on free trade agreement in '58.




·         From the EFTA to the EU: GB is signing in '59 a free trade agreement with DAN, NOR, SWE, AUS and CH. Thinking of building bridges with the six. Macmillan checks costs of an adherence to the treaty of Rome for GB (start of foreign policy revolution). OK for negotiations from EFTA. US pro EEC but indifferent towards EFTA (strengthened ties if GB joins EEC). GB wants like De Gaulle a Europe des patries. '62 agreement outline on everything except New Zealand food import. '63 De Gaulle's veto because "GB is not fit" (he was not ready to share the leadership in Europe and afraid of GB military dependence on US). GB was blocked despite the radical change in its foreign policy.




·         Beginning of decolonisation:. Only '56 Sudan, '57 Gold Coast and Malaya. Neither losses nor gains from colonies. '58 De Gaulle offers independence to French Africa (with close ties of course). '60 BEL withdrawal from Congo. Unstable climate in the rest of Africa as consequence. '61 South Africa is excluded from the commonwealth.




·         Rhodesia: Only big colonial crisis for GB in this period. Central African Federation composed of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Racial violence in Congo and S-Africa. Elections with limited representation for blacks for N-Rhodesia and Nyasaland in '62, new governments ask for independence, granted in '63 (N-Rhodesia becomes Zambia and Nyasaland Malawi). In S-Rhodesia (biggest white minority) the white refused elections and in '64 Ian Smith white prime minister asked for independence and it was declared unilaterally in '65. Economic embargo because of racial laws (UN asks other countries to do so too).




·         Decolonisation goes on: In 61 Tanganyika and in '62 Uganda become independent. Not only because of rising international pressure of decolonisation also because of cost-benefit thoughts, strategic reasons etc.




·         "East of Suez": Effort to hold "East of Suez" from '57 on. Aden becomes main base. Federation of South Arabia was created in '63. Malay became independence in '57 but was integrated in the Sterling area and GB was responsible for the defence. For Singapore, independent in '57 too, GB was still assuring the defence and the foreign policy. GB was involved in a bloody war in '63 to preserve Malaysia. "East of Suez" shows that GB was approach not ready to give up its global role in favour of a European rapprochement.



·         Wilson: IN '64 a Labour government took over after 13 years of conservative rule. Wilson sacrificed the domestic economy to the foreign policy. The Johnson administration in the US supported efforts for a strong pound and "east of Suez" principle (thus the dependence on US increased). Costly GB commitments for war in Malaysia. Rejection of devaluation of the Pound. Also conservative approach regarding nuclear deterrence. Fear of China (testing first bomb in '64) and Indonesia planning to develop the bomb. Only change that doctrine is announced that GB will not make major operations without allies. Against European Federation.




·         Stepping back: Conviction that overseas spending huge problem for balance of payments. British forces in Malaysia should be halved in '70/71 and withdrawn util the mid '70s and troops in Singapore should be cut in half. '67 devaluation of the pound, measure to maintain the overseas territories and which became necessary after years of painful deflationary policy. In '68 cabinet decide on a full withdrawal from "east of Suez" except for Hong Kong. Retreats not only economic exigency because some Gulf states offered financing of GB defence in their states. Also US offered loan to hold £ and a $-£ area. Both offers were refused.



·         GB and Europe: Wilson changed opinion. Sterling was devalued, retreat from colonies, Commonwealth was falling apart, growing dependence on US, S-Africa is strongly criticised, AUS supports US in Vietnam war and is closer to US. After the globalist approach failed he thought it is necessary that GB joins the EC and he was more engaged then previously Macmillan. '66 decision that EEC membership is a goal. But decline in world role and at the same time role in Europe is denied.




·         Ireland: Bloody clashes in Ulster with the police. Paisley obtains a split of the Unionists. Revival of the IRA. Ireland can be considered as GB's Algeria.



·         Economic decline and policy failures: Post war GB is dominating European economy. Artificial dominance because not that strong but because the others are so weak. Like everywhere the welfare state is increased (sacrifice today increased welfare tomorrow as a contract between people and government). In '50 GB produces 25% of world manufacturing goods, in '70 only 10%. After the war GB thinks that commodity shortage will come like after WW I (advantage for GB if prices rise, because commodities are available from colonies). But commodity prices fall and prices for manufacturing goods were rising. GB is not expecting further European integration as realistic but in 1958 the common market is created. The pound first a top currency, turned into a neutral currency and then to a negotiated currency (i. e.  needs persuasion or force to convince countries to use it, like GB did with colonies either with force or with aid). Chronically lack of reserves in '50s and '60s, devaluation as lurking nightmare (seems close in '56).




Generalities: Churchill talks about 3 circles: Commonwealth, Anglophone World and Europe. GB is at the conjunction of all three. Clash of transatlantic interdependence and Europeanism (which again is opposed by GB). No wave of decolonisation after India and Palestine. Change in trade pattern also caused change in Macmillan's foreign policy. Trade with colonies declined and grew with Europe.






            Europe, 1970-1979

Heath 1970 (Conservative)


Wilson 1974 (Labour)


Callaghan 1976


+Owen 1977



·         Relative weakening: US is strongly involved in the Vietnam War, it takes back its gold commitment, '72 Nixon is visiting China, '73 Kissinger asks for a better sharing of NATO burdens. The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) becomes more and more important. In '71 the dollar is not covering Gold anymore. Because of the strong DM most of the other currencies were letting float in '73. Growing independence of D's foreign policy (Brandt's Ostpolitik). EU becomes a major force in foreign policy (?). Fears of reunification of Germany (especially in F).



·         Europe: 3 communities (Euratom, ECSC, EEC). National MP's for the European Parliament. Not a federation, not supranational. '66 Luxembourg compromise (veto for questions of national interest). '69 De Gaulle left office and Europe was ready for a re-launch.




·         European revival: The community get its own resources for the CAP. A EMU is planned for '80. Project of European Political Co-operation (EPC). Pompidou thinks a widening of the community is possible and that UK is welcome. In this new international environment UK starts negotiations. In '70 Heath becomes new prime minister. He is in a unique way sceptic towards the US and pro European. Negotiations are in a deadlock in '70 because of New Zealand butter, Commonwealth sugar and the UK contribution, which is only resolved in '71 with a compromise between Heath and Pompidou. The latter sees GB as a welcome counterweight to D in the EC.




·         EC versus US: '71 negotiations are completed. Labour opposed entry of GB. Treaty passes parliament in open vote with big resistance. In '73 GB joins the EC together with IRL and Denmark. Kissinger was worried about the alliance between UK and GB. US wanted to use airbases in the UK to support Israel in the Kippur war in '73 but GB refused. Also was US fearing a URSS support for EGY and was declaring a nuclear alert without consulting GB.



·         Conflict with the EC: CAP was not shaped for GB's economy. A dispute on contributions started (paying a lot getting few). Weak position for GB, proposals blocked by vetoes. Heath was in favour of EMU but against harmonisation. Creating a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the GB industry. '73 the ERDF was accepted but D under the condition that a energy policy is adopted. Time of the First Oil crisis with massive rising of energy Prices, stagflation.



·         Alienating and approach: The vote on the adhesion to the EC was a clear yes. The EC became afterwards the scapegoat for the stagflation. In '72 GB was for a few weeks in the monetary system and then it let the £ float again. The '73 war and the oil shock helped to overcome scepticism towards a EPC. With Wilson back in power, more emphasis is put on the special relationship with US (stating an alienation) and relations to EC are rather cool. Project "Chevaline" (nuclear updating program) to reinforce the nuclear axis US-GB. After Heath is gone, the triangle D-GB-F does not exist anymore. '78 EMS is created. ERM with a fund GB stayed out of the ERM, but contributed to the EMS..




Generalities: Time of inflation and recession ('73/'74). Scottish and Welsh nationalism. No peace in Ulster, the common government collapsed. Unrest despite of GB troops since '69. Former internal cohesion is gone, foreign policy rested on that. End of '79 huge crisis, with strikes, economy crushed. Reason for the Tory victory in '79 as an answer to the socialist project.






            Thatcher, 1979-1990

Thatcher 1979


+Major 1989

+Hurd 1989 (octobre)


·         Maggie-the phenomena: Not interested in foreign policy. Hates socialists. Likes the US. Was never travelling outside GB until her honeymoon (unlike Heath). Convinced of a strong defence. Comes to power with long absence of an effective opposition (there was a defection in the Labour). She won the elections in '83 and in '87, always moments when the economy was getting stronger.



·         Falkland War: Big helper for the elections of '83 ("Britain is great again"). In April military Junta does occupy the Falkland island (or Islas Malvinas). Short after withdrawal of the only and badly equipped boat that was protecting the islands. Thatcher lances offensive in May and within 74 days the islands are won back. GB suffered about 250 human losses, ARG about 1000. Extreme popularity boost for Thatcher. EC partners were passive but condemned (like the UN) the occupation. They imposed a ban on Argentine imports until the escalation of the hostilities.




·         Contrasts to Falkland: After the Falkland War the "Fortress Falkland" was promulgated, but this contrasted strongly policies towards other overseas areas. After the Portuguese withdrawal (main allied of Rhodesia in Africa) and a growing opposition a black led government was elected in '79 but Smith remained in power. Despite of Tories wishes to recognise this government, Thatcher insisted on a government with the widest possible international recognition. Rhodesia finally achieved independence as Zimbabwe in '80. In Ulster an intergovernmental conference is convoked with for the first time a formal legal say in '85 (Hillsborough Agreement). This was seen by the Unionists as a betrayal. '84 negotiations on Hong Kong. Accepting Chinese declaration that in '97 it will remain capitalist and social and political freedoms will be guaranteed. Doubts about that after the Tienaman Massacre. Hard for Thatcher to give in.  



·         Confronting Europe: Thatcher favoured an open market and diplomatic co-operation but opposed moves towards a federation. '79 the end of GB's transitory phase for contribution came and Thatcher wanted a renegotiations. In '84 a compromise is reached at Fontainebleau summit (GB accepts a rise in VAT and gets a rebate in return), which Thatcher was refusing. This was one of the rare occasions when she was forced to give in by her cabinet. Her opposition was one of principal because the contribution were in fact a small budget post.



·         South Africa incident: In S-Africa the state of emergency was proclaimed because of an uprising in Pretoria. Thatcher was opposing sanctions. Kohl limited his policy on sabotage because D was biggest exporter to South Africa. Thatcher got the image of the "bad European".



·         "Europe-the Future": After the summit of Fontainebleau Thatcher published a paper with this title "Europe-the Future", touching issues from environment to high tech. Minimalist version of EC, formed by sovereign states. Stressing European Political Co-operation (EPC). Thatcher wanted to strengthen the European pillar of the NATO. Also for EU market not absolute ideology (opposing VAT for children clothes, keeping custom checks against terrorists etc.). Free market (government was active to remove remaining barriers). Proposing a common approach to external affairs.



·         Milan Summit: '85 Milan European Council summit. GB victory. A timetable (developed by a GB commissioner) was accepted for the implementation of the SEA program for '92. But also decision on intergovernmental conference for institutional reform of the treaty of Rome (opposed by GB, GRE and Denmark). Thatcher opposed more majority voting and more power for the European Parliament.




·         Standing aside: '87 Thatcher was asking for another rebate for GB if increased revenue of EC. '87 Council meeting in Brussels Thatcher was alone opposing the compromise proposed by the commission. After an emergency meeting in Brussels in '88 another compromise was achieved: Thatcher retained the Fontainebleau rebate and tight controls on the CAP was assured. Thatcher was also imposing a joining of the ERM (she was in favour as an opposition leader). '87 to '88 the £ was shadowing the DM. Thatcher insisted on several preconditions that must be fulfilled for GB to enter.



·         GB debates on EC: Thatcher was refusing the EMU. Delors became her main enemy (catholic, French, federalist and intellectual). Tories were split about the EC. Labour was opposing the EC because they wanted a "social EC". In fact the differences between the two parties in their attitude were not very diverging (sovereignty of GB was central). For the European elections in '89 Labour wanted to build a "social" Europe and they had big success. This was a warning for the Tories.



·         Alliance with US: In '79 decision to place Pershings in western Europe to counter SS-20 missiles (with triple nuclear heads) of the soviet threatening Europe (dual track decision in '77: also negotiations). Peace movement gets stronger (and URSS plays with that). '81 Reagan comes to power. Thatcher hates him ("poor dear there's nothing between his ears") but wants strong axis US-GB. GB plans to buy the Trident C4 system to replace the "Polaris" system. When US changes plans, GB has no alternative than to follow this decision. Soviets refused negotiations (which made the second part of the NATO dual track decision unimportant). GB has high expenditures in relative terms for army. Falkland War give a new raison d'être to the navy. '83 Reagan launches the SDI (Star Wars) project, fears in Europe of new isolationism. Thatcher supports it officially but tries to convince Ronald that deterrence is the better investment. This public solidarity was only broken when US intervened without consultation in Grenada in '83 which is part of the Commonwealth. '86 GB allows US to use bases for raids on Libya.



·         Thatcher's Ostpolitik: GB's interests in economics is more important than ideology. Thatcher's policy was towards the east was differentiated (more liberal regimes got support). She was visiting Hungary, the Moscow (funeral of Andropov). After meeting Gorbatchov ("we can do business together") she sees her chance to play a new role in Europe. Mitterand, Kohl and Reagan were hard-liner towards the URSS.



US without Europe: '87 in Washington the withdrawal of medium range missiles (Pershing SS-20) from Europe was decided (first arm reduction including surveillance on short notice), but without Europe (Reagan and Gorbatchov). Reykjavik in '86 almost 50% of long distance missiles should be destroyed. Thatcher fears of weakening of the nuclear protection of Europe. She asks for a modernising of the short range missiles in NATO forces in '89 in Brussels which is refused (because of the growing influence of D in the alliance).




Germans reunification: In '89 fall of the Berlin wall. '91 reunification. Thatcher was opposed to any rapid changes. US had to stay in Europe and the NATO must continue to exist. Keeping the nuclear arsenal. But US forces were reduced and the nuclear deterrence was more limited than before in the NATO strategy. Also GB forces are reduced on the continent and in general. To delay the reunification was difficult, Kohl negotiated directly with the Soviets.



EMR, finally: Only in '90 full membership of GB in the EMR was accepted. Thatcher claimed that deepening the EC (i.e. adopting the EMU which was strongly opposed by her) would delay a widening.




Generalities: Revival and decline of GB's role. Thatcher was often using the bluff as strategy. In '81 GRE and in '86 P and E did so too. Time of Perestroika and Glasnost. Eastern countries are strongly destabilised. These states were a buffer of the URSS against Germany in the post war order. End of Thatcher era came the 28th November '90 and she was replaced by Major.






            Identities, 1990-1999

Major 1990 (Cons)


+Rifkind 1995




·         Gulf War: Hopes for the beginning of a new world order. Two different styles: Major had "wait and see policy towards the EU. GB troops were employed for humanitarian operations. Blair showed in the Kosovo crisis to be more offensive. In '91 there was no party divide on the operation "Desert Storm". GB had the second largest allied troops in the War (after Saudi Arabia). GB allied to the US, proofed its loyalty also with the bombing to assure the embargo.



·         Maastricht: Opt out for GB concerning the EMU and the social chapter. Maastricht was ratified despite a Tory revolt (also opposed Thatcher). Major postponed further proceeding. Major's second trophy, the membership in the ERM, shortly after that was damaged. After the Danish "No" to Maastricht started a wave of speculation on the pound and other currencies. Pound was already overvalued when GB entered (because of the imitating of the German Bundesbank which raised interest rates for the costly reunification). The referendum party made the race even worse and last possible election date '97 was approaching. After the exit of the ERM the only thing that was left. It had to be decided. Maastricht was only narrowly ratificated.



·         Blair: Elected in '97. European with "heart and head". In favour of the EU and of an enlargement (SWE; DAN, A).




·         European intervention: Mid 90's Eurocorps (F and D). An EU defence should be constructed within the alliance. GB creates rapid reaction forces of all 3 services. The recognition of Croatia was probably the price for the opt out in the Maastricht treaty paid to the German (?). '94 selective bombing of the NATO in Serbia. After being busy with elections and impeachment Clinton shows then new interest in the Balkans with the Kosovo Crisis. Clinton and Blair have close personal bonds. Blair favoured ground troops in the Kosovo Crisis. He declared the ethical foreign policy. GB (and Europe in general) is depending on US. '98 GB launches together with US air strikes against Iraq.



·         Hong Kong: Democratisation was fostered in Hong Kong by GB only in the 90's. These measures were not effective and served mainly to GB to keep the face.



·         Ireland: Good Friday agreement was signed. The declaration of '93 served as framework for negotiations. '94 Cease fire was declared (first the IRA and then the Unionists). 1996 bomb is exploding in Docklands of London. In '97 Blair takes over and this leads to the Good Friday Agreement. Wide range of constitutional changes in GB as a consequence of this agreement.



·         Devolution Program: Labour accepted more autonomy for Scotland and Wales. GB becomes a quasi federal state.




Generalities: '94 opening of the chunnel. Major was born '43 and had thus a completely different memory of Europe than Thatcher (born in '25).









Power is a relative measure. In the 19th century GB had this power (to assure what was called the "pax Britannica") because of a temporarily equilibrium. Several rivals were present during the century. First it was D, US and JP. Later it were the communist states, mainly the USSR. This created the need for the US nuclear umbrella (for geographical reasons). GB did after World War II not join the EC (it's for "them" and not for "us") despite or perhaps because of it's role as a victor. Appearance of the air force and of the nuclear weapons was steadily weakening GB's force coming from its insular existence. In general no sharp changes can be stated in Whitehall. The colonies formed a system of trade for GB (unlike French which saw in it a mercantilist block). GB always had a weak European identity and had special ties to the US. Also the Empire tore GB away from the continent. Also to mention is the geographical factor.