1951-79 World Power

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  • Created by: bethany
  • Created on: 25-04-13 18:56

World power by 1964? Introduction

After world war two, the world was becoming a different place. To be considered a world power following the dramatic events, I would argue that a country should have economic and political influence in different spheres of the world, but also have the ability to deter other Countireds with nuclear weapons. Some historians, such as Hollan argue that "imperial roles came to be seen as incongruent with the modern goals in economic and foreign policy", therefore arguing that despite the decline in Empire, as Britain was able to retain influence around the globe she was still a world power by 1964. However, other historians, such as Acheson argue that "Britain [had] lost an empire, and not yet found a world role", thus argung she was no longer a world power. I would argue that although Britain's world power status did decline during this period, as she still held some political and economic influence, in addition to holding her own H bomb by 1957, by 1964 she was still a world power, but perhaps not when compared to places such as the USA, who was arguably the biggest world power during this time.

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World power by 1964? paragraph two

The major incident which many believe demonstarted the decline in Britain's status was the Suez Crisis in 1956. Not only did the event demonstrate the Britih reliance on US support, as the historian Reynolds affirms "Britain's relationship with USA became one of independence", the event also weakened Britian economically, costing £300m in gold reserves, and a weakening of the pound. The event also isolated Britain from the commonwealth, as only 2 major members gave their support of British action, Australia and New Zealand, but perhaps  more significantly the Suez Crisis led to the break down of British relations with France, who took their revenge by vetoeing Britians application to join the EEC in 1963, a contributing factor to the long run economic decline that plagued the British economy in the 1960s.Nonetheless, I would argue, as does the historian Reynolds that the Suez crisis should "not be exaggerated", pointing to the success of Macmillan. In 1957 Macmillan met Eisenhower at the Bermuda conference and layed the foundations for cooperations between Britain and France concerning issues in the Middle East. Therefore, this demonstrates that despite a major event, that the UN ambassador claimed took Britian to a "third class" power, Britian was able to retain her influence within this area and retain the 'speacial relationship' with America, ultimately signifying her world power status. 

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World power by 1964? paragraph three

Between 1951-64 Britian lost some of her influence in places such as Cyprus in 1960 and Malaya in 1957, Britian even stopped celebrating Empire day in 1958 and even Winston Churchill, a great imperialist, admitted it was "someeone else's turn in the world" supporitng Acheson's view that Britain had lost her role. However, it can be argued as Holland does, that imperial status was infact no longer as important as it had been pre war. Britain's pulling out of Empire was mirrored by France and Belgium, the latter pulling out of Congo where they left a bloody civil war. In contrast, Britain was able to pull out of such places as Malaya and used positive tactics such as lending resources to obtain influence within the area. In addition by 1964, Britain still had considerable influence in the wider world, such as in Malta, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait. Although Lapping argues that Suez was the "single most significant event to speed up decolonisation process", i would highlight that the process had begun before the crisis, notably in India as early as 1947.  In addition, it was not until 1968, when Wilson abandoned Britain's defence commitments in the Middle East following the devaluation of the pound in 1967 by 14%. Therefore, by 1964 Britain still held considerable influence within the world pointing to her world power status and the places she did pull out of do not neccessarily signify a decline in world power status as Holland argues "it became to be seen as incongruent" to modern society.

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World power by 1964? paragraph four

Arguably, Britian's relationship with the USA somewhat signified her limited world power status during this time period, as Macmillan stated Britain was to "play Greece to America's Rome". Britain had taken out a large loan from the US following World War Two under Marshall aid, a total of $13bn. Her reliance upon the USA was only further heightened during the Suez Crisis when the USA would not support the British pound, unless she withdrew from Eqypt. Clearly this undermines Britain's economic strength when compared to the USA and shows her depleted world power status when comparing the two super powers. However, Britain did possess the A bomb by 1952 and the H bomb by 1957despite her atomic programme being delayed by America's McMahon Act, whereby she refused to share the nuclear secrets that the two had developed together. However, Britain's weakness when compared to America was once again highliughted when her Blue streak programme had to be abandoned due to lack of financial support. In the early 1960s Macmillan established a deal with the USA, and the USA supplied weapons such as Polaris in return for the USA being able to base theirs in Scotland, causing mass outcry and CND protests. Therefore, when comparing Britian and America, it is evident that America was more of a super power than Britain, but it is important to also note that Britain still had political and economic influence around the globe, and could also deter other countries with her atomic weapons, therefore by 1964 she was still a world power.

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World power by 1964? paragraph five

Finanlly, regarding Europe, Britain's absence from European politics and the treaty of Rome meant that in 1964 she was not part of the highly successful EEC having been vetoed by France. This represenedted a major failure for Britain as she was falling behind other powers in the world. Although her spher of influence continued in Europe via EFTA, this was not as economically successful as EEC and it became ovbious that Britian had lost an oppurtunity. Nonetheless, Britian still held the commononwealth which counters her lack of influence within Europe and also has uptained her special relationship with America, arguably a more powerful force that Europe at the time. 

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World power by 1964? Conclusion

In conclusion, whilst Acheson's view that Britain did not "have a world role" by 1964 is not incongruable, by definition a world power is a country that has political and economical influence, in addition to the ability to defend herself militarily, therefore by 1964 Britian was still a world power as Holland appears to argue, although her world power status had without declined and when compared to America it is clear that if possible, she was a secondary world power.

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