Britain and the rest of the World

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  • Created on: 01-06-14 17:39

Britain and the rest of the World


Britain leaders before 1951 like Attlee, Bevin and Dalton  still clung to the idea of Empire and had no intention of giving it up  and this was continued by Churchill and Eden after 1951because (a) GB still needed to control the Middle East for our oil supplies . Egypt was vital for this and although Egypt had become self governing in 1922 it was still occupied by British forces.(b) it was considered that it was too early for the African colonies to be given independence (c) the colonies were still vital for resources for GB  eg at this time the Colonial Office was developing new agricultural schemes in the African colonies to produce the goods Britain wanted (d) the surrendering of the Empire would have been a massive blow to British prestige and no government could allow this to happen.

Churchill himself said "I have not become the Kings First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire." As late as 1956 the Commonwealth Office  stated "Britain still is in its own right a very great power."  Eden was also committed to the "family ties" with the Commonwealth above all.

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By 1964 the Empire was over...

  • The rise of Nationalist movements for independence
    • The post was period saw the rise of Nationalist independence movements in the colonies aimed at driving the British out  and sometimes they used violent protest. By the 1950s Gb lacked the military power and will to confront and defeat all of them. E.g. Mau Mau in Kenya
  • The decline of British economic and military power
    • Sandbrook says “The British pushed the native leaders towards independence even more quickly than the Africans themselves expected." 300.00 troops to man the colonies = BofP
  • The reluctance to use violence to defend the Empire
    • British leaders were aware that when others had done this like the French who tried to suppress a  independence uprising in Algeria and in Vietnam it had led to long and bloody conflicts which the French lost. British leaders wished to avoid this.
  • The Suez Crisis 1956
    • Humiliated, "Britain's days as a great international power had passed" (Sandbrook), UK could no longer act independently (USA). Halted by a run oin the £, economic weakness, wake up call  for Eden.
  • The colonial policies of Harold Macmillan and Iain Macleod
    • Macmillan's 'Wind of change' speech, ordered defence cuts, made 15 countries independent between 1960 and 1954 e.g. Jamaica, Cyprus, Kenya etc.
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The Suez Crisis


  • Importance of the canal - provided 70% of the Wests oil and 1/2 came through the canal
  • British withdrawal from Egypt - By the 1950s there was rising Arab Nationalist resentment at British military power in Egypt e.g. in 1952 Egyptian police stationed in the Canal Zone at Ismailia had attacked British troops and 50 Egyptians were killed. This was followed by riots in the capital Cairo which left 30 more dead. Nasser was determined to drive the British out. Eden hoped for good relations, but they got worse.
  • The policies of NasserAt the meeting Nasser felt patronised and humiliated. He said "It was made to look as if we were beggars and they were Princes". Nasser refused to join the Baghdad Pact, Eden refused to sell arms to Egypt so he went to Soviet Czech., final straw = Aswan Dam. The US+GB had promised to provide $200 million to help build it but this was withdrawn because of the Czech arms deal. Nasser turned to Communist Russia for help.
  • The policies and suspicions of Eden - Eden's reaction was to launch an invasion to take the canal back and overthrow Nasser. Saw him as the 'new Hitler', Nasser's broadcasts against the Baghdad Pact and anti British propaganda enraged Eden
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The Suez Crisis

Why is was a failure of Britain

  • The secret deal with Isreal - Eden needed a reason for invading so French PM Mollet agreed that (a) Israel (a bitter enemy if Egypt) would attack from the East and reach the canal (b) then Britain and France would use this as an excuse to get involved. But USA was outraged and stopped the invasion.
  • Poor military planning - The invasion was poorly planned by the Brits (a) they changed the invasion plan 3 times and only decided on Port Said at the last minute
  • Opposition at home - An opinion poll taken on Nov 1 showed 37% supported military action, 44% opposed it
  • Opposition abroad - The invasion shocked much of foreign opinion because it seemed as if Britain had reverted its old arrogant imperial ways
  • Opposition from the USA - To force Britain to stop they used their economic power. They created a 'run on the pound' by selling sterling. By Nov 6 Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy. Asked USA for help but they only said they would if they stopped the invasion. Britain withdrew and Nasser won.
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The Suez Crisis

Consequences for Britain

  • The decline of British power and status - humiliation, no longer independent, 'client' to USA, showed Britain lacked enonomic strength - run on the £
  • Military cutbacks - The army contribution to NATO was cut by 1/3, the total number of men in the services was cut from 760,000 to 300,000 and  a big withdrawal from the Mediterranean was announced, national service was scrapped. Defence spending was cut to less than 10% of Britain's GDP
  • The end of the 'special relationship' - totally dependent on USA, Macmillan had to go cap in hand to the Americans for a loan to stop the British economy rom cashing as a result of the crisis and this further emphasised British financial dependency on the USA
  • End of the Empire - From 1956 to 1964 the Empire all but vanished as Britain under Harold Macmillan and Iain Macleod followed a policy of rapid 'de-colonisation' to get rid of overseas territories which Britain could no longer afford to keep
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Reality - the dependency?

  • Nuclear power - continued to develop Britain's nuclear weapons partly for deterrence and defence against a Soviet attack but also to maintain Britain's place "at the top table".
  • Relative econimic decline - There were now only two 'superpowers' who counted - USA and USSR because of their enormous economic and military power. GB could not match them.
  • The Suez Crisis - demonstrated how totally dependent Britain was on the USA, led to massive cutbacks in Britain's military power as a result of the Defence White Paper of 1957 which cut armed forces from over 700,000 to half that, cut defence spending to below 10% GDP
  • Economically dependent - America used its economic per to stop Britain's invasion by selling the £ to create an economic crisis in the UK and there was nothing GB could do about it
  • Bermuda Conference - Although they agreed to co-operate in the Middle East from then on Macmillan agreed that (1)the USA could base 60 of its Thor nuclear missiles in Britain and also (2) use the base at Holy Loch in Scotland for their nuclear submarines. Britain had become a launch pad for American missiles. When Macmillan later changed his mind about this and asked the Americans not to use the base the Americans simply refused
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Still a great power!

  • It was way behind the USA and USSR in terms of military power but GB was still the most important military power in Western Europe and still had 4 divisions in Germany and a vital role in the Western Alliance alongside the USA. It still had 100,000 troops in the Middle East
  • It still spent 1500 million on defence by the mid 1960s which was 7-10% of its GDP and far higher than anyone except the USA and USSR.. The British government still spent £30 on defence for every person in the country - in France it was £26, Germany £10 and Italy £7.
  • Still a major nuclear power and controlled a massive nuclear arsenal which could destroy 30  - 60 cities in Russia at the push of a button. The ability to obtain the new American Polaris missiles was gained when Macmillan met President Kennedy in 1962.
  • Although GB lost an Empire it gained a Commonwealth and British grade with Commonwealth countries remained of vital importance up to the 1970s
  • The special relationship with the USA was not permanently broken after Suez. Macmillan managed to recover it under Kennedy and it returned later under Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan and under Tony Blair and President Bush.
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Britain and the World after 1964

    • South Africa- the white minority government in South Africa led by Verwoerd decided to leave the Commonwealth altogether in 1961 and cut links with Britain because of criticisms of white minority rule. Instead the white 'Nationalist Party' broke free and then moved towards the 'apartheid

  • BRITAIN AND EUROPE 1964 - 79
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The Falklands War


  • Cause 1: a remnant of the British Empire - The Falkland Islands and belonged to GB as part of its Empire since 1833. Its population was British - farmers and fishermen who wanted to remain ruled by GB
  • Cause 2: Argentinian claimsArgentina supplied all the energy for the islands and its only air link. Most Argentinians believed that it was their right to now claim the 'sovereignty' of the islands and Britain seemed ready to negotiate.
  • Cause 3: Galtieri and the military juntaBy 1982 the Junta was slowing support and popularity in Argentina because of the mishandling if the economy. Galtieri and his colleagues decided to try to regain popularity by a daring invasion if the Falklands which would cause national rejoicing and rally the people behind the Junta.
  • Cause 4: American attitudes -  Galtieri was concerned about the reaction of the USA as Britain's closest ally. Kirkpatrick - her policy was to value Americas South American allies like Argentina as much if not more than GB - this seemed to suggest that the USA would do nothing to stop the invasion. This gave Galtieri the go ahead.
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The Falklands War

What happened?

  • Argentina invaded
  • They quickly overran the Royal Marine defenders and seized control of the islands
  • There were wild celebrations in Buenos Aires 
  • The conquest of the islands looked like a 'fait accompli'
  • At the start the USA out pressure in GB to negotiate a settlement with the Argentinians which would have involved the handover of the islands to Argentina with some guarantees for the British inhabitants.
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The Falklands War

The significance of the Falklands War

  • It began Mrs Thatchers political dominance - Instead of negotiation Mrs Thatcher (a)demanded Argentinean withdrawal (c) demanded the return of self determination for the islanders- their right to remain British (d) order a Naval Task Force composed of warships, aircraft carriers and soldiers to sail for the Falkands to retake the islands
  • It revived the 'special relationship - placed America firmly behind the UK and have military help and equipment to Britain eg the Brits were allowed to use the American base in Ascension Island 
  • It demonstrated British military power - the second biggest ship in the Argentinian nave the General Belgrano was sunk by a British submarine the Conqueror
  • It increased British national self confidence and standing in the world - restored Britain's self confidence and national pride
  • It cemented Thatchers political dominance - it guaranteed that Thatcher would win the next election - which she did in 1983 with a landslide majority, it cemented her control of the Conservative Party 
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What Falkland's Factor.....

  • It did not lead to a dramatic revival of British international power - Britain's long term decline continued
  • The Falkland Islands themselves were small and unimportant - they were symbolic but not valuable. Some regarded the lives lost as not justifying the risk and the gains of the war.
  • The war was very mush a 'one off' because military cutbacks later in would ensure that Britain could never again launch an Task Force of this size - some see the war as that last gasp of British military power and not a revival.
  • The most important consequences of the war were domestic and political in enabling Mrs Thatcher to dominate British politics for 10 years. They were not international.
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Britain and Europe 1979-97

Early support 1979-88

  • Supported the stay in campaign in 1975, the majority if her cabinet were pro European
  • Although she argued that Britain was paying too much into the European Union and managed to get a 'rebate'  in 1984 - did not damage Britain's relations with Europe too much
  • She was a supported of the Single European Act 1986 which created a free market with no customs barriers or subsidies for goods throughout Europe.
  • She co-operated with the French to build the Channel Tunnel in the 80s

Later anti Europeanism - Towards the end of the 80s she became fiercely anti European and in 1988 made her famous speech in Belgium in which she attacked the direction in which Europe was going.-

  • She welcomed the creation of one free market but she now opposed the increasing attempts by the French and Germansto bring about 'European integration'
  • She regarded this as a direct threat to British independence and ability to govern itself 
  • She warned against an emerging 'EU Super State' based in Brussels - which she believed was being created would end up centralising all political power in Brussels
  • She also became deeply suspicious of the ambition as of the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. She regarded him as aiming to complete German domination of Europe.
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Britain and the Special Relationship 1979-97


She DID restore the special relationship with President Ronald Reagan because 

  • Although at the start of Reagan's presidency it looked as if the USA was veering away from GB and Europe and towards stressing the importance of South America the Falklands War changed this and saw Reagan completely back Mrs Thatcher - this forged a new trust and relationship. This was because - 
    • The two  were 'ideological soul mates.' Both were from the 'New Right' of their parties (Conservative and Republican) who believed in the power of the free market, limited government and individual freedom. They both saw the world in the same way.
    • Neither was afraid to use force if necessary in the national interest.
    • They got on personally - Reagan admired Thatchers determination and strength and she admired his ease and friendliness. They both believed in traditional values and tradition.
    • They were both anti communist and had a common interests in opposing the Soviet Union. They fought the last round of the Cold War together.
    • Thatcher also became more and more anti European as Europe began to integrate and move towards political unity - this increased her 'Atlanticist' tendencies.
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Britain and the World 1990 - 2007


  • Major was much more pro European than Thatcher
  • He could not carry his party if he firmly committed to Europe. This caused many problems for him and contributed to his defeat in 1997.


  • The Maastricht Treaty - Major signed this and agreed with its broad aims but he asked and was given permission by the other European rulers to 'opt out' of one important part of it the 'Social Chapter ' which provided minimum conditions for workers and improved their rights and also the minimum wage for workers. Even so ******** Euro sceptics in his party still blocked and obstructed the passage of the Maastricht Treaty through Parliament and caused deep divisions inside the party which ultimately wrecked its unity.
  • Black Wednesday - Major also wanted to include GB in the 'Exchange Rate Mechanism which pegged national currencies against each other in preparation for full monetary union. This collapsed in 1992 on Black Wednesday when the collapse of the £ forced Britain to withdraw.
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Britain and the World 1990 - 2007


He was (a) positive towards Europe himself (b) had no real problems inside the Labour Party over Europe as the anti EU left had been defeat wed inside the party. New Labour was pro EU.

He had a number if European successes --

  • The Treaty of Nice 1991- this was a new treaty to change the way The EU was governed now that it had expanded to 25 members - it gave some power to the new members.
  • The war on Terror- after 2001 and the terrorist attack on New York he led Europe's attempts to define its role in the war against terror in support of the USA
  • The 'Atlantic Bridge' - Blair forged a good relationship with the US president George Bush and he tried to make GB a bridge between EU and USA
  • Climate Change- he took the lead in shaping EU's policy towards the environment

But - (a) there was little concrete progress in climate change and his ideas for reforming the way Europe was governed were lost (b) Britain itself was still not wholeheartedly at the heart if things in Europe

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The Special Relationship after 1990


  • He attempted to maintain the special relationship and supported the US led invasion of  Kuwait to drive out Saddam Hussein in 1990 having taken over from Margaret Thatcher
  • But Major was more pre-occupied with relations with Europe although he was on good terms with both George Bush senior and his replacement as President the Democrat Bill Clinton.
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The Special Relationship after 1990


He was more focused on the 'special relationship' with the USA than any other post war British PM with the exception of thatcher because---

  • He had seen in former Yugoslavia that the United Nations was not capable on its own of solving international crises because it lacked the force and will to do so
  • He concluded the same about Europe- it had not solved the crisis in Bosnia or Kosovo and instead Blair had been forced to summon the USA and Bill Clinton to sort the problem by using force.
  • He began to see 'liberal interventionism' - the use of military power for good outcomes - as the only solution and only the USA possessed this military power.
  • Britain alone lacked the power - it could only act in tandem with the might of the USA
  • The impact of 9/11
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The Special Relationship after 1990


  • In 2001 George Bush (junior) was the  Republican US President and ideologically very far from Tony Blair who had got on well with his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton. Before 9/11 Bush  had pursued a moderate foreign policy 
  • After the 9/11 attacks on New York Bush launched the 'War in Terror'- a campaign to eliminate international terror - by force if needed. He was influenced by the Neo Cons- right wing republicans who advocated the use of force to spread American values like democracy around the world and eliminate potential threats to American security (pre-emption)
  • Blair agreed with Bush - it tuned in with his idea of 'liberal interventionism' and his horror over the effects of 9/11. Even though he would not have agreed with the views of the Neo Cons.  Blair now became the closest ally of Bush and America and the special relationship was reborn again.
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'Liberal Interventionism'

Afghanistan- as dominated by an extreme Islamic group the 'Taliban'. They had provided cover and bases for the group which had organised 9/11 Al Qaida and their leader Bin Laden. A coalition of local tribes led by the USA invaded Afghanistan and removed the Taliban. They then tried to build a democracy under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. Later (2007) both US and British troops would be sent to protect Karzai against the return of the Taliban.

Iraq - Bush and his Neo-con supporters now planned to invade Iraq because (a) its leader Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people. He seemed a prime target for 'liberal interventionism' (b) Saddam had already invaded Kuwait in 1990 and a combined US / British force had driven him out led by the first President George Bush and John Major - but Saddam emailed in power. To George Bush junior this was 'unfinished business' (c) Bush and the Neo cons believed that the overthrow of Saddam would be welcomed in Iraq which would then become democratic - and that this might spread to other Middle Eastern countries (d) Saddam was believed to have 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' which he could unleash

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 and British forces were sent to back them up by invading the South and occupying Iraq's second city Basra while the Americans took Baghdad. The Iraqi army was quickly defeated and Saddam and his sins were captured and killed. 

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'Liberal Interventionism'


To others say both wars became a disaster because ---

  • Neither invasion produced peaceful democratic societies. The new Afghan government under Karzai was immediately attacked by the remnants of the Taliban and a war began which still goes on today. In the end Both the USA and GB had to send troops and they too suffered years of casualties.
  • In Iraq the invasion did not produce a stable democracy. Instead the country fell into anarchy with bitter fighting between Shia and Sunni Muslims and frequent attacks on British and American forces. Britain was the first to pull out - then most American forces left. The country has never been stable
  • The reasons for invading - sad dams possession of WMD - was shown to be false and possibly made up by American and British intelligence to justify the invasion. 
  • Blair was heavily criticised for going along with the American Neo Con mistake which was based on completely false ideas about the readiness of each country for Western style democracy. He has been accused of naïveté and of placing the alliance with America above a realistic and informed foreign policy. Blair's reputation never recovered from both affairs.
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