British foreign policy notes 1951-2007

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British foreign policy notes 1951-2007

1951 – 64:

·         By 1951, Britain had already had to face up to the prospect of imperial decline

·         This decline had begun after the first world war but it was the second world war that left Britain badly damaged, burdened with massive debts and in the shadow of 2 new military superpowers

·         In 1947, Britain’s ambassador in Washington had to inform the Americans that the country face bankruptcy and would have to withdraw from commitments in Greece, Turkey and Palestine

·         In the same year independence was given to India and Pakistan, marking Britain’s retreat from empire

·         Political and public opinion was slow to recognise Britain’s reduced position in the world, or to see the implications for the future

·         This slow realisation had profound consequences

·         It delayed Britain’s involvement in European integration until 1973, when it could have easily been 20 years earlier

·         It was only until after the humiliating Anglo-French military intervention at Suez in 1956 that Britain’s inability to act as a great power began to be realised

·         Imperial illusions also held back the process of decolonisation

·         Only in 1960, with Macmillan’s ‘Wind of Change’ speech did the British people begin to come to terms with the need to let go of colonies in Africa

·         Even after 1960, there illusions kept British defence spending at impossibly high levels, including the massive costs of the independent nuclear deterrent

·         And illusions influenced British ideas about the ‘special relationship’ with the united states and Britain’s role in the cold war

·         By 1964 many of these illusions had been blown away, but not all of them

Britain’s declining imperial role: empire and commonwealth, 1951-64:

·         By 1951, Britain’s retreat from empire had already begun

·         The decision to withdraw from India in 1947 was the most dramatic example of this

·         During the 1950s, the pressures of colonial independence movements became harder and harder to contain

·         British forces found themselves fight Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus

·         Nor was it only it only Britain who faced these pressures:

o   France faced even bigger challenges in Vietnam and in Algeria

o   Belgium and Portugal had to deal with revolts in their African colonies

·         In the early 1950x, Britain’s rulers believed they could manage a gradual transition from empire to the new commonwealth and colonial resistance movements could be controlled until their peoples were ready for independence

·         Nobody then had any idea of the sudden rush of independence that was waiting to happen

·         In Malaya British forces fought a long and successful counter-insurgency campaign to defeat communist guerrilla forces

·         When the Mau Mau rebellion broke out in Kenya in 1952, it was assumed that military repression would succeed against the Mau Mau too

·         At the same time…


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