This special issue is an attempt to analise transformation and features of postwar British foreign policy in various decades and to review the role it played in postwar international relations, taking perspectives of global history into account.
The 11 articles deal with a broad range of topics covering British policies towards Africa, Middle East, Europe, Asia including Japan, the US, the Eastern side of the Cold War, and the UN. They also focus on various fields of policies including decolonisation and cold war; trade, currency and aid policies; conflict resolution; propaganda and cultural relations; opium control; nationality and immigration control; and role of the queen. All these contributions are solid empirical studies based on multi-archival research.
The main objective of the postwar British foreign policy can be summarised as maintenance of her influence and prestige as a world power, despite her declining military and economic power of which the government was well aware. For this goal, the British government is observed to have pursued multi-layered pluralisation of its foreign policy as follows.
In terms of regional focus, Britain not only tried to balance her relations with ‘the three circles’ which Churchill had called, namely, Empire/Commonwealth, the English-speaking world (especially the US),and united Europe, but also grew to attach importance to further two circles, namely, wider Asia including non-Commonwealth countries, and the United Nations, with all of the five ‘circles’ having overlaps. The field of policy expanded to include keener development assistance, publicity and cultural relations, what can be named as ‘normative diplomacy’, and royal family’s foreign relations, with some utilisation of the experiences before and during WWII. The policy styles also diversified with more emphasis on multilateral relations, coordinating/guiding role as a third power with restraining influence on the US, informality and ‘personal approach’ to promote understanding, and ‘power-by-proxy’ policy not only with the US but also with other third actors such as the UN and Japan.
These new approaches seem to have enabled the British government to take a calmer and wider-angled position towards issues in the postwar global society. In addition, due to the history of accepting migrants from former colonies and having interests spread abroad, the British foreign policy has been ‘reflexive’ with domestic repercussions or pressures. In addition, the lasting ‘imperial mentality’ with closed perception of Britishness might prevent Britain from maintaining her global role.
As an editor, I hope this special issue sheds a new light on the role of Britain in the global society and will help to attract even more scholarly attention to limitations and possibilities of the British foreign policy.
The British aid policy for (ex-) tropical colonies in Africa has been considered a part of ‘neo-colonialism’, a term which, in Nkrumah’s famous words, indicates that ‘in theory’ a colony attains independence but ‘(i)n reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside’. This paper challenges this alleged image of the neo-colonial policy in Africa. British Aid Statistics and official documents of the 1960s and the 1970s cast a new light on the perspective of the British aid policy and Britain’s external relations with Africa in the heady days of independence.
Britain launched its ‘Colonial Development’ policy immediately after World War II. It was part of a strategy to strengthen the sterling area by boosting commodity exports in tropical colonies. By the mid-50s,however, during a time of falling commodity prices, Britain increasingly questioned the colonial contributions to the sterling area and to the British economy itself. Britain then reappraised her economic relations with the colonies, especially the tropical colonies of Africa. The result was that, at some point in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the British official development assistance shifted its focus from tropical Africa towards the poor countries of Southeast Asia.
The British retreat from Africa was significant for both Britain and Africa. The retreat seemed reasonable from the British point of view, given the end of the primary product boom and the ‘Golden Age’ of European growth. Britain needed to prioritize its economic policy with the aim of shifting the major battlefield for investment and trade with Europe, North America and East Asia. Therefore, it got rid of Africa, which was no longer a serious player in the international economy, to make the utmost use of its limited economic resources, including its aid budget. For Africa, it meant that, from the very first moment of independence, the continent was eliminated from the economic interest of developed countries, and thus, forced to have a tenuous relationship with the center of the international economy.
In conclusion, this paper reveals that Britain did not push for neo-colonial relations with developing countries but was eager to discard her ties to sluggish economies. However, this ‘indifference’ toward the world, rather than neo-colonial ‘re-colonization’, has serious implications, because it simply suggests that the British deserted Africa and did nothing about its past deeds in the continent. Thus, there remained the untouched colonial structure, for example, the monoculture economy and emotional entanglements about past ‘colonial responsibility’.
This paper aims to analyze Anglo-French relations during the first half of the Algerian War (1954–1957) focusing on the perceptions and attitude of the British Foreign Office (BFO) toward the French Algerian problem. What did the British think of this colonial conflict? How did their attitude toward France change? What differences can be observed between BFO bureaucrats in London and the British Ambassador in Paris?
France made efforts to ask her NATO allies to support her in order to defend her position in Algeria and fight against the Afro-Asian bloc, which demanded the independence of Algeria in the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The British supported the French position formally but were careful not to go too far fearing that it would damage the dignity and interests of Britain in Africa and the Middle East. The African Department at the BFO thought that supporting the French position in Algeria was different from supporting the day-to-day French policy there another. The Western Organizations Department feared that deploying French troops under NATO to North Africa would make defense forces in the central sector of Europe vulnerable.
On the other hand, Gladwyn Jebb, the British Ambassador in Paris then, tried to ardently express and promote British support to France by making good use of Cold War rhetoric, insisting that the triumph of Algerian nationalist movements and the retreat of France would bring about a vacuum of power and put not only Algeria but also the whole of North Africa in the orbit of Soviet communism.
The British continued to formally support France hoping for a liberal solution to the Algerian conflict, which was regarded as a French internal problem by the British. As terrorism in Algeria worsened and the French Army continued to be unable to defeat the nationalist forces, the British began to discreetly shift their attitude. The African Department thought that it was essential to provide a political solution to the conflict, for which the autonomy or independence of Algeria was considered. Jebb’s Cold War rhetoric became less effective in the BFO.
The British intended to cooperate with the Americans to realize a cease-fire in Algeria and keep North Africa on the Western side. They tried to exercise their prudent and informal influence on France to make more efforts to attain a liberal solution, while continuing to provide France their formal support in the United Nations.
When the British and Americans were forced to comply with Tunisian requests of arms supply, which the Tunisians would otherwise order from Egypt or Soviet Union, Anglo-French relations became tense and entered a critical phase.
During the 1960s the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute deepened and spread to include territorial issues, culminating in 1969 in bloody armed clashes along the border. The Sino-Soviet split was a critical topic for a British government establishing diplomatic relations with both the USSR and PRC. In December 1960, the British cabinet first recognized the Sino-Soviet split based on the information of the November meeting of 81 communist parties in Moscow. In the early 1960’s, only a few diplomats and MI-6 members gave the matter much attention, but by the middle of the 60’s, the degree of attention granted the issue increased year by year within the British government. The reason was the worsening diplomatic relations with the USSR and PRC. Leftist riots began in May 1967 in Hong Kong and were pro-communist labor disputes sympathetic to the Cultural Revolution on the mainland and against British rule. In August 1967, mobs of Chinese Red Guards broke into the British embassy compound and started huge fires. As a result, China-UK relations reached their lowest point since the Second World War. Meanwhile, the ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968, ended by Soviet military intervention, broke the detente between the USSR and UK. The UK was facing a diplomatic crisis with the two communist giants at the same time.
However, the situation changed drastically due to the border clash between the USSR and PRC in 1969. On March 2, a group of Chinese troops ambushed Soviet border guards on Zhenbao Island (Damansky Island in Russian) on the Ussuri River. During the Sino-Soviet military clashes along the border in 1969, the British government maintained its neutrality even though the USSR sought to gain her support. Based on its own intelligence and discussions with many countries, British diplomats and the Foreign Office concluded that this conflict would not lead to full scale war. In addition, they did not attempt to mediate between the parties because they thought that it was in the UK’s interests to preserve its neutrality, especially as the UK had ‘a particular reason for this because of its responsibility for Hong Kong’. In the event, their prognosis was correct and the Sino-Soviet split did not descend into nuclear war. In addition, the USSR and PRC tried to promote their relationship with the UK in order to gain a sympathetic hearing. The British Foreign Office promoted this foreign policy based on its level-headed analysis and its position of neutrality between the USSR and PRC finally gained success as the Sino-Soviet split became fierce towards the end of the 1960’s.
Despite the failure of the Suez operation in 1956, the Macmillan Cabinet continued the preceding Eden Cabinet’s policy of trying to maintain British influence in the Middle East. To this end, the British government sought to pressure Nasser in the hope of obtaining economic concessions and reducing his influence in the region. However, the British government believed that United States support was essential for achieving its goals in the Middle East as it was feared that Britain did not have sufficient military or financial strength to act alone. The Macmillan Cabinet set about repairing relations with the Eisenhower Administration, which had been damaged by the Suez operation, but it turned out that there were significant differences between British and American policy towards Egypt and the Middle East.
During the 1957 crisis in Jordan, despite Britain’s good relations with that country, the United States’ lack of interest in intervening also prevented Britain from doing so. However, during the Syria crisis in the same year, the United States intervened to bring the situation under control. Macmillan, believing that the US was motivated primarily by concern about the spread of communism, interpreted this as evidence that it might be possible to act in concert with the United States in the Middle East. Consequently, when Egypt and Syria united to form the United Arab Republic (UAR), Macmillan proposed to the United States that the two countries dispatch troops to the UAR and to Jordan to destroy Nasser’s influence and prevent the possible spread of communism. At the same time, Britain was continuing negotiations with Nasser, hoping to obtain financial and economic concessions while Nasser was feeling the pressure of the United States’ military presence. But, contrary to Macmillan’s expectations, the United States declined the British proposal. It was at this moment that Macmillan realised his misunderstanding of the motivating factors behind US foreign policy and the limited possibilities for joint Anglo-American action in the Middle East.
Macmillan was made aware of the limitations of Britain’s military influence over Egypt and the Middle East. As a result, the Macmillan Cabinet chose to adopt a policy more in accordance with a recent United Nations resolution that called for the renunciation of the use of military force in the Middle East. Britain established a detente with the Nasser regime while maintaining face by emphasising the importance of Britain’s relationship with the United Nations.
The article analyses the origin, the partial accomplishments, and the failure of John Major government’s attempt to promote the British vision of the international order in the early 1990s. The Major government envisaged to manage the asymmetric power relationship between the UK/Europe and the US in favour of the former, by enhancing the authority of the UN Security Council over the use of coercive power. It also aimed to prevent the continental Europhiles from institutionalizing the European independence from the US. The Major government needed to install such concept as the guiding principle of the post-Cold War international order, because it faced with the dilemma of balancing the UK’s security interests that demanded a solid transatlantic relationship and its economic interests that propelled the UK’s participation in the European integration. The former would isolate the UK from the rest of Europe, while the latter would insult Euro-sceptics within the Conservative party and that undermined the ability of the Major government in the parliamentary legislative process and the negotiation with other European states.
The collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the outbreak of the Bosnian conflict in the spring of 1992 put an additional strain on the transatlantic tension and exacerbated the above discussed dilemma. The UK was, therefore, actively involved in the international diplomacy regarding the mediation of the conflict. It successfully cemented a firm working relationship between the EC and the UN under the umbrella of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY), which was established at the London Conference in August 1992. The then Bush administration of the US also supported the ICFY.
The British initiative, however, was sharply criticized by the successive US government: the Clinton administration. The new US government disliked the ICFY-promoted peace plans for fear of sending American ground troops and of ceding NATO’s power to the UN Security Council. In order to facilitate the NATO-led solution for Bosnia, the US circumvented the essential legitimacy and the institution that the UK relied upon: namely multilateralism and the UN. The British role in Bosnia was substantially ended when NATO launched the strategic airstrike operation against the Bosnian Serb forces in August 1995. The British policies to modify the international order also collapsed as a result of this. It was a critical turning point that eventually caused the dramatic international and domestic division regarding the use of force in the run up to the Iraq war of 2003.
This article argues that we cannot explain the UK’s changing stance on European integration without reference to the international monetary strategies pursued by successive British governments. The UK’s European policy after the Second World War can be divided into three distinct phases. Immediately after the War, the UK stood aside when the ECSC and EEC were established in 1952 and in 1958 respectively, since maintenance of both the British Empire and the ‘special relationship’ with the US was regarded as the priority. In the second phase, by making a formal application to the EEC in 1961, the UK turned away from the Empire and drew closer to Europe; by the 1970s, the special relationship appeared to have disappeared. The UK’s entry into the EEC in 1973, however, did not lead to her policy being aligned with that of the other member-states. To this day, the UK remains an awkward partner in the integration project, a fact most clearly evidenced by her opt-out from the single currency, the euro. Moreover, the special relationship with the US appeared to revive once Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979; and all recent British governments, regardless of their political composition, have claimed to serve as a bridge between the US and Europe.
These twists and turns in the UK’s European policy can be at least partly explained by her changing strategy in international monetary affairs. After the War, the British government set out initially to restore the international status of the pound sterling worldwide, a policy that precluded participation in a scheme like the EEC, whose main purpose was trade liberalisation within Europe. Once this strategy ended in failure with the devaluation of the pound in 1967, theBritish government was faced with a choice. It could, within the framework of European monetary integration, end the reserve currency status of the pound, which was hampering the UK’s economic growth and leaving her financially dependent on the US. If successful, this strategy would have obviated both the legacy of Empire and financial dependence on the US at one go, and made the UK very much a ‘part of Europe’. The alternative was to sustain the international status of the US dollar and American hegemony in international finance by encouraging the development of the so-called Euro-dollar market in London. Both the Heath and Callaghan governments pursued the first strategy in the 1970s, but to no avail, due to a lack of domestic support. The Thatcher government subsequently chose the second route and restored a close partnership with the US; this strategy, however, precluded the UK’s participation in the process of European monetary integration.
Due to Japan’s flood of export during the 1970s and 80s, Japan and the EC (European Community) member states faced trade conflict. Because the common foreign trade policy was launched in January 1970, member states were to abolish bilateral safe-guard measures and agree with Japan on a common foreign tariff. Negotiation between MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan) and the European Commission, however, faced a deadlock. The Federal Republic claimed free trade and condemned France and Italy for keeping protectionist measures against Japan.
Britain, however, took a unique position by both criticising Japan’s aggressive export as “abuse of free (trade) rules” on one hand, but also inviting Japanese companies, especially Nissan, to build a factory in Britain on the other. Margaret Thatcher decided to invite Nissan from the first day of her office. The British automobile industry, which had been heavily penetrated by car imports from Germany, France and Italy after Britain had entered into the EC in 1973, could export to the EC market vigorously and therefore reduce Britain’s trade deficit. A new Nissan factory would also reduce unemployment and boost economy in developing areas: Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Due to its ambition to overtake its impeccable rival Toyota, Nissan agreed to Thatcher’s invitation, regardless of the costs and risks: the overall investment cost of 200 million Pounds, required high local contents of cars produced in the new factory, reliability of Britishmade parts, and frequent labour disputes. Nissan’s advance into Britain made Thatcher’s administration into a fore-runner of EC common policies of welcoming foreign investment into the EC, acquiring Japanese management techniques, and furthering free trade. For such sudden and drastic change of Britain’s EC diplomacy, Thatcher and her office was condemned not only by France and Italy but also by Germany as a “Trojan horse of Japan.”
Cultural diplomacy and cultural propaganda have been discussed by some scholars of British diplomatic history, but it is not clear what degree of influence these activities had upon the mainstream of diplomacy. This article attempts to explore the importance of cultural diplomacy for Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, including the world wars, by looking at the cases of British policy towards Italy and the United States. It begins by looking at Sir James Rennell Rodd, the British ambassador to Italy between 1908 and1919, who used his cultural diplomacy in order to persuade Italy to join the Allied side during the First World War. He helped to create the British Institute in Florence, which in 1917 came under the Ministry of Information (MOI) as part of the British propaganda effort. Once the war ended the MOI was dissolved, partly because the Foreign Office disliked its aggressive propaganda activities towards foreign countries. However, when it became apparent that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, which were more advanced in the field of political and cultural propaganda, were using cultural diplomacy to increase their influence in the world, the Foreign Office reluctantly had to organize some form of propaganda to counter their activities. This led to the establishment of the British Council in 1934, which was, in part, loosely modeled upon the British Institute in Florence. It attempted to concentrate upon purely cultural activities, but with another war approaching this line was breached and the Director, Lord Lloyd, increasingly used the Council for political propaganda and intelligence-gathering. The greatest challenge came in the United States where British propaganda had to avoid the excesses of the First World War and yet still promote Britain`s cause. In this environment the Council`s cultural propaganda became useful by emphasizing the common ethnic and cultural roots of the two countries. In addition, the Council proved useful in the post-war period as its activities could be used to promote democratic values and thus encourage other countries, such as Italy and Greece, to move away from both fascism and communism. This article therefore demonstrates the importance of cultural diplomacy and how it contributed to the mainstream of British diplomacy.
This article examines British foreign policy during the period from 1940 to the end of 1946, particularly with reference to the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. A related question of opium in Burma is also taken into consideration.
In November 1943, Britain announced that it would prohibit opium smoking in its territories liberated from Japan. Burma became a focus of attention for several reasons. Firstly, it had been under Japanese occupation since May 1942. Secondly, efforts to reduce opium consumption had been very limited in British Burma during the 1930s, while in other British colonies (including the Straits Settlements) at least some efforts had been made. Opium was used for quasi-medical and religious purposes in the mountainous border regions in Burma. These regions were difficult to reach, and only indirect and limited colonial government administration and control existed there.
Britain made a tremendous contribution to the establishment of the United Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. However, it was highly likely that British opium policy would be severely criticised by both China and the United States at this newly established Commission unless the control of opium was increased in Burma after its liberation from Japan. This prospect induced Britain to outlaw opium in Burma in 1946.
Two terms coined by Winston Churchill are often used to describe post-war British foreign policy. One is “three circles.” Churchill considered that Britain stood at the intersection of three circles of influence:namely Europe, the Empire and the English-speaking world. The period analysed in this article is earlier than the coinage of this term. In the process of making policy relating to opium and the Empire, while Britain did not have to think much about Europe, it did have to consider the crucial role of the United States.
The other term coined by Churchill is the “special relationship” between the English-speaking countries. As far as the opium question was concerned, however, another special relationship seems to have existed between China and the United States; the United States accepted everything that Chinese diplomats stated about opium during the period considered. Although Britain had information about opium in places such as Yunnan in China, and knew that the true situation in Yunnan was very different from that presented by the Chinese diplomats (who spoke English fluently), it did not insist on exposing the discrepancy; instead, Britain even offered China the opportunity of playing a significant role in establishing the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This seems to be mainly because Britain wanted to create and maintain this “special relationship” between itself and the United States.
This paper aims to clarify the dynamic interplay between immigration/nationality and external policies in 21st-century Britain. The year 2002, the year of enactment of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, was a watershed moment for British policy regarding immigration and nationality, and the government has since carried out drastic reform of immigration and nationality policy in order to reframe their system around the concept of “Britishness”. The precise meaning of “Britishness” is difficult to discern, and even if it can be defined, a more difficult task may be creating a single definition upon which everyone can agree. Heated debates on the meaning of “Britishness” nevertheless continue to rage among the government, academia and the media.
Although the two fields examined here—immigration/nationality and external policies—seem unrelated, in reality they are strongly intertwined, shaping and reshaping each other in response to policy changes. By focusing on the three indispensable issues of Britain’s external policies in the 21st century—namely,counter-terrorism, the European Union and the legacy of imperial past—this article demonstrates that governmental action toward each of them has led to the enactment of new legislation and the introduction of new rules in the field of immigration and nationality, and consequently has had a tangible impact on debates on “Britishness”.
This article consists of three parts. The first part gives a brief outline of what the “Britishness” question is about. The second section discusses the concept of nationhood and the way its understanding is embodied in legislation, focusing on Britain’s official claim of achieving “managed migration”, and briefly explains how each administration since Blair has attempted to link its immigration and nationality policy to debates on “Britishness”. In the third section, specific policies on counter-terrorism, EU relations and the citizenship status of residents in the remaining overseas territories and of discharged Gurkhas are investigated. The strengthening of counter-terrorism measures caused the government to question who can be trusted, resulting in an increased number of deportations and the empowerment of the Home Secretary to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship. When faced with the arrival of EU workers and those with connections to Britain dating back to the imperial era, the government was forced to re-examine who is welcome in Britain. The point-based system introduced and justified a hierarchy of non-British residents on the basis of origin (EU/non-EU) in combination with ability. The enactment of the British Overseas Territories Act in 2002 and the granting of resettlement rights to Gurkha veterans showed that the concept of “Britishness” still remains entangled in the legacy of British imperial past.
Queen Elizabeth II has played an important part in British foreign policy after the Second World War during her extreme long reign of sixty years. The Queen has undertaken 92 State visits and gone around Commonwealth countries all over the world. Moreover, she has hosted more than hundred Heads of States at the Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle since her accession of 1952. Elizabeth has supported twelve Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron when they promoted their own foreign policies among the ‘Three Circles’: United States, Europe and Commonwealth for sixty years.
However, the Queen also has promoted her own diplomacy towards foreign royal sovereigns during the same period, in particular when she determined to confer them the highest order of the United Kingdom, the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
Since the establishment of the Order of the Garter in 1348, it had only been given to Christian monarchs except for a few Sultans and Shahs from the later Nineteenth Century to the beginning of Twentieth Century. After 1906, the British monarchs have conferred this honour only upon Japanese Emperors as their valuable partners of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, but the honour of Emperor Hirohito was withdrawn when Japan entered the Second World War in December 1941. Since then, there was no Non-Christian extra Knight of the Garter in the world.
Thirty years after, in October 1971, Hirohito visited Britain, and the Queen instructed that the name of the Emperor be formally restored to the list of members of the Garter Knights. It was possible to imagine that she desired the Anglo-Japanese reconciliation and also she has respected a precedent of former British monarchs who created only Japanese Emperors as extra Knights of that Order from 1906. It also means that she has no mind to confer this honour upon any other Non-Christian sovereigns even though their own power and positions in international politics have been strengthened during the Cold War.
Actually the Queen never created the Shah of Iran or the King of Thailand as extra Knights of the Garter although they earnestly desired to become knights, because there was no precedent. Elizabeth II has given support to successive UK governments in order to protect British national interests on the one hand, but has gone her own way against policies of governments on the other. It is also a fine example of originality and diversity of British foreign policy after the Second World War.