Documenting Britain's Foreign Policy

By Young, John W. | Contemporary Review, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Documenting Britain's Foreign Policy


Young, John W., Contemporary Review


BY publishing an impressive collection of documents the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Historians have stolen a march on their main overseas competitors. (*) The State Department's long-running series, Foreign Relations of the United States is still securely lodged in the early to mid-1960s, whilst the French Documents Diplomatiques have not advanced that far. Even with more than a hundred documents in each, these first volumes of the FCO's post-1960 series only represent a small selection of government material on Anglo-Soviet relations in the period which became known as the `era of detente'. And it will be several years before other historians, benefiting from releases under the thirty-year rule, will be able to judge just how good the selection is. But both collections provide a wide range of material. Records of international conferences abroad and of ministerial meetings at home, letters from the Moscow Embassy and interviews with the Soviet Ambassador in London, FCO memoranda on individual issues and, perhaps most interestingly, reports by the Joint Intelligence Committee (usually kept secret for far longer than this) are here.

Furthermore the documents cover a wide range of subjects, from the imprisonment of Gerald Brooke (condemned to a labour camp in 1965, for circulating anti-Communist propaganda), through commercial and technological co-operation, to such important international questions as the Vietnam War, Middle East tension and the growing divide between Moscow and Beijing. Volume I, which concentrates on bilateral relations between Britain and the USSR, also includes a number of items on cultural diplomacy, including for example, a report on the `Days of British Music' Festival in Moscow, Leningrad and elsewhere in April 1971, when Benjamin Britten conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and drew enthusiastic crowds.

The change in the atmosphere of East-West relations, as reflected in these documents is remarkable. The first volume opens with a visit by Harold Wilson to Moscow which was friendly enough but achieved no breakthroughs on any problem. The two countries sympathised with different sides in the Vietnam War, which was about to reach a new intensity in the `Tel' offensive; Wilson had just been forced to devalue the Pound and was hardly in a strong negotiating position; and the British were suspicious of Soviet attempts to call a European Security Conference, fearing that this was a ploy to divide the Atlantic Alliance. The second volume closes, however, with the European Security Conference having been held and the `Helsinki Agreements' signed. Britain's Ambassador to Moscow, reviewing the situation in September 1075, believed that so long as the Western powers proceeded carefully, `detente may foster developments in Soviet policies which ultimately make the USSR a less intractable, even a more reliable, partner.' Meanwhile the Vietnam War had ended, Anglo-Soviet trade had continued to expand and Gerald Brooke had long since been released -- effectively exchanged in July 1969 for two Soviet spies, Peter and Helen Kroger.

But the improvement in relations was far from a gradual, even one. Two problems in particular stand out in Volume I. First, in August 1968, the USSR

and some of its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, to end any danger that it would abandon Soviet-style Communism. The crisis, which had been building up for months, was the subject of a long Cabinet discussion on 22 August. It was evident that, while eager to condemn the Warsaw Pact's action, ministers could do little to help Czechoslovakia and wished to minimise the long-term damage to Anglo-Soviet relations. The FCO believed that a `healthy realism is essential' and was determined to maintain `business as usual' wherever possible. However, as a telegram from Ambassador Sir Duncan Wilson in early November made clear, such moderation was not intended to benefit the Soviets. Instead it was hoped that trade, cultural links and individual contacts would help `to wean' the younger generation `from Marxist dogmatism': the `most effective way in which we could help the Czechs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Documenting Britain's Foreign Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.