British Foreign Secretaries since 1974

British Foreign Secretaries since 1974

British Foreign Secretaries since 1974

British Foreign Secretaries since 1974

Synopsis

Using a biographical case study approach, the contributors to this volume examine the work of British foreign secretaries since 1974 in the context of the foreign policy-making machinery, the changing environment of British foreign policy, and the political forces with which they had to contend.

Excerpt

The leitmotif of Harold Macmillan's tenure of the Foreign Office and the premiership in the 1950s and early 1960s, at least in his own mind, was the idea of interdependence. States, even including the usa, the principal target of Macmillan's charm offensive, would benefit from cooperation (in weapons procurement, for instance) and attempting to work together to solve mutual problems. Most of all, perhaps, states had to collaborate to avert the disaster that nuclear weapons threatened a Cold War world with.

Interdependence, however, does not make for a heroic foreign-policy environment. and the constraints imposed by the Cold War - to operate through agreement with allies, especially the Americans, and within the parameters acceptable to them - continued to shape that environment well into the period covered by this volume. It was only in the 1980s, Paul Sharp has argued, that the room for manoeuvre for British diplomacy widened. Even if this is true, it is arguable that the main beneficiaries have been Prime Ministers, rather than their Foreign Secretaries. If anyone has played the Palmerston role it was Thatcher during the Falklands, or Blair over Kosovo, while their Foreign Secretaries seem to have had a more managerial part to play in the making and articulation of foreign policy.

The Falklands and Kosovo, however, while important events, particularly for those directly concerned, hardly radically altered the overall direction of British foreign policy or the parameters within which it operated. Cold War or no, these have evinced considerable continuities. Foreign Secretaries have not generally been called on to articulate new visions of British interests and policy, even if they wanted to. Few, moreover, seem to have wished to. Conservative Foreign Secretaries emerge from this collection

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