Between Churchill and Stalin: The Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the Origins of the Grand Alliance

By Steven Merritt Miner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
FROM THE FALL OF FRANCE TO ORAN -- MOSCOW REASSURED JUNE-AUGUST 1940

W hen Sir Stafford Cripps was appointed British ambassador to the Soviet Union on May 31, 1940, he had not held a governmental post since the collapse of the second Labour government in August 1931. This hiatus in practical governmental experience was important, accentuating as it did certain extreme aspects of Cripps's character. Since he was one of the central figures involved in Anglo-Soviet affairs from 1940-42, it is worth examining his background in order to understand his occasionally curious behavior as ambassador.

Cripps came from a family with a long tradition of political activity in reformist causes. On his mother's side one of his ancestors had supported the colonies during the American War of Independence, and a later relative had been an M.P. siding with John Bright. Cripps's father, Lord Parmoor, was himself a politician who defied the laws of political gravity by moving leftward as he became older. He was an M.P. in a Tory government, received a peerage from the Liberals, and gained ministerial rank from Labour.

Religion was as important in Cripps's upbringing as was the family tradition of politics. His parents were devout Christians, but they practised an ecumenical Christianity -- an important factor in Cripps's future world view. His mother, a sister of Beatrice Potter Webb, died when Stafford was only four, but in a letter she wrote before her death she described how she wished her children to be raised: "I should like them to be trained to be

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