Gill Bennett

Formerly Chief Historian of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Senior Editor of the FCO’s official history of postwar foreign policy, Documents on British Policy Overseas, 1995-2005. She was a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 2002-03 and formerly Assistant Editor of Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939.

What’s the context? Polish cryptologists reveal they have cracked the Enigma code, 26 July 1939

The three Polish codebreakers Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski

On 26 July 1939, in a forest near Warsaw, Polish code breakers told their British colleagues how they had cracked the German Enigma code. As war against Nazi Germany approached, the meeting symbolised the importance of political, as well as intelligence co-operation in the struggle ahead.

What’s the context? 31 March 1939: the British guarantee to Poland

Hitler and Neville Chamberlain

On 31 March 1939 Neville Chamberlain committed Britain to defending Polish independence. After years of trying to preserve peace and buy time for rearmament, he recognised that international developments and domestic opinion meant this guarantee was necessary, though it was to mean war with Germany 6 months later.

What’s the context? The resignation of Anthony Eden, 20 February 1938

On Sunday, 20 February 1938, after two days of fraught Cabinet discussion, Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that he must resign rather than agree to enter into early talks with the Italian government led by Mussolini. …

What’s the Context? 20 December 1917: formation of the Cheka, the first Soviet security and intelligence agency

‘The Soviets would not last two days without the activities of the Cheka, but with the Cheka, the Soviet State was safe’: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Defending the Revolution Before the October Revolution in 1917 that put the Bolsheviks in power …