On 17 July 1945 the last of the great tripartite wartime conferences between the US, the UK and Russia opened at Potsdam, near Berlin. All the major issues facing the postwar world were discussed there.
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.
The outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950 caught Western governments by surprise, despite warning signs. Western strategists had assumed that North Korea was a Soviet puppet, and that no one wanted a war.
VE Day in 1945 was the cause of much celebration. But in a broader global context, many conflicts persisted and the future remained uncertain.
The conviction of atomic scientist Klaus Fuchs on 1 March 1950 for spying for the Soviet Union put a strain on Anglo-American nuclear co-operation, in the context of a broader divergence of views on foreign policy priorities.
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.
NATO remains the cornerstone of Western security. But as it celebrates its 70th birthday, it is worth remembering the part played in the negotiations by other regions such as Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
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.
This is not the action of strong ‘expansionist’ leaders, but of frightened men reacting indecisively to a situation which they judged to be crucially dangerous, but with which they did not know how to deal.[i] On the night of Tuesday, …
Recalling those days one is not only impressed, but almost oppressed, with the sense of how many issues we were faced with and had to handle at the same time.[i] When George Brown stormed out of Downing St in the …
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. …
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- What’s the context? Opening of the Potsdam Conference, 17 July 1945 17 July 2020
- What’s the context? 25 June 1950: outbreak of the Korean War 25 June 2020
- What’s the context? 8 May 1945: VE Day, the end of the war in Europe 7 May 2020
- What’s the Context? Sentencing of atomic spy Klaus Fuchs, 1 March 1950 2 March 2020
- What’s the context? The release of Nelson Mandela, 11 February 1990 11 February 2020