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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? 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 …

What’s the Context? 18 November 1967: Devaluation of Sterling

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Prime Minister Harold Wilson with James Callaghan walking towards the camera. They both look happy

‘Faith, hope and parity’ On Saturday, 18 November 1967, sterling was devalued by 14% from $2.80 to $2.40. Although rumours of impending devaluation had been widespread in the press, including in Europe and the United States, the announcement by the …

What’s the Context? US President announces the ‘Truman Doctrine’, 12 March 1947

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Truman Doctrine

The missionary strain in the character of Americans leads many of them to feel that they have now received a call to extend to other countries the blessings with which the Almighty has endowed their own [1] Seventy years ago, …

What’s the Context? 22 October 1966: spy George Blake escapes from Wormwood Scrubs

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‘The sentence was such that it almost became a question of honour to challenge it . . . like a POW, I had a duty to escape.’[1] ‘Double Agent breaks out of jail’ On 11 November 2016, George Blake, the …

What’s the Context? 26 July 1956: Nasser announces the nationalisation of the Suez Canal

Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser returns to cheering crowds in Cairo after announcing the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, August 1956 (Public Domain)

The UK and the US shared common strategic interests in the region, but their analyses and policies were not identical and there were important differences in their tactical and diplomatic approaches’. (Chilcot Report on the Iraq enquiry, vol. I, p. …

What’s the Context? 9 May 1956: Eden orders an enquiry into the disappearance of Commander ‘Buster’ Crabb

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It would not be in the public interest to disclose the circumstances in which Commander Crabb is presumed to have met his death. Mystery of the missing frogman Sixty years ago today, on 9 May 1956 the Prime Minister, Sir …

What’s the Context? 21 March 1946: Frank Roberts’ ‘Long Telegram’

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No one who has served in Moscow can ever be quite the same person again . . . Those who have had this experience may be pardoned if they think that, among themselves, they can speak a language and carry …

What’s the context? 12 October 2015: The execution of Edith Cavell

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Advertisement in Moving Picture World, March 1919 for The Cavell Case

In the early hours of Tuesday, 12 October 1915, Edith Cavell, a British nurse who had been working in Belgium, was executed by the Germans after being found guilty of helping over 200 Allied servicemen escape to England. At her …