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Foreign Office Historians

Reopening the British Embassy following the liberation of Paris

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A photo of Alfred Duff and Lady Diana Cooper talking to a VIP.

On 13 September 1944 a Dakota aircraft, with an escort of 45 Spitfires, flew across the English Channel towards Paris. The plane carried the new British Ambassador to France, Alfred ‘Duff’ Cooper, with the mission to re-establish a British presence in the newly liberated French capital.

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

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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.

Forward or backward looking? The Treaty of Versailles

Cartoon: At the Peace Table. Treaty of Versailles. Clemenceau says, "Take your seats, gentlemen!" The food and chairs look dangerous, and there are handcuffs on the table, worried and suspicious German delegates.

German anger at the Treaty of Versailles between the wars is well known. Hitler, in his rise to power, exploited this deep resentment. So how did such a contentious document come into existence and why was it signed?

What’s the context? 4 April 1949: signature of the North Atlantic Treaty

Map of the world with NATO member countries highlighted, which are the 29 countries of NATO

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.

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

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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 was happening between the armistice and the opening of the Paris peace talks?

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Council of Four at the WWI Paris peace conference, (L - R) Prime Minister David Lloyd George (Great Britain) Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, President Woodrow Wilson

The armistice agreement with Germany was signed on 11 November 1918, but the Peace Conference did not start proceedings until 18 January 1919.  With so much at stake, why did it take 2 months for discussions to start?