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What's the context? series

What’s the Context? Occupying Powers sign Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin, 3 September 1971

The most that we can say is that we have made the best of a bad bargain, not that we have got a fair deal (Prime Minister Edward Heath, 1 September 1971) Fifty years ago, Ambassadors representing the 4 Occupying …

What's the Context? Signature of the Atlantic Charter, 14 August 1941

The principles set out in the Atlantic Charter eighty years ago remain key to the global vision shared by the UK and US. But its terms also contained the roots of  international tensions that persist today: for example in relation …

When the Wall went up: Britain and the Berlin Crisis, 1961

Sixty years ago simmering Cold-War tensions were dramatically brought to a head in Berlin. A new volume of documents from the FCDO Historians tells how Britain responded to the crisis brought about by the construction of the Berlin Wall. In the …

What’s the Context? Winston Churchill’s ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech, Fulton, 5 March 1946

Now, at this sad and breathless moment, we are plunged in the hunger and distress which are the aftermath of our stupendous struggle. Though no longer Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s speech at Fulton on 5 March 1946 packed a formidable …

What’s the context? Foundation of the German Empire, 18 January 1871

Artwork showing a large group of military men in a room

This war represents the German revolution, a greater political event than the French revolution of last century. . . . Not a single principle in the management of our foreign affairs, accepted by all statesmen for guidance up to six …

What’s the Context? Signing the Anglo-American Financial Agreement, 6 December 1945

The American Congress and the American people have never accepted any literal principle of equal sacrifice, financial or otherwise, between all the allied participants. Indeed, have we ourselves? Lord Keynes, defending the Agreement in the House of Lords, 18 December …

What’s the context? Opening of the Potsdam Conference, 17 July 1945

Seated in the garden of Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, Germany, L to R: British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet Prime Minister Josef Stalin. L to R, behind them: Adm. William Leahy, British foreign minister Ernest Bevin, Secretary of State James Byrnes, and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov. They are all attending the Potsdam Conference.

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.

What’s the context? 25 June 1950: outbreak of the Korean War

Ernest Bevin an elderly Prime Minister posing for a picture in front of a book case

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.