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What's the context? series

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 Secretary of State proposes a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the reconstruction of Europe, 5 June 1947

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A class of elderly gentlemen, dressed in graduation robes which are about receive honorary degree at Harvard.

Seventy years ago this week US Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a speech at Harvard University in which he offered American aid to a destitute and fragile Europe if it proved willing and able to help itself. Britain, …

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? 15 February 1942: The Fall of Singapore

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75 years ago today, on 15 February 1942, British forces surrendered the ‘impregnable fortress’ of Singapore to the Japanese army. Defeat had come swiftly after the landing of Japanese forces in northern Malaya and southern Thailand on 8 December 1941. …

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 …

They Think it’s all Diplomacy: North Korea, the Foreign Office and the 1966 World Cup

‘In order to be a good footballer, you must run swiftly and pass the ball accurately’. Wise words indeed – especially when one considers that they were uttered not by Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger, but by Kim Il Sung, …

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. …