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What's the context? series

What’s the Context? Sentencing of atomic spy Klaus Fuchs, 1 March 1950

Klaus Fuchs portrait

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.

What’s the context? The release of Nelson Mandela, 11 February 1990

Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s release on 11 February 1990, after 27 years in jail, symbolised the end of apartheid in South Africa. It was a tribute to one man’s endurance. It was also the result of decades of political, economic and social change that had brought apartheid to the brink of destruction.

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.

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.

Soviet forces invade Czechoslovakia, 20 to 21 August 1968

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FOTO:FORTEPAN / Konok Tamás id

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, …

What’s the context? George Brown resigns as Foreign Secretary, 15 March 1968

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Portrait of George Brown looking down

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 …

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, …