- Reviewed by
Some seventeen years have passed since the Berlin Wall was finally breached, but scholars are still debating the perceptions, policies, and personalities that dominated the Cold War. The essays in Cold War Britain offer many fresh and revealing insights into the early period of East-West tensions, drawing mostly on newly available British archival material and documents from a number of other countries, including the United States, Sweden, and Australia.
The book seeks to develop three themes traceable in each of the fourteen chap-ters: first, that although the Cold War provided an overarching framework for Britain's foreign policy during the first two decades of the Cold War, the country's national interest remained a dominant force; second, that British policymakers at the the outset of the Cold War still believed that it was both possible and desirable to remain a global power; and third, that, despite the first two factors, Britain's commitment to fighting the Cold War domestically and in the international arena was unreserved. In the final analysis, as the editors put it, Britain was "the coldest—and the most international—of the Cold Warriors in Western Europe" (p. 4).
One of the real strengths of this collection is the consistently high quality of the chapters—a goal that often eludes edited volumes that cover a wide range of topics and issues. In Part I, Erik Goldstein usefully sets the scene by reviewing the nature of Anglo-Soviet relations in the first quarter of the twentieth century, concluding that "chilly aloofness" gave way to a much "frostier" relationship after 1945. This point is taken further in Part II by Michael Hopkins and Michael Kandiah who assess the evolution of the Cold War at home and abroad. By focusing on the role of Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison (in the essay by Hopkins) and the impact of the Cold War on the construction of "New Conservatism" (the chapter by Kandiah), they pursue familiar issues through hitherto unexplored paths. Part III examines four themes in diplomacy, beginning with economics. Ian Jackson in his chapter argues that Britain took a robust position vis-à-vis the restrictive U.S. legislation that penalized states unwilling to countenance a comprehensive embargo against the Soviet Union and threatened to [End Page 132] limit the supply of non-strategic imports necessary for the economic recovery of Western Europe (p. 41). John Jenks explores the political and propaganda dimension of East-West relations by focusing on the British government's campaign against the Peace Partisans. He concludes that the Soviet Union's "ham-fisted" manipulation and "shrill polemics" did much to aid the British government in making peace "a dirty word" (p. 66). In chapter 6, Juhana Aunesluoma examines the "specialness" of Anglo-Swedish relations, revealing why, in contrast to the United States, Britain accepted the Scandinavian country's officially proclaimed policy of neutrality. In the last chapter on a diplomatic theme, Spencer Mawby considers how and to what extent British foreign policymaking continued to be dominated by the German problem despite the emergence of the Cold War. In Part IV, Ian Spellar assesses the post-1945 role of the Royal Navy, arguing that Britain, by failing to establish a modern naval deterrent, lost one of its major potential advantages. Martin Longden explores British political and military decisions with regard to Europe in the period 1945–1948, and Wayne Reynolds traces the role of the Empire in British defense policy, especially policy on nuclear weapons. Finally, Part V consists of four regional studies, beginning with Sean Greenwood's chapter on the government's effort to decide whether to allocate the significant coal resources of the Ruhr to France or use them instead to buttress the failing economy in the British zone of occupation. Gillian Staerck examines diplomatic relations among the United States, Britain, and France against the backdrop of the French war in Algeria, and Stephen Blackwell assesses British attitudes toward the "special relationship" with the United States and Cold War strategy in the Middle East after...