Between Tradition and Modernity? Britain’s Foreign Policy in the Second Half of the 1960s.


  • Jan Váška Institute of International Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague


This paper analyses the transformation of the British foreign policy during the first government of the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1964 –70). It focuses on the genesis, wider political and economic context and impact of two landmark decisions which in effect profoundly changed Britain’s international position: the second British application for membership in the European Community, and the decision to withdraw all British Armed Forces from the area east of the Suez Canal. The most important factors which influenced the reassessment of both British foreign and defence policy are identified in the long-term economic problems Britain was facing at the time and in the decolonisation process and the subsequent decline of both the economic and political importance for Britain of the Commonwealth. The contribution argues that this transformation can be interpreted as a shift from a traditional to a posttraditional era of British foreign policy.


Keywords: Britain, European Community, Suez Canal, foreign policy, 1960s