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When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

30YearsWar #74: Destination Westphalia [1645]

After so long dancing around the issue, here we finally look at the moment when the Westphalian towns of Osnabruck and Munster hosted delegates from all across Europe and the Empire. Why were the French so eager to arrive with an enormous entourage? How did the delegates get their mail? How did warmer creatures cope with the cold, rainy mud of Germany? We get into it here, as well as contextualising these key early steps of the most famous peace congress of the early modern era.


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  • 1956: Conclusion

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    After nearly forty episodes, and many fantastic discoveries, what can we learn from this incredible year in history? Was it a turning point for the decolonising Europeans, or simply a signal that the United States was now the top dog? Was it truly damaging for the Soviets, or did the Hungarian chapter simply confirm what many had assumed - that only by forceful repression could the Warsaw Pact members be kept in line? This was a year of several spinning plates, but before we bid it farewell, we still have a bit more to say, so I hope you'll join me!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.21: From Eden

    47:22
    Here we finish 1956, with the final episode in the series wrapping up Eden's story, and the Conclusion episode, wrapping up this eventful year.The Prime Minister, once so revered, had irreparably damaged his reputation by acting as he did in the Suez Crisis. While on paper the record stated that Britain and France had acted with the most noble of intentions, in reality, as Eden well knew, the ambitions had been far more rudimentary and straightforward, and the miscalculations far more grave, than Eden would ever let on. He would meet his maker still parroting the lies which had so stupefied his political rivals, frustrated his allies and outraged the Western powers.How can we explain Eden’s policy? How did the British political nation react afterwards? Was it ever possible to leave Suez behind? Did the incident significantly damage Anglo-Americans, as we are sometimes led to believe? Did it result in a downturn of British fortunes in the Middle East? All of these are critical questions, so I hope you’ll join me to investigate them as we tackle Anthony Eden, the Suez Crisis and this fascinating year of 1956 in one more eventful episode.Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.20: Americans And Soviets

    34:17
    Episode 2.20: Americans & Soviets examines the involvement of the Cold War’s primary protagonists in the Suez Crisis. At long last, we bring the events in Hungary full circle with events in Egypt, and assess whether Anthony Eden’s crimes doomed Hungary after all. In short, we bring everything full circle in 1956. What the events of this year demonstrated, between the Soviet aggressions in Hungary and the Anglo-French adventures in Egypt, was that a strong United Nations was critical for the sake of the peace of the world. ‘I agree with you’, said Eden, ‘and that was why I acted as I did in the first place!’ While the Prime Minister was in full-blown deception mode, his political rivals in the Commons were far from satisfied. Their curiosity was piqued, rather than satiated, and they latched onto the inconsistencies in Eden’s version of events like dogs latched onto a bone. In the end, their suspicious persistence would prove correct, though even they would be startled by just how far Eden had gone.To a great many British citizens and statesmen, it was easier to believe the narrative parroted by the Government. To suppose that the Government could have acted so rashly and aggressively was the antithesis of Conservative governance, and of a sensible foreign policy which the Tory ideology was meant to stand for. Not only that, but the version of events Eden parroted – that Britain had saved the peace by compelling the UN to offer up a peacekeeping force – enabled many Britons to feel proud of their country’s contribution to peace. They would have had good cause to feel proud, had there been any shred of truth to what the PM had said. It was clear to him by the end of 7th November that his choices had had consequences. Not only Egypt, but the relationship with the Americans, the powers of the Soviets and the nature of the Cold War itself had all been affected. It was at this moment, that Eden decided it was time for a holiday…Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.19: Not All Heroes Wear Capes

    42:01
    1956 Episode 2.19 examines Eden efforts to completely redefine what the Suez Crisis had meant, and what Britain’s role in the crisis had been. From the afternoon of 6th November, with a ceasefire in the air, a UN Emergency Force still had to be negotiated. Eden could claim that British and French forces were sticking around in Egypt only for the purpose of maintaining peace and protecting the Suez Canal. Yet, his critics could argue that Britain and France broke the peace in the first place, and that the Canal was now only blocked because of British and French belligerence.For his sins, Eden’s Party would be attacked in the Commons on the 6th November by the Labour Leader, until, shortly after 6PM, he decided to spill the beans to his peers in the Commons. No, he wasn’t about to tell the truth, instead he was about to put forward the polished turd of an explanation for why Britain had acted as it did. We quote from Eden in full in this episode, as we are reliant on the good folks at Hansard for making the all-important speeches in the Commons over these heady days freely accessible to all. Primary sources help build a story like no other, and here we can hear the British PM say the exact words he said at ten past six on 6th November. Words which, it would transpire, were based in the main on lies which Eden knew to be lies from the beginning. The British PM, as we learned last time, was now engaging in a new strategy – damage control. He was determined to make Britain look as good, as noble and as heroic as possible while doing it. By the end of his diatribe, one could be forgiven for thinking that the world owed Britain some heartfelt thanks. Only Eden and a closed circle of allies knew the truth, but it couldn’t stay this way for long…Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.18: The Art Of Backing Down

    35:08
    1956 Episode 2.18 brings us to a critical point in the narrative, where Anthony Eden decided that a ceasefire was in fact favourable after all!So just what had changed? Thanks to Harold Macmillan, Eden was persuaded that the economic situation in Britain was close to breaking point, and the Treasury Secretary greatly inflated the figures to ape a crisis which could not be avoided, unless peace was reached. Explaining this event necessitates a small investigation into the elements of truth in Macmillan’s economic doomsaying, as well as a deeper examination of Macmillan’s motives. Was the Treasury Secretary motivated by the hopeless Egyptian situation, or by his political ambition to oust Eden and take his spot?As the title of the episode indicates though, much of our time is spent on examining the incredible transformation in British aims which took place over the day of 6th November. With news that Egypt would not be capitulating now common knowledge among his peers, Eden determined to change virtually every aspect of the Egyptian campaign. If a ceasefire would have be implemented, then it was necessary Britain control the narrative which led to this ceasefire. This Eden did, with a breath-taking disregard for the truth. Britain, so the PM claimed, had gone to Egypt not to remove Nasser, recoup prestige or recapture the Suez Canal, but to prevent the Egyptian-Israeli war from spilling over into neighbouring countries and, most incredibly of all, to draw the conflict to the attention of the UN. This latter goal was ludicrous, but Eden insisted until the end that because the UN Emergency Force was en route, this ‘aim’ of his had been successful.This recasting of Britain’s role in the Crisis was never going to fool everyone, but it was immensely convenient now that Eden possessed someone to blame – the Americans – and something noble to cling on to – the idea that Britain had acted in the interests of the world. It was a combination which he was to uphold for the rest of his life, with the most damning of consequences for his legacy and Party. Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.17: Britain Knows Best

    35:01
    1956 Episode 2.17 looks at Anthony Eden’s furious efforts to shape the debate on the British intervention in Egypt in the first few days of November, 1956. Our story on 5th November where, just as British and French paratroopers were landing on Port Said, the British Government was fighting its own battle in the House of Commons. Selwyn Lloyd, the beleaguered Foreign Secretary, was tasked with standing up for British foreign policy in light of the emerging controversies. At this stage, the idea that there could have been collusion was vehemently denied, but for now, it was bad enough that Britain had acted without American support, defied the UN and failed to appraise all parties of the policy it planned to put forward.There seemed a great deal of secrecy underway, and while he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, Hugh Gaitskell, Labour Party leader, knew that something was up. Gaitskell wasn’t the only one; his Labour colleagues fired a succession of difficult questions at Lloyd, who by now probably wished he had stood up to Eden when he’d had the chance. Lloyd was able to open the debates of 5th November with some good news – the resolution on the UN Emergency Force had been approved in the UN General Assembly, meaning that a peace force could soon be sent to the trouble spot of the Middle East. What stood out from this resolution though was the fact that the British and French had abstained rather than vote for it in the UN. This stunned and deeply angered the opposition, who believed that yet another opportunity for peace had been lost.Hungary remained a topic on the lips of many, and few backbenchers on either side could ignore the fact that this crisis distracted perfectly from what was happening in Budapest. Still though, the Tories insisted – their intervention had been right, and peace would now be guaranteed. Eden’s government was now banking above all on a capitulation from President Nasser, which it was hoped would come once the Anglo-French forces landed in number on the following morning of 6th November. This victory would surely mask the terrible embarrassment which had preceded it, but here, it was made clear that not all were convinced. Something was afoot, yet even despite the objections of his peers, neither Eden nor Lloyd gave in. They had come to far to give up now. Might would make right, because in the confused international circumstances presented by the 1950s, it was only rational to conclude that Britain knew best… Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.16: My Canadian Friends

    32:41
    1956 Episode 2.16 introduces the fascinating Canadian element into our story. Eden’s efforts to control the discussion continued, as the Prime Minister sought to make the British people see things wholly his way. To some extent he would succeed, but much like his French counterparts, it was proving immensely difficult to control what people thought deep down about this strangely brave but also incredibly reckless action. For a few fleeting hours, it appeared as though Eden had judged correctly – it was nice to see the entente cruising into battle again without the American say-so. But this pride would evaporate once it became clear how alone Britain and France were in this plot.Seemingly to the rescue in this equation was Lester Pearson, Canada’s Foreign Secretary and a critically important statesmen in the early Cold War era. An advocate of a police force controlled by the United Nations, and an enthusiastic supporter of negotiations taking place in the General Assembly, where many smaller states were represented, Pearson quickly became the face of solving Suez. This, of course, was not to Eden’s wishes, who wanted to crush Nasser, not be bailed out of his country. But even the PM had to make a show of going along with his proposals for the sake of good press, and before long, a stunning proposal was gathering momentum. A United Nations Emergency Force was the solution proposed by Pearson, and even while proposals in the General Assembly were not legally binding, Pearson soon counted several supporters eager to contribute men to this force.The task of persuading the British and French to make peace and hold back while this force was assembled was another issue entirely of course. As we’ll soon discover, the art of backing down was something which Eden soon gravitated towards, as he moved to recast his country not as an interventionist power, but as one acting explicitly in the interests of the UN, and of course, of world peace. Until he had the opportunity to manipulate the truth though, the PM would have to rely on his Canadian friends to change the debate, and bring about a solution which even he could accept. It was destined to be a busy next few days.Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.15: Foiled Abroad

    31:00
    1956 Episode 2.15 resumes the story of Anthony Eden and his struggle to implement the once perfect plan upon his unwilling nation. Having been challenged passionately at home by a disbelieving political nation in the last episode, here we see this suspicion and fear transplanted to Britain’s supposed allies, and to the United Nations. It was within the UN that some of the sneakiest and indefensible behaviour took place, as Britain was forced to veto measures which would have ordered a ceasefire between Egypt and Israel. This put her forward, alongside France, as a disturber of the peace, and as the hypocritical Soviets rushed to condemn her actions, the American reaction also became apparent. Having operated on the ludicrous assumption that President Eisenhower would fall into line, Eden was faced instead with the quite predictable scene of a confused, hesitant and deeply suspicious President, who could not bring himself to believe that Eden had actually done what he had done. Evidently, the PM was operating according to his own interests, and had failed to consider the fallout of his schemes, yet Eden never seemed to have paused for a moment, before it all kicked off, to think about what would happen if anything went wrong.As further attempts were made to class the British act as legally justified, to the immense consternation of those legal officers who had insisted this was impossible, British foreign policy bungled its way through negotiations in the UN General Assembly, as John Foster Dulles came out strongly against the Anglo-French act. The news of an ultimatum had been delivered in the late afternoon of 30th October, according to their carefully laid plans. Now, the Egyptians would resist, the Israelis would compromise and make peace, and all would see that Egypt was the problem which only Anglo-French arms could solve. This delusional plan, while it had demonstrated several holes already, remained the hymn sheet of the British government. For better or worse, as Hungary was crushed under Soviet boots, and an Anglo-French flotilla approached the first military target in Egypt, everything must go according to plan.Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!
  • 1956 - The Suez Crisis #2.14: Attacked At Home

    36:54
    1956 Episode 2.14 takes us to the scenes facing Anthony Eden in Britain in the final days of October.Having orchestrated an Israeli-Egyptian war, the plan now was to issue an ultimatum, and for Anglo-French forces to swoop into Egypt to separate the two belligerents. Such a noble act, Eden believed, would cloak the fact that Britain and France were really there to oust Nasser, recoup prestige and occupy the Suez Canal for Western benefit. It was a thoroughly imperialistic, backwards set of policy aims that moved Eden’s government forward, and what he seems to never have suspected during the time he spent crafting it, was just how the opposition in Britain would respond.Incredibly, the PM seems to have expected everyone to have just believed him and his bare-faced lies. The fact that they did not and that many were aghast as the British act in tandem with France and acting outside of the realm of the UN forced Eden to go on the defensive. The PM had completely underestimated the situation, and he was now put in a position where he would have to lie in order to defend himself.Amidst rumours which put it that he was largely to blame for the Crisis which was unfolding, Eden would insist that British forces were operating with France to keep the peace, and to protect the interests of the world, represented in the Suez Canal. What a noble set of goals, except of course, the claims were full of hot air. Under such circumstances were political and military disasters made, but the PM had made his bed, conspiratorial and confused as it had been. Now he would be forced to lie in it. Remember history friends - you can get these episodes ad-free with scripts attached for just $2 a month - for a fiver you can access our PhD Thesis series, so come and nerd out with us!