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Secret intelligence, to borrow the often used cliché by Sir Alexander Cadogan, has been regarded as the ‘missing dimension’ of Britain’s diplomatic and political history. This phrase certainly describes the near absence of the subject from academia even into the 1990s when the first batches of intelligence-related material made it into the public domain.
One might be forgiven for thinking that British defence policy between the Napoleonic era and the outbreak of the First World War was always geared towards a large, continental commitment.
The cover of Jan Rüger’s Heligoland shows a small, forbidding and desolate rock surrounded by inclement seas and with no sign of human habitation. This unwelcoming glimpse of land from afar – as so often the case with islands – will prove to be misleading. It gives no sense of the history on a grand scale that is to come.
Today, a half-century after his death, Winston Churchill stands like a colossus over the political, diplomatic and military history of the 20th century, and of its most terrible armed conflict, the Second World War. The already voluminous number of historical studies devoted to him and his career continues to grow, and amounts to a full-blown industry – never mind the ‘cottage’ part.
Since the 1970s a new phase in the historiography of Irish foreign policy has developed, moving beyond the focus on Anglo-Irish relations to examine other bilateral diplomatic relationships (with the US and Africa for example), regional and international ties, aid, ethics, gender, and the role of individual diplomats among other issues.
The historical literature on Afghanistan and the various armed conflicts fought on its soil has greatly increased in recent years, due to the tragic events following the American-led invasion of the country in October 2001.
In the autumn of 2011 the near-simultaneous publication of a number of books on the British Empire promised to add fresh momentum to the debate, if debate is the word, on the memories – or lack of them – that the British people currently carry for their empire.(1) Jeremy Paxman, with Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British, promised a robust, ‘clear-e
After the Bomb: Civil Defence and Nuclear War in Britain, 1945–68 provides a fascinating historical study of post-war and Cold War policy on civil defence in the United Kingdom.
David Cesarani’s stylish book unravels the often sordid details of what might at first seem a relatively minor incident in the decline and collapse of British rule in Palestine.