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Harold Wilson, Lyndon B. Johnson and Anglo-American relations ‘at the summit’, 1964–68
Author: Jonathan Colman

This book is based mainly on government sources, namely material from the White House, State Department, Foreign Office (FO), Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Prime Minister's Office (PREM) and Cabinet (CAB). Private papers consulted include those of Harold Wilson, Foreign Secretary George Brown and Undersecretary of State George Ball. The book explores a period of the Wilson-Johnson relationship. It considers the seven weeks from Wilson's election until he went to see Lyndon B. Johnson on 7-9 December, a formative period in which Britain cultivated American financial support and which saw pre-summit diplomacy over the NATO Multilateral Force (MLF). The book covers the summit in detail, examining the diplomatic exchanges over the Vietnam War, the British commitment East of Suez and the MLF, as well as the interplay of personality between Wilson and Johnson. By exploring the relationship of the two leaders in the years 1964-1968, it seeks to examine their respective attitudes to the Anglo-American relationship. The book then assesses the significance of an alleged Anglo-American strategic-economic 'deal', Wilson's 'Commonwealth Peace Mission' to Vietnam, and another Wilson visit to Washington. It also considers why the personal relationship between Johnson and Wilson suffered such strain when the Labour government 'dissociated' the UK from the latest American measures in Vietnam. Next, the book addresses the period from August 1966-September 1967, during which Wilson launched an intense but abortive effort to initiate peace negotiations over Vietnam, and London announced plans to withdraw from military bases East of Suez.

Open Access (free)
Harold Wilson and Lyndon B. Johnson: a ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

implications for the Johnson–Wilson relationship, as it saw the devaluation of sterling and the demise of the remaining British commitment East of Suez. As 1968 ended, the White House was more inclined to regard Britain simply as one ally among many, rather than a state with whom there was some kind of ‘specialrelationship. The Anglo-American relationship, 1964–68 There has been the suggestion that the Anglo

in A ‘special relationship’?
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Colman

‘thought his friendship with Johnson was harmony itself’. 4 John Dickie maintains that ‘Even the most ardent Atlanticists were surprised at the sudden cooling of the Special Relationship so soon after the end of the Kennedy– Macmillan era’. In particular, Wilson’s prime ministership ‘set the scene for a decline which continued for fifteen years until Margaret Thatcher rekindled the special warmth of the partnership with Ronald

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

February On 11 February, Housing Minister Richard Crossman contended that Britain had put itself ‘in the hands of American politicians’, because of Wilson’s determination to ‘recreate the Anglo-American axis, the special relationship between Britain and America’. 1 Although Wilson sought close ties with the White House, it is clear that if President Johnson wanted any such close relationship it would be

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

commitment to East of Suez and to the parity of sterling – both of which were important to the ‘special relationship’. Wilson’s performance delighted Johnson, with the result he used his luncheon toast not only to eulogise the Prime Minister but as a means of bolstering sterling in the eyes of currency speculators. The general election In 1966 Wilson was, as ever, concerned that Britain

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

Johnson’s part, Wilson’s unrealism, and Rostow’s scepticism as well as the ambivalence of Moscow. 76 It is certainly clear that the affair did strain an already fragile relationship between the Prime Minister and the President. The ‘special relationship’ On 1 January 1967, Cabinet minister Richard Crossman complained that the ‘personal reliance on LBJ’ evident in Britain’s dull, ‘Bevinite’ foreign policy

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

Stuart times; our comradeship in two world wars, and in our efforts to create conditions of lasting peace following those wars. But Wilson, as he noted later, had ‘prepared no speech, and had to speak, as they say, right on’. 31 In his impromptu address he used the expression ‘close relationship’ instead of the established formulation ‘special relationship’. 32 The

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

cordial enough, but the key Anglo-American issues were already played out. Moreover, the reports of the British Ambassador Patrick Dean indicated that the increasing exposure of Britain’s weakness and declining strategic value suggested that increasingly the country was but one ally among many for the Americans. Finally, in 1969 Wilson sought to establish a ‘special relationship’ with Johnson’s successor in the White House

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

–8. 45 C. J. Bartlett, ‘The Special Relationship’: A Political History of Anglo-American Relations since 1945 (London: Longman, 1992 ), pp. 110, 111. 46 Chris Wrigley, ‘Now you see it, now you don’t: Harold Wilson and Labour’s foreign policy, 1964–1970’, in R. Coopey, S. Fielding and N. Tiratsoo (eds

in A ‘special relationship’?
Jonathan Colman

as a whole, both because it is right and because it is by worldwide collaboration that we shall preserve, unspoken, the ‘special relationship’. 17 Wilson was delighted by Trend’s arguments: he jotted on the margin of the memorandum that ‘This is the best sense I have seen on this.’ He would keep the document on the top of his Washington briefs, ‘ready for quick

in A ‘special relationship’?