The Suez Crisis, 1956: A Throwback to the Past or a Pointer to the Future?

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In 1956, President Nasser of Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal Company. In response, Britain, together with France and Israel, attacked Egypt. The Suez War was the only major military engagement in the 20th century which was opposed by the official opposition. It was also opposed by the United States and the United Nations, resulting in Britain and France being compelled to withdraw from Egypt and damaging the reputation of the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden.

On a number of occasions since 1956, Britain has intervened in the Middle East, most recently in Iraq and in Libya. Those interventions, like Suez, were highly controversial and show the costs of intervention. It has been argued that the failure to intervene in Syria, like the failure to intervene against Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s, show the risks and costs of non-intervention, so perhaps Eden was more prescient than appeared at the time. In his lecture, Professor Bogdanor will consider to what extent Suez is a throwback to the past or a pointer to the future.

Speaker Bio

Professor Vernon Bogdanor CBE FBA is Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History at King’s College London. He was formerly Professor of Government at Oxford University, and Senior Tutor and Vice-Principal at Brasenose College. He has written widely on government and politics, including books on The People and the Party System, Monarchy and the Constitution, and Power and the People: A Guide to Constitutional Reform. Most recently, he has edited a book on The British Constitution in the Twentieth Century and written on The New British Constitution. He has been an adviser to government and parliamentary bodies on many occasions, and in 1998 was awarded the CBE for services to constitutional history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy.

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