The Historical Perspective

  • Lord Beloff


Relations between the inhabitants of Britain and their continental neighbours precede the Roman conquest — the first event in Britain’s history of which we have detailed knowledge. Since that event those relations have been central to its existence whether on the political, the cultural or the economic plane. Yet their development has never been a straightforward affair. It is significant that a recent effort to tell the whole story should have been published under the title Convergence or Divergence?.1 The question is then whether the latest phase, signalised by Britain’s adherence to the European Communities and now the European Union marks yet another case of convergence or whether it represents a final irrevocable choice. Are the marks of distinctiveness which have shown themselves from time to time now in process of being abandoned to the extent that over large areas of activity the British will be seen as partners in some pan-European enterprise?


European Union Historical Perspective European Economic Community English Court British Empire 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Jeremy Black, Convergence or Divergence? Britain and the Continent (London, 1994).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    For an analysis of how a British notion of nationhood came about in the early modern period, see Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (London, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Philip Williams, Hugh Gaitskell, a Political Biography (London, 1979), p. 729.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On Churchill’s position see Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For English translations of these documents see A. R. Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents(ed. David C. Douglas) Vol. IV, pp. 656 and 659–62.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 484.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See on this point Alan Macfarlane, The Origins of English Individualism (Oxford, 1978).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    On the latter argument see Jonathan Clark, English Society, 1688–1832 (Cambridge, 1985).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (Oxford, 1994).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    No Conservative opponent of joining the Communities on economic grounds has left a full account of these transactions, but the position of a Labour free-trader is well depicted in the memoirs of Lord Jay: Douglas Jay, Change and Fortune: A Political Record (London, 1980).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    A. V. Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, was first published in 1885. Many later editions have maintained its classic status.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Lord Hailsham, On The Constitution (London, 1992) ch. XVI, ‘Sovereignty: The European Dimension’.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    M. Pinto-Duschinsky, The Times, 17 August 1994.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lord Jay seems to have been the only public figure for whom accepting the continental vision of a United Europe was the equivalent of the ‘appeasement’ of Hitler in his drive to continental domination Jay, Time and Chance,p. 357). But some echoes of that feeling can be found in some of Lady Thatcher’s utterances.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For this aspect of the matter, see Max Beloff, Imperial Sunset, Vol. 2, Dream of Commonwealth (London, 1989).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    For the wartime relationships of the three powers, see Robin Edmonds, The Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in Peace and War (New York and London, 1991).Google Scholar
  17. On Truman’s handling of the situation which he inherited from Roosevelt, see David McCullough, Truman (London, 1992).Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    For one view of this aspect of the matter, see Max Beloff, ‘The end of the British Empire and the assumption of world-wide commitments by the United States’, in W. R. Louis and Hedley Bull (eds), The ‘Special Relationship’ (Oxford, 1986).Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    Max Beloff, The United States and the Unify of Europe (Washington, DC 1963) p. 103.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Max Beloff, The United States and the Unity of Europe (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1963) p. 103. How US policy had developed to this point from a very different wartime position is described in the earlier chapters of that work.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    Acheson’s own memoirs, Present at the Creation: My Tears in the State Department (New York, 1969), gives an important account of that crucial phase in postwar history.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    Quoted in Douglas Brinkley, Dean Acheson, The Cold War Tears, 1953–71 (New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press, 1992) p. 176.Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    For Monnet’s own view of his role in history see Jean Monnet, Memoirs, trans. Richard Mayne (London, 1978).Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Brinkley, Dean Acheson,187–9.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    Ibid., pp. 176ff.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    The reply took the form of a letter to Lord Chandos who had sent Macmillan a protest on behalf of the Institute of Directors which was made available for publication in the British press: Harold Macmillan, At the End of the Day (London, 1973) pp. 339–40.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York & London: Simon & Schuster, 1994) pp. 547–8.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    Ibid., p. 577.Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Ibid., p. 592.Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    Ibid., p. 548.Google Scholar
  31. 30.
    Ibid., p. 597.Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    Ibid., p. 618. For a challenging account of Anglo-American relations in the twentieth century, see Donald Cameron Watt, Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain’s Place, 1900–1975 (Cambridge, 1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 32.
    An account of the progress of the federal idea in the interwar years and during and immediately after the war will be found in Max Beloff, Europe and the Europeans: An International Discussion, a report prepared at the request of the Council of Europe (London, 1957).Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Coudenhove-Kalergi and other figures of second-order political rank continued to put forward various ideas for European union. Their influence in Britain is much overrated by Andrea Bosco in his book Federal Union and the Origins of the ‘Churchill Proposal’: The Federalist Debate in the United Kingdom From Munich to the Fall of France (London: Lothian Foundation Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  35. The ‘federalist debate’ had very little to do with Churchill’s last-minute plea to the French in June 1940. Lord Lothian was the principal British figure to entertain such notions. See John Turner (ed.), The Larger Idea: Lord Lothian and the Problem of National Sovereignty (London, 1988).Google Scholar

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© Lord Beloff 1996

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  • Lord Beloff

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