• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11
  12. 12
    12
  13. 13
    13

Is it fair to describe Bevin as a great foreign secretary?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How fair is it to say that Ernest Bevin was a great foreign secretary? In 1945 the Labour Party was unexpectedly elected to power with Britain facing grave financial and social problems in the aftermath of the war. Indeed, it was stated by Keynes that with the ending of "Lend Lease" Britain faced a "Financial Dunkirk". With Britain teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, Ernest Bevin was appointed Foreign Secretary, to the surprise of the public and to Bevin himself. Hugh Dalton had been widely expected to take up the role, with Bevin heading for the Treasury. Yet it was Bevin's reputation for speaking his mind, and his experience in hard bargaining, that Britain would need after the war. Clement Atlee the Prime Minister knew Bevin's strengths and foresaw the problems that would ultimately lie ahead in places like India and Eastern Europe. If anyone could stand up to the Soviets it would be Bevin, The ex leader of the TUC and former minister of Labour. After 1945, Bevin was responsible for the broad outline of all major foreign policy initiatives. His ideas were clear. He wished to salvage what he could from the remnants of the Empire yet preserve Britain's super power status. This in itself may seem contradictory, given that Bevin oversaw the biggest period of decolonisation in British history. However, Bevin realised the urgent need for Britain, for both economic and strategic reasons, to cut its international commitments, while maintaining a bond with those countries in the Empire who had acquired independence. Bevin had many critics within the British Establishment. It was claimed that he was an egotistical bully who was, "intellectually ill-equipped for the foreign office and whose strong prejudices could easily be moulded to the wishes of senior officials ."On the other hand a firm supporter of Bevin is the historian Frank K. Roberts. Roberts states "Bevin realised our weaknesses, was aware of the need to include America in European affairs and construct a stronger Western Europe in order to "share the burden". ...read more.

Middle

Perhaps the Act was intended to keep the countries from calling for independence or, more cynically, to create the impression that Britain remained a great power. When Bevin was appointed Foreign Secretary his clear aim was to retain as much of the Empire as possible, as any other policy in his view would have made Britain look weak to a degree that it plainly could not afford. However with debts of nearly �4billion (the equivalent in today's money would be some �105 billion) Corelli Barnett argues, "It was a waste of money! It constituted a wide open mouth into which the Labour Government chose to stuff annually �20 million of capitol investment, so urgently needed to modernise Britain." Barnett's argument is simple. If Britain had not continued to chase its great power status but had focused on improving the country's economy, Britain would have fared far better economically and would not have unnecessary foreign burdens which the country could not afford to defend. Sir Henry Tizzard's view matched that of Barnett when he argued, "We are not a great power and never will be again. We are a great nation but if we continue to behave like a great power we will also soon cease to be a great a nation." Chasing great power status was arguably one of Bevin's greatest mistakes which attracted significant criticism. On the other hand, it can be argued that Britain had to stand firm and continue to project an image of a super power to reduce the threat of aggression from the Soviet Union in Western Europe. Bevin had strong anti-communist beliefs coupled with a distrust of Russia and was determined not to allow the Soviets further than Berlin. Bevin also realised it was essential to keep the USA involved in European affairs. Kevin Jeffrey's backs Bevin by stating in his book, "The Atlee Governments," "There was a growing conviction that Britain's post war security and economic recovery depended upon Washington." ...read more.

Conclusion

The continued establishment of Britain's place in "the Big Three" of world powers was achieved through "Decolonisation without trauma" as Morgan stated. Bevin was equally successful in drawing America into Europe and the Mediterranean, thus ensuring that America filled the vacuum left by Britain. Overall Bevin cleverly manipulated American power to secure British interests. Marshal Aid, Truman Doctrine and consequently the halt of further Soviet expansion can all be attributed in part to Bevin's leadership and capacity to negotiate with leaders such as Molotov. Bevin's reluctance to appreciate the potential of the European ideal, in that he maintained an isolationist stance on behalf of Britain, was perhaps his "greatest mistake". As Acheson stated, "He felt that Britain was too superior to join the ECSC". Nevertheless, he did begin the process of European unity by organising Marshal Aid and setting up the OEEC. The second most telling criticism levelled against Bevin was his reluctance to grasp that Britain was no longer the power that she once was. Barnett argues that we committed massive amounts of our economies resources in the pursuit of "our dreams and illusions of world power status." Such a policy was ultimately harmful for Britain's long term economic survival in positioning the country to address the growing economic threat that one day would come from of the re-emergent Germany and Japan. It hindered Britain's economic growth and arguably sacrificed the long term future of Britain as a great economic power. Future generations would perhaps pay the price for Britain's illusions in the form of lower economic growth, more limited prospects and a lower standard of living than European counterparts. Bevin clearly realised the threat posed by the USSR, and was right to form the Brussels Pact, blocking German rearmament and the NATO alliance which has had unrivalled success. Bevin lived up to his reputation and did not back down from the Soviet threat. Allied with his relative success in managing the difficult process of de-colonisation in very difficult circumstances, the legacy of Bevin as a great Foreign Secretary is undeniable. ?? ?? ?? ?? Iain Leith ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics essays

  1. The Successes of Labour from 1945

    It is important to explain the reasons why Attlee's time in power came to a premature end. One issue was timing. In the 1950 election, although the economy had improved greatly, the election was held in February, before the full extent of recovery was fully realised.

  2. The British reforms to change India failed because the British would sometimes use force ...

    In 1914 the First World War began. During this time many Indians still stayed loyal to the British and many volunteered into the British Army. Almost 1.25 million Indians volunteered to fight and were sent to the Middle East and The Western Front.

  1. Free essay

    DECLINE OF STAPLE INDUSTRIES AND THE GENERAL STRIKE OF 1926

    The TUC still negotiated with the government with Samuel acting as mediator. The government showed no signs of softening and the TUC called off the General Strike on May 12th. Samuel had made a number of proposals, which they hoped would be accepted.

  2. Within the context of 1880-1980, to what extent did British actions accelerate British decolonisation ...

    I will cover nationalism in greater depth below, but with such a lack of metropole interest, the Empire could not be expected to last long. The British action of electing a Labour government effectively, in an indirect form, accelerated decolonisation for many of the African colonies.

  1. the perfect lie

    It's too much for me. I ran up stairs falling twice and I saw my brother Charles hitting his head against his wooden door. I thought, isn't that what I rote within my story, It couldn't be. This can't happen again. It's impossible. As I drenched out my pillow I thought and thought, just like my story.

  2. Death is Part of the Process

    Danny was from Chicago. He had come to London with his father under an FBI Witness Protection Scheme. Hiding from the Mob. Scary stuff. But right now, Danny had other things to think about. Right now he was working for the British police.

  1. Wives & War: To what extent did these two aspects undermine Henry VIIIs rule ...

    However Weir (2008, pg 230) follows on to contradict herself by suggesting that Henry ?could tolerate no company, locking himself in rooms and restlessly travelling to each of his lodging houses?; this suggests that Henry was showing intense signs of depression, which has been seen before after his third wife?s death supports that Henry?s deteriorating

  2. Considered assessment of the Great War career of Field Marshal Douglas Haig.

    The planning and conducting of the battle of Somme by Field Marshal Haig has also been subjected to criticism and evaluation. As Commander in Chief of the British Army, Haig is responsible for the welfare and safety of all British Soldiers and this has primarily led to the vast criticism of Haig regardless of Haig's direct actions.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work