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Eden, the Foreign Office and the war in Indo-China : October 1951 to July 1954

Ruane, Kevin (1991) Eden, the Foreign Office and the war in Indo-China : October 1951 to July 1954. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86083) (KAR id:86083)


This thesis re-examines the part played by Churchill's peace time Administration in the settlement of the Indo-China war in 1954. Particular attention is paid to the Foreign Of t ice, 6S the government department responsible for Indo-China policy at the political level. The performance of Churchill's Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, is also scrutinised: his personal contribution to the negotiating process at the Geneva Conference of April-July 1954 has been universally acclaimed and has survived the negative impact of the Suez crisis on his reputation as an international statesman. Drawing extensively on the official British archives, the role of Eden and British diplomacy in 1954 has been analysed from two complementary angles; firstly, as the culmination of policies and objectives generated and developed from the return of Eden to the Foreign Office in October 1951; and secondly, within the context of British foreign policy as a whole in the 1951-54 period. The first approach reveals that Eden's Indo-China policy prior to April 1954 was an unmitigated failure. Although he and his officials thereafter pursued a prudent, intelligent and ultimately successful course in resisting American plans for military intervention in Viet-Nam and working for a negotiated solution at the Geneva Conference, it is contended that the real art of crisis management is to avoid the crisis in the first place. In this connection, opportunities arose in 1952-53 for Britain to decisively influence the course of events in Indo-China, but these either went unnoticed or were consciously overlooked. The second approach reveals the constraints imposed on British Indo-China policy by ostensibly unconnected factors, most notably the problem of rearming West Germany within the framework of the European Defence Community (E. D.C.). By extension, it also reveals the reasons for the failure of British policy down to 1954. Until the April crisis, Indo-China was subordinated to the imperative of making West German rearmament operative. It is argued, for example, that Eden only agreed to include Indo-China on the agenda of the Geneva Conference out of concern that failure to do so would inflame anti-war feeling in France and lead to the downfall of what was believed to be the last pro-E. D.C. French government. Therefore, the convening of the Geneva Conference - the scene of one of Eden's most widely praised negotiating triumphs - had, in its Indo-China form, little to do with a preconceived commitment to bring peace to the area. It was instead a manifestation of the Cold War in Europe. Eden only came to see virtue in the Conference when the French were faced with military disaster at Dien Bien Phu and the United States threatened to internationalise the conflict. A negotiated settlement assumed importance in Bri Ush thinking as a means of denying the Americans a pretext for intervent ion. Eden concluded that a poor peace, even one based on so distasteful a compromise as partition in Viet-Nam, was better than a major escalation of the war. The negative British reaction to American calls for 'united action' in the spring of 1954 was based on a catalogue of evidence dating from 1951 which suggested that the United States might use a local crisis in Asia (a 'new' Korea) to launch a major war against China. The thesis also contains a number of sub-themes, the most important of which posits Indo-China as a case-study in terms of the efforts of Eden and British diplomacy to cope with the problem of sustaining a world role at a time of diminishing economic and military strength. Eden, contrary to traditional opinion, did not suffer from delusions of grandeur but had a considered programme for offsetting Britain's post-war decline.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86083
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: History
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
J Political Science
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:27 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 12:13 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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