Kevin Ruane and Matthew JonesJul 12, 2022
Anthony Eden, Anglo-American Relations and the 1954 Indochina Crisis
In the spring of 1954, after eight years of bitter fighting, the war in Vietnam between the French and the communist-led Vietminh came to a head. With French forces reeling, the United States planned to intervene militarily to shore-up the anti-communist position. Turning to its allies for support, first and foremost Great Britain, the US administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower sought to create what Secretary of State John Foster Dulles called a "united action" coalition. In the event, Winston Churchill's Conservative government refused to back the plan. Fearing that US-led intervention could trigger a wider war in which the United Kingdom would be the first target for Soviet nuclear attack, the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, was determined to act as Indochina peacemaker - even at the cost of damage to the Anglo-American "special relationship".
In Anthony Eden, Anglo-American Relations and the 1954 Indochina Crisis (Bloomsbury, 2019), Kevin Ruane and Matthew Jones revisit a Cold War episode in which British diplomacy played a vital role in settling a crucial question of international war and peace. Eden's diplomatic triumph at the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina is often overshadowed by the 1956 Suez Crisis which led to his political downfall. This book, however, recalls an earlier Eden: a skilled and experienced international diplomatist at the height of his powers who may well have prevented a localised Cold War crisis escalating into a general Third World War.
In the words of the English Historical Review, this book “is an exemplary contribution to diplomatic history—a very fluent and persuasive chronicle of the crisis, based on meticulous study of archival records. In short this is a book which is wonderful to read and at the same time a magisterial account of this important event in Cold War history."
Charles Coutinho, PH. D., Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.