Book

Ending 'East of Suez'

P. L. Pham

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199580361
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722691 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580361.001.0001

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Ending 'East of Suez'

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In 1964, Britain's defence presence in Malaysia and Singapore was the largest and most expensive component of the country's world‐wide role. Yet within three and a half years, the Wilson Government had announced that Britain would be withdrawing from its major Southeast Asian bases and abandoning any special military role ‘East of Suez’. The purpose of this book is to document and explain the British policy process leading to the decisions to withdraw.

The book argues that the Wilson Government faced two fundamental dilemmas regarding its defence policy. The first was a conflict between Britain's limited economic means, which compelled cuts to the country's defence role, and its need to maintain its relations with its major allies, especially the Johnson Administration in the United States, all of whom wanted Britain to maintain a significant military presence in Southeast Asia. This conflict was fundamentally resolved after the Labour Party revolted over defence policy in early 1967, when the Government decided to withdraw from the bases in Singapore and Malaysia. Thereafter, the Wilson Government faced a second dilemma over whether to minimise the political and symbolic impact of its decisions for the sake of its international allies, or to maximise it for domestic political advantage. This conflict was not fully settled until January 1968, when the Government announced a faster withdrawal and complete abandonment of Britain's ‘East of Suez’ role, as a means of gaining acceptance for the social cuts it was implementing in the aftermath of the devaluation of the Pound.

Keywords: United Kingdom; defence policy; Wilson government; United States; Johnson administration; Malaysia; Singapore; east of Suez; devaluation

Book.  274 pages. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Ending 'East of Suez'

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Conclusion in Ending 'East of Suez'

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