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Earl of Avon Anthony Eden

(1897—1977) prime minister


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(1897–1977)

British statesman and Conservative prime minister, whose brief premiership (1955–57) ended with his resignation following the Suez crisis. He received an earldom in 1961.

Decorated with the Military Cross in World War I, he subsequently read oriental languages at Oxford. He entered parliament as a Conservative member in 1923 and held office in the coalition national government, becoming foreign secretary in 1935. He resigned in 1938 in opposition to Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement, acquiring considerable support and admiration in the country by doing so. In World War II, already regarded as Winston Churchill's heir, he was successively dominions secretary, war secretary (both 1940), and foreign secretary (1940–45), in which capacity he worked especially to foster Anglo-Soviet relations. Again foreign secretary from 1951 to 1955, he made a significant contribution to the Geneva Conference (1954), which resolved the Indochina conflict, and to the London agreement (also 1954) settling French objections to the European Defence Community.

In 1955 Eden became prime minister, as long expected, after Churchill's retirement. He encountered difficulties from the first as economic conditions worsened. In 1956, joined by the French and Israelis in a secret pact, contrary to almost everyone's advice, he launched an offensive on Egypt after President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Politically and militarily mishandled, Eden's offensive received worldwide condemnation. Shortly afterwards, pleading ill-health, he resigned. He published three volumes of memoirs (1960–66).

Subjects: British History.


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