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"The Wave of the Future: The Defenders of the Empire Confront European Integration, 1956-1963"

Bromund, Ted R. (2005) "The Wave of the Future: The Defenders of the Empire Confront European Integration, 1956-1963". In: UNSPECIFIED, Austin, Texas. (Unpublished)

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      [From the Introduction]. Given the unhappy examples of John Major’s government and several Conservative leadership contests, we are all aware that, for the Conservative Party, the question of British participation in European integration is a divisive one. But of course the Tories first confronted this question not in the 1990s, but in the 1950s and 1960s. Then too, there were rebels within the party who questioned the willingness of their leaders to engage with Europe. But it is the difference between the 1950s and 1960s and the 1990s that is most remarkable: in those earlier decades, the rebels did not capture the party. They remained on the outside looking in: they worried Conservative Central Office, but they never succeeded in storming the gates. In this paper, I will summarize the results of my research on the ‘Empire lobby,’ or the rebels who opposed the Macmillan government’s policy towards Europe out of proclaimed loyalty to the Empire or the Commonwealth. By adopting the term ‘Empire lobby’ – and the term is mine, not theirs – I am drawing on a broader argument about the ‘Chamberlainite vision’ in Britain in the early to middle twentieth century. Before I turn to the rebels themselves, let me first, briefly, make this argument explicit. My contention is that historians have underrated the importance of this vision – underrated it because it was never fully adopted by any government, because it was never acceptable to the Dominions, and because it failed. But in its time – which was not limited to the tariff reform struggle in the first decade of the century, but extended into the early 1950s – in its time, it was influential on both sides of the House, in the Labour Party as well as Tories. This vision, which placed Britain at the manufacturing center of a united Empire that supplied raw materials, had implications for Britain’s economy, society, diplomacy, imperial policy, and role in the world – and it was this vision that the Empire lobby sought to defend in opposing British participation in European integration. By noting that the Chamberlain vision lost its centrality in the early 1950s, of course, I am restating my earlier theme: that the story of the Empire lobby in the late 1950s and early 1960s is, in one sense, the story of a failure. For the purposes of discussion, we can divide this story into two parts: that of the Empire Industries Association (the EIA), the primary ‘industrial’ wing of the lobby, and of Lord Beaverbrook, who comprised, as a host of one, its ‘political’ wing. This is, in part, an artificial division, for the EIA and Beaverbrook were in both contact and sympathy with each other. But it also captures an important truth about the Empire lobby: it failed to make the economic case against European integration, but it succeeded in raising political doubts – and it is these doubts, of course, that have increasingly consumed the Tories since the 1980s.

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      Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
      Subjects for non-EU documents: Countries > U.K.
      EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > europeanisation/europeanization & European identity
      EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > political parties
      EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > institutional development/policy > historical development of EC (pre-1986)
      Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
      EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
      EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
      Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2005 (9th), March 31-April 2, 2005
      Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
      Official EU Document: No
      Language: English
      Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2005
      Page Range: p. 12
      Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:29

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