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The End of the British Empire, 1945-1968

4. Suez and its Aftermath

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about how Britain comes to the decision to withdraw from its colonial commitments, focusing on: (i) the abandonment of the Tanganyika groundnut scheme in 1951; (ii) the Suez Crisis: the history of British influence in Egypt; the events of the 1940s and early 1950s; President Nasser's decision to nationalise the Suez Canal; the attempt by a combined British-French-Israeli force to retake the Suez Canal; the intervention of the United States; Britain's withdrawal from Egypt; the fall of Anthony Eden and his replacement by Harold Macmillan; (iii) the difficulties faced by France in relation to their colonial possessions: the Indochina War (1945-54), including the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954), and the Algerian War (1954-62); (iv) the difficulties faced by Belgium in relation to their withdrawal from the Belgian Congo; (v) Harold Macmillan's 'audit of empire' (1957) and the benefits of a rapid retreat from empire; and (vi) the possibility of securing pro-British successor regimes if decolonisation was handled, as shown by the Alliance Party in Malaya and the figure of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.


In this course, Dr Simon Potter (University of Bristol) explores the final decades of the British Empire, from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to Britain’s withdrawal of troops “East of Suez”, announced by Harold Wilson in 1968. As we move through the course, we think about the impact of the Second World War, the withdrawal of India and Burma from the Empire in the late 1940s, the Suez Crisis of 1956, Harold Macmillan’s now famous ‘Wind of Change’ speech, delivered in Cape Town in 1960.


Simon Potter is Reader in Modern History at Bristol University. His early research examined the role played by newspapers and news agencies in linking up the component parts of the ‘British world’ (Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More recently, he has written on the role of the BBC in building and strengthening imperial connections since 1922, and its response to the decline of the British world after the Second World War. He is also interested in the broader history of the British world, and in the historiography of the British empire.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Potter, S. (2018, August 15). The End of the British Empire, 1945-1968 - Suez and its Aftermath [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Potter, S. "The End of the British Empire, 1945-1968 – Suez and its Aftermath." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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