Friday, 14 August 2015

How Special is Special? The Anglo-American Alliance During the Cuban Missile Crisis

As I worked my way through the files at the Public Records Office that were most relevant to my PhD, the so-called Thirty Years Rule meant that the British government records for 1962 were opened in 1993 as I was completing my research. I decided to take a little time away from my topic to  examine the files for the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was interested in seeing the role, if any, that the UK played in the crisis, and how Anglo-American relations - what is too often referred to as The Special Relationship - played out. This was a landmark for me: Not only was the resulting article, 'How Special is Special? The Anglo-American Alliance During the Cuban Missile Crisis', my first published academic paper, but I was also the first author to publish on this subject using the declassified documents. The paper was published in Contemporary Record, 9 (3), 1995: 668-601.  I recall receiving the referee's report while I was undertaking archival research in Washington DC in the summer of 1993 and living at the wonderful International Student House at the Dupont Circle. I discovered I needed a copy of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's memoirs and so bought a copy at one of the many second hand bookshops that surround the Dupont Circle. It is a huge book, one of three volumes, and having already bought far too many books I knew I could not carry it back with me to the UK. I sold it back to the same bookshop within a few days of my buying it.

I thought of this paper again today in light of the restoration of US-Cuban ties.

'How Special is Special?' is still available via Taylor & Francis Online, but it is expensive or requires an institutional log-in. This is the abstract.    

The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 affords an excellent opportunity to scrutinise alliance relationships during the most critical phase of international history. The recently declassified documents at the Public Records Office suggest that although Britain's role in the crisis was limited to consultation with the United States and did not actively participate in the resolution of the crisis, the government was not prepared to passively support those American decisions with which it did not agree. In addition this case study allows scholars to derive a greater sense of the importance of a detached and specialised Foreign Office in a political system which places greater power in the hands of an elected and transient government with narrow interests.

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