Harold Wilson's Cold War

Harold Wilson's Cold War

The Labour Government and East-West Politics, 1964-1970

Geraint Hughes


Royal Historical Society



A reassessment of the relationship between the UK and the USSR at a troubled time.
The then Labour government's efforts to promote East-West détente and to improve Anglo-Soviet relations from 1964 to 1970 have been largely overlooked; yet they were of huge significance. This book offers a major reappraisal. It challenges the caricature of Harold Wilson's rigid subservience to America, demonstrating that as a Prime Minister he intended to develop closer contacts with the Soviet leadership, and to foster co-operation on arms control, conflict resolution in Vietnam and East-West trade. It illustrates how the Labour government reconciled its policy towards the USSR and Warsaw Pact states with its alignment with the USA and NATO membership. And it concludes that Wilson's failure to improve relations between the UK and USSR was due to both the impact of crises in Vietnam, the Middle East and Czechoslovakia, and to the unwillingness of the Soviet government to alter its fundamentally adversarial attitude to the West.

GERAINT HUGHES teaches at the Joint Services Command and Staff College at Shrivenham.


1 black and white illustrations
220 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Royal Historical Society Studies in History New Series
Hardback, 9780861932986, February 2009
Paperback, 9780861933327, June 2015
Library eBook
Royal Historical Society
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Table of Contents

The evolution of British Cold War policy, 1945-1964
The UK and East-West relations, 1964-1965
The Wilson government and the Vietnam War, 1965-1968
British strategy and defence policy, 1964-1968
Détente, trade and espionage, 1964-1968
The 'Prague Spring' and its aftermath, 1968-1970


The strength of the book is that it locates foreign and defence policy within a tapestry of domestic political, national and international contexts. The role and perspectives of individuals are also illuminated. (...) Hughes provides helpful detail and perspective in exploring the expectations of, and challenges for, Labour's Ostpolitik, and is a valuable overview for students of British foreign and security policy, as well as for those interested in the foreign and defence policies of Labour governments. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Author Bio

Lecturer Defence Studies Department, King's College, London

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