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To What Extent Has Britain Lost Its Status as a Global Power During the 20th Century Until Today?

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The Suez Crisis is another chapter in British history that showcases the themes of imperialism, power struggle and the effects it had on British status as a global power at the disinclination of accepting a new post imperial era. The Suez Crisis of 1956 involved the nationalization of the Suez Canal company by the Egyptian dictator Gamal Nasser in which the British government had a significant portion of shares within the company. This led to an Anglo/French collusion with Israel in an invasion of Egypt which was then dismantled by American pressure. As a consequence, Britain fell into a political crisis concluding with a change of Prime Minister.

What can be observed from this that shows Britain's loss of its global status as a power is the outcome of the entire situation. Firstly, the whole operation was stopped by the UN who demanded a cease fire, the reality was however that “the operation was halted under a ceasefire ostensibly ordered by the United Nations, but in fact dictated by the Americans” (Brown, 2001). US president Dwight Eisenhower was enraged by news as it was a showcase of blatant European imperialism US President Dwight Eisenhower was incensed and world opinion was firmly on the side of the Egyptians (Ferguson, 2004) the whole situation would later intensify as the judgment from a second global power was placed on the table, “When the Soviet Union threatened to intervene Britain, France and Israel were forced to withdraw their troops from Egypt in a humiliating climbdown”(‘How the Suez Crisis Sank the British Empire’, 2016).

The outcome for Britain was a humiliating showcase of not only its crumbling empire but its stubborn imperialist mindset that was still present even during a period of worldwide imperial resentment.

This is proven by how America was willing to hurt Britain if they'd continue with the operation “They had been prepared to exert financial pressure on Nasser by withdrawing their financial support for the new Aswan Dam” (Ferguson, 2004). Americans had been warning the British about intervention in the Arab world out of fear of driving them into a Soviet sphere of influence in the midst of the Cold War “President Eisenhower - How can we possibly support Britain … if in doing so we lose the Arab world” (Ferguson, 2004). Britain's weakness is inevitably shown no matter from what dimension its looked from.

Britain was now in between two colossal growing world powers whilst it was rapidly shrinking. The worldwide opinion favored Egypt, undermining Britain which in effect lost its former respect as a global power, swiftly being replaced by the United States and the Soviet Union.

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However, Britain's loss of global power isn't that considerable when looked from the perspective that the outcome of the event was a showcase of Britain's status unveiling an overall loss of a replete of power that it formerly had.

The Suez Crisis did not challenge the power Britain had over its international relationships with the United States (special relationship), despite the aggressive reaction enforced by the anti-imperialist country towards the imperialist actions by the British. The Crisis had no significant lasting damage to the friendship between the United States and Britain, something that was significantly viable and important towards the survival of a post war Britain. “The Crisis merely confirmed Britain's dependence on the United States and had no lasting impact on Anglo-American relations” (Peden, 2012). Therefore, the Suez Crisis should be remembered as a showcase of Britain’s reliability on the United States which in the end was not tampered with. This relationship was important for Britain as the way Britain adapted to have power in what was becoming a post imperial era was by having strong relationships with powerful allies and establishing a trust between nations. It was fortunate for Britain that the Crisis did not ruin the relationship between the new superpower, as if it did the outcome for Britain as a nation would have been worse and any power Britain would have had would have been rapidly lost, therefore the Crisis wasn't detrimental towards Britain's international relationships on a long-term basis.

Taking all of this into account it can be observed that Britain's status as a global power has little effect in relation to the Suez Crisis. “Suez was little more than an eddy in the fast-flowing stream of history. Nor was there a dramatic change in Britain's world role after 1956. And acceleration of decolonization in Africa after 1959 was the result of a complex combination of factors (Peden, 2012)”. The casualty of this whole event was the worldwide perception of British prestige on the international theatre which could be argued that it is indirectly linked to Britain's global status.

Nevertheless, it shouldn't be ignored what happened in the UK internally with its politics and governmental crisis is significant, enough to mark a loss of status. Britain had faced both a diplomatic and political crisis after and during the Suez Crisis, the Prime Minister Anthony Eden's character has been described by individuals such as Derek Brown as a “curiously inadequate man” and someone who had “never absorbed the simple postwar truth: that the world had changed forever. On November 19, just three days before the last of the British invaders finally left the canal zone, he abruptly took himself off to Jamaica to recover, leaving behind Rab Butler in charge of the cabinet. On January 9, 1957, Eden resigned” (Brown, 2001)”.

The Suez Crisis would see itself make a change in how power and global influence and status was contained by nations, instead of vast imperial landmass the power resided in the possession of nuclear weapons and accessibility to other nations areas. It also marked a change in British politics “Less than 50 years ago, there were plenty of Tories who still believed in the virtues of empire. But there was also a new generation which recognized the damage being done to Britain's real interests in the new world, and which was outraged by Eden's blinkered approach” (Brown, 2001).

What this can tell us is that it may be true that Britain didn't lose power in the traditional sense, but that statement is irrelevant when considering that the perception and understanding of a globally powerful nation had been altered by the changing environment of a post war era and the Suez Crisis can be marked as a point of reference from when this change occurred. In this sense Britain's status of global power was put in jeopardy by the Crisis and created a turbulent perception of power by other countries towards the UK.

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To What Extent Has Britain Lost Its Status as a Global Power During the 20th Century Until Today? (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“To What Extent Has Britain Lost Its Status as a Global Power During the 20th Century Until Today?” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022,
To What Extent Has Britain Lost Its Status as a Global Power During the 20th Century Until Today? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
To What Extent Has Britain Lost Its Status as a Global Power During the 20th Century Until Today? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Oct 28 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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