Top civil servant – End of Empire means ‘we shall starve’

Evelyn Shuckburgh – photo by Walter Bird –
© National Portrait Gallery – NPG x165550

7 January 1953

On 7 January 1953, Evelyn Shuckburgh, the Principal Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, noted gloomily in his diary:

‘In Kenya: the Mau Mau. In Egypt and Persia: the Americans refusing to support us. Even Iceland in process of destroying our deep-sea fishing industry. I see no reason why there should be any end to the surrenders demanded of us. International law and the temper of international opinion is all set against the things which made us a great nation, i.e., our activities outside our own territory. Bit by bit, we shall be driven back into our island where we shall starve.’1

Such a mentality is mind-boggling. Britain was still the third largest economy in the world, retaining numerous military bases as well as colonies across Africa and Asia, but for the British elite anything less than complete hegemony was a total disaster.


  1. Evelyn Shuckburgh, Descent to Suez, Diaries 1951-56, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1986, p. 71.

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