Anthony Eden

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Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC (12 June 189714 January 1977) was a British Conservative politician who served three periods as Foreign Secretary and then a short term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1955 to 1957. He served as British Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, having previously resigned the office in opposition of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Nazi Germany. His brief premiership ended after he ordered an invasion of Egypt alongside France and Israel during the Suez Crisis, leading to international condemnation of the UK and an acceleration of the decolonization of the British Empire.

Our quarrel is not with Egypt, still less with the Arab world. It is with Colonel Nasser.




  • The Under-Secretary quoted an old military maxim, and I will quote one which is that "Attack is the best possible form of defence." [HON. MEMBERS "No, no!"] I expected hon. Members opposite would be a little surprised at that doctrine. I was not suggesting that we should drop our bombs on other countries, but simply that we should have the means at our disposal to answer any attack by an attack. It is a natural temptation to hon. Members opposite, some of whose views on defence were fairly well known during the years of the War, to adopt the attitude of that very useful animal the terrier, and roll on their backs and wave their paws in the air with a pathetic expression.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (19 February 1924)


  • My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping attacked the Government for basing its whole foreign policy upon disarmament. But that is a policy to which we are all parties—to which every signatory, every upholder, of the Covenant of the League of Nations, is a party... It is a responsibility which we shouldered when the League of Nations began its life. The right hon. Gentleman said: "Your Disarmament Conference is not making much progress it is making things worse, and not better. Why do you not go back to the old practice? Why do you not do as we did before the War—carry on this work by conference and conciliation between embassies through diplomatic channels?" I will give him the answer. The pre-War experiment was not particularly successful. The pre-War experiment was followed by 1914. We do not want to repeat 1914 and, to avoid that repetition, it is surely worth giving this new method a trial... My right hon. Friend warned us not to press France to disarmament. [Mr. Churchill: Unduly.] He was rather an advocate, I think, of an armed France and a disarmed Germany. It is, of course, arguable that the maintenance of such a balance, if it could be called a balance, might continue for a period of years, short or long, but is there anyone who sincerely believes that it is possible to provide a basis for a reconstruction of Europe—to ensure the peace of Europe over any long period of time upon such a foundation as that?
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 March 1933)
  • He was confident that there was no nation at the present time which looked upon the armaments of this country with suspicion. On the contrary, if there was anxiety at all in respect of our armaments, it was rather a doubt lest, having reduced them so far in a world which had been increasing its armaments, we should not be in a position to fulfil the commitments which we had undertaken. These were the responsibilities which no Government could ignore.
    • Speech in Stoke (5 July 1934), quoted in The Times (6 July 1934), p. 11
  • The lead we had given in post-War years by the successive reductions in the size of our Air Force had not been followed, nor had it really helped us to reach international agreement... Britain was essentially a stabilising and not an unsettling influence in European affairs. An undue weakness in her defence, if over long maintained in a world that was increasing its armaments, would be no aid to peace.
    • Speech in Crowle, Lincolnshire (28 July 1934), quoted in The Times (30 July 1934), p. 7
  • In my view there is no security in armaments comparable to that which can be derived from the effective working of a collective peace system. The foreign policy of his Majesty's Government is unalterably based upon the League of Nations as being the most effective mechanism yet devised to operate such a system. It will, I am confident, be clear to any impartial critic upon examination that the moderate measures of national defence provided for in the White Paper do not constitute in themselves any departure from that policy.
    • Speech to the annual conference of the Wessex Area Women's Advisory Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in Swindon (7 March 1935), quoted in The Times (8 March 1935), p. 9
  • I hold myself that peace cannot be fully assured on the earth until all the nations are not only members of the League, but are inspired in their national policy with the spirit of the Covenant. Unfortunately, at the present time the active membership of the League is by no means complete. We have to take account of the fact that, however much we may wish that a certain state of mind should be universal and a common ideal inspire all nations, it would constitute a lack of frankness to pretend that such a spirit is universal, if, in fact, it is not so. The truth is that the collective system is at present in a state of evolution and until all nations share equally a desire to cooperate in working that system those Governments who believe in it have an obligation, not only towards one another, but towards their own people, to take those elementary precautions which are the responsibility of every Government.
    • Speech to the annual conference of the Wessex Area Women's Advisory Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in Swindon (7 March 1935), quoted in The Times (8 March 1935), p. 9
  • We must continue, we will continue, to work by every means in our power to increase the authority of the League, but this cannot absolve us from the duty of recognising that all countries do not share this aim. You may be a member of the fire brigade yourself, but would you be wise to rely upon it exclusively in an emergency if some of the members had already given notice that they would not come to play their part when sent for? Surely, then, there would be an obligation upon you, while responding whenever the alarm-bell rang, to ensure at the same time that the fire-escape was working in your own house.
    • Speech to the annual conference of the Wessex Area Women's Advisory Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in Swindon (7 March 1935), quoted in The Times (8 March 1935), p. 9
  • [W]e cannot ignore that, while increasing anxiety in Europe and elsewhere has resulted in many countries increasing their armaments, our own armaments have shown no comparable increase. On the contrary, when compared either with the immediate post-War period or with the period before the War, it will be found, I am confident, that whereas the trend of the armaments of the nations as a whole shows a definite increase, our own armaments show a reduction. I will give you one example. The tonnage of our Navy in 1914 was 2,160,000. This month it is 1,180,000. The personnel in our Navy in August, 1914, was 152,000, whereas today it is 92,338. At the close of the War there was no air force in the world superior to ours. Today we are only fifth among the air Powers. Our Army, as the world knows, is little more than a police force. Those facts do not justify any suggestion that we as a nation have rearmed, or are rearming, excessively; still less do they afford the flimsiest basis for the fantastic charge that we are leading an armaments race. On the contrary, the truth is that we have for long delayed the most elementary measures of national defence in the hope that international agreement would eventually make them unnecessary.
    • Speech to the annual conference of the Wessex Area Women's Advisory Committee of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations in Swindon (7 March 1935), quoted in The Times (8 March 1935), p. 9
  • Results bad...whole tone and temper very different to a year ago, rearmed and rearming with the old Prussian spirit very much in evidence. Russia is now the bogey.
    • Diary entry after his meeting with Adolf Hitler (25 March 1935), quoted in The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 138
  • The British public is not anti-German at present but it would be opposed to any country which showed the intention of breaking the peace. A great many people in England think that French rigidity has helped Hitler's rise. People in England are neither pro-French nor anti-German. If they were finally convinced that Germany intended to break the peace, they would align themselves accordingly.
    • Remarks to Maxim Litvinov in Moscow (29 March 1935), quoted in The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 152
  • The essential at the present time is that we should pursue a straight and steady course in support of the League of Nations and of the collective peace system. It may be that we can do, and should do, something more to strengthen peace, but this is not so important as that we should make clear to any potential breaker of the peace that he can count on our active opposition.
    • Report to the Cabinet (8 April 1935), quoted in The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 176
  • We should show ourselves firm in defence of collective peace. If we refuse to be scared or weakened by Germany's growing demands, if we resist the temptation to accept everything Germany asks for as a basis for discussion between us, if for a moment we can cease to be an honest broker and become the honest facer of truths, then I am confident that there is no call to view the future with alarm. If, on the other hand, we appear to the outside world to be weak and vacillating, if we allow The Times to continue to preach defeatism and to continue to be regarded as the organ of His Majesty's Government, then we shall encourage Germany's demands, and, no less serious, encourage the weaker powers to take refuge with her in the belief that the collective peace system can never be effective because England will never play her part in its support.
    • Report to the Cabinet (8 April 1935), quoted in The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 178
  • He had been sorry to see during the last few weeks the re-emergence of such phrases as "pro-German" and "pro-French". In the modern world such phrases had no meaning whatever. The British were not "anti" any nation in Europe. They were not hostile to any people, nor did they regard any as antipathetic to them. The British people had never been good haters. Their inclination had always been to forgive and forget at once. Sometimes, indeed, this readiness had even seemed a little incomprehensible to those who had been our comrades in arms, but it was an essential element in the British character. As in the past, so today.
    We were not "anti" nation, but we should be; we must be "anti" any who might seek by force to break the peace. We should always be found arrayed on the side of the collective system against any Government or people who sought by a return to power politics to break up the peace, which by that system we were seeking to create. And they should not forget that the Covenant itself provided the machinery by which the peaceful settlement of international disputes could be secured.
    • Speech to the East and West Fulham Conservative and Unionist Association in Fulham (16 May 1935), quoted in The Times (17 May 1935), p. 21
  • The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse attacked what he alleged to be the armament policy of the Government. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman it seemed to me that he was suffering from some confusion of thought on this subject. He stated that he did not believe that armaments did in themselves bring peace. I fully agree. The lowest level at which armaments can be internationally agreed is always the best and the safest level, but while admitting that, it is impossible to ignore the responsibility which falls upon the Government of this country in a world that has been for some time past rapidly rearming, and which contains States whose outlook on international affairs may differ widely from our own. It is surely the height of folly to say that you must play your part, and a full part, in collective action in a fully-armed world and yet not have the means to do it. The right hon. Gentleman is the worst example of this doctrine that I know.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 October 1935)
  • It is the measure of the unknown that makes rearmament inevitable, and I can earnestly tell the House that it has been, in this present dispute, our own disarmament to the edge of risk—fortunately not beyond—which has produced an element of inevitable uncertainty.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 October 1935)
  • At this hour it is surely not necessary to repeat that it is neither an African dispute, nor an incident in expansionist rivalry between two nations, nor a colonial war, but a vital test of the efficacy of the League and of the loyalty of its members to the Covenant to which they have put their names.
    We have tried in these post-war years to build up a new order by means of which we hope to spare mankind in the future the scourge of war. We who are members of the League have sought collectively to create a new ideal and a new international order. If we fail, even though that failure be not final, we shall have shattered for a generation, and it may be more, the hopes which mankind has placed in this new endeavour. Who can tell what the consequences of such disappointment may be? If, on the other hand, the League of Nations can on this occasion prove itself able to withstand the strain placed upon it—and I believe it will—then, even though many serious problems will yet surround us, the world will face them fortified in its faith and inspired to fresh endeavour by the victory of its own ideals.
    For the first time, I believe, in the history of the world, an attempt is being made to operate an international system based not merely upon power but upon certain fixed principles of equity. This is an adventure in which we may all be proud to play our part.
  • I want to say one word to those who would argue that it is our duty at this time to keep free from all entanglements in Europe. With respect, I wonder whether those who say that are quite clear about what they mean. If they mean we must turn a blind eye to all that happens in Europe, I say that is to take no account at all of realities. We have never been able in all our history to dissociate ourselves from events in the Low Countries, neither in the time of Queen Elizabeth, nor in the time of Marlborough, nor in the time of Napoleon, and still less at the present day, when modern developments of science have brought striking force so much nearer to our shores. It is a vital interest of this country that the integrity of France and Belgium should be maintained and that no hostile force should cross their frontiers. The truth is...there was nothing very new in Locarno... It was a new label, but it was an old fact, and that fact has been the underlying purpose of British foreign policy throughout history. To affirm it again is a threat to no one, for its purpose is purely defensive.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 March 1936)
  • There was only one sanction that could be immediately effective, and that sanction was to deny to Italy the use of the Suez Canal. That sanction must inevitably have entailed military action; there is no doubt of it. That military action must, in my judgment, inevitably have led to war... The only additional sanction that could have been immediately effective would have been the closing of the Canal... There was, in fact, no immediately effective sanction that could have been taken but that. If the hon. Gentleman answers "Yes, he would have closed the Canal," how utterly illogical is the position of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they vote against all Estimates for the provision of armaments—[Interruption]—and when they denounce the Budget of my right hon. Friend as a war Budget. The truth is that while hon. Gentlemen opposite profess to support the League with horse, foot, and artillery, they really only mean to support it with threats, insults and perorations.
  • I have attempted to state our reasons for refusing to take isolated action. Yet we have to face the facts, and we shall face them. We have to admit the failure of the League in this, and we have to admit our own disappointment; and it may surprise the hon. Gentleman if I tell him that my disappointment is at least as great as his. Where I differ from him is that I say that, if success is collective, failure must be collective, too. Without doubt a blow has been struck at the structure of the League and the conception of collective security... What of the immediate future? It is clear that the League must go on; in a modern world it is absolutely indispensable to the organisation of international affairs. That is clear.
  • In fact some nations seem to be rearming to the exclusion of almost everything else in their national economy. Our course is clear, if difficult. It is to pursue by every possible means the solution of our problems, to take every opportunity to promote international agreement but at the same time to persist in our own rearmament which has now become an indispensable element in the solution of our ills. Whatever the future of the world organisation, His Majesty's Government have clearly got a great part to play. They can only do that effectively in an armed world if they have the means at their disposal.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (6 May 1936)
  • I am sure that this policy of non-intervention is the only one which the Government of this country at this moment should pursue, and that it has the support of the great mass of the people of this country who, deeply as they deplore—and they do deplore—the causes of this strife in Spain, believe it to be the first duty of their Government to limit that strife to the great but unhappy country where it now takes place.
  • Supposing that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland is right when he tells us that General Franco must not be allowed to win. If that is the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I repeat that it is no good talking about the opening of frontiers. If that is your view, you have to take action to ensure a certain result, and the only action which would be effective is actual intervention on our own part. Unless you are to do that it is no use speaking in such a threatening way.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1 November 1937)
  • I do not believe that we can make progress in European appeasement if we allow the impression to gain currency abroad that we yield to constant pressure. I am certain in my own mind that progress depends above all on the temper of the nation, and that temper must find expression in a firm spirit. This spirit I am confident is there. Not to give voice it is I believe fair neither to this country nor to the world.
    • Speech to the House of Commons detailing his resignation from the government as Foreign Secretary (21 February 1938)
  • It is with the great democracies of Europe and America that our natural affinities must lie. We must stand by our conception of international order without which there can be no lasting peace. Nor must we for one instant weaken in our own faith in Parliamentary government and individual liberty. These are the things that count. They are the fundamental articles of our faith and our contribution to what survives of civilisation today. However anxious the future, the need for unity and forbearance becomes not less but greater. In that spirit let us approach the future.
    • Speech in Leamington (25 February 1938), quoted in The Times (26 February 1938), p. 7
  • Mr. Greenwood, when moving the Amendment yesterday, told us that the war would shake many strongly held views. I fear that this war will do very much more than that. The war will bring about changes which may be fundamental and revolutionary in the economic and social life of this country. On that we are all agreed.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (6 December 1939)


  • Since the war began the Government have received countless inquiries from all over the Kingdom from men of all ages who are for one reason or another not at present engaged in military service, and who wish to do something for the defence of the country. Now is your opportunity. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of 17 and 65, to come forward now and offer their service in order to make assurance doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the "Local Defence Volunteers".
    • Broadcast (14 May 1940), quoted in The Times (15 May 1940), p. 3. On 22 July the LDV was renamed the Home Guard.
  • Never had so much been surrendered by so many to so few.
  • Wolfe has said: "War is an option of difficulties."
    • Speech in the House of Commons (6 May 1941)
  • There can be only one peace which will be acceptable to the people of this country. That is a peace which takes every precaution in our power to see to it that neither Germany nor Japan has any avoidable opportunity of starting this business again.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (29 September 1944)
  • Many hon. Members, I know, have studied the relevant documents which have been issued about German activities immediately after the last war. They show—I do not think anybody can doubt it—a devastating indictment of the complete absence of German sincerity from the very beginning in fulfilling any of the disarmament stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles. I believe it to be a fact that over the whole range of the disarmament stipulations of that Treaty the German military authorities practised ingenious, universal, and, let us admit it, to a certain extent successful evasion and obstruction at all possible points.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (29 September 1944)
  • I thought that the essential factor we have to remember in deciding on our plans and policy for the future is that in the German character the unquestioned authority of the State is what counts for most. The average German is the instrument of the State to an extent which is incomprehensible to us. He belongs to the State, and the State does not belong to him. I see no signs of that in this country, and I believe that the authority we enjoy in the world to-day is precisely because we represent the complete antithesis of the German State conception. This acceptance of the State, since the days of the Prussians, has made Germans ready to aid any leader who wants to guide them into fields of aggression. With the German, the larger the State the more remote and the more majestic is the authority he is prepared to follow into battle or wherever he is led. Germans believe that it is the destiny of their race to be the dominating Power in Europe; that is far more important to them than either the freedom of the individual or the dignity of any particular man or woman. Unless we are seized of that we do not understand the foundation on which Nazi doctrine was so easily superimposed. It was acceptable to the average German because it expressed in aggressive forms the belief which the average German has had for 200 years or more.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1 December 1944)
  • [T]here was one principle underlying their approach to all these problems—a principle upon which they stood in fundamental opposition to Socialism. The Conservative objective was a nation-wide property-owning democracy. Both parties believed in a form of capitalism, but whereas their opponents believed in State capitalism they believed in the widest measure of individual capitalism. Man should be master of his environment, and not its slave. That was what freedom meant. ... [W]e of the Conservative Party must maintain that the ownership of property is not a crime or a sin, but a reward, a right, and a responsibility that must be shared as equitably as possible among all our citizens.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool (3 October 1946), quoted in The Times (4 October 1946), p. 2
  • At core Conservatism stands for the individual, his right to liberty, to justice, to respect for his own distinctive personality. It regards the family as the basic social unit—(cheers)—and the sanctity of family life as vital to the health of the State.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (2 October 1947), quoted in The Times (3 October 1947), p. 2
  • We are not a Party of unbridled, brutal capitalism, and never have been. Although we believe in personal responsibility and personal initiative in business, we are not the political children of the "laissez-faire" school. We opposed them decade after decade.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (2 October 1947), quoted in The Times (3 October 1947), p. 2. Also quoted in The New Conservatism (Conservative Political Centre, 1955), pp. 11-12


  • If you drive a nation to adopt procedures which run counter to its instincts, you weaken and may destroy the motive force of its action...You will realise that I am speaking of the frequent suggestion that the United Kingdom should join a federation on the continent of Europe. This is something which we know, in our bones, we cannot do... For Britain's story and her interests lie far beyond the continent of Europe. Our thoughts move across the seas to the many communities in which our people play their part, in every corner of the world. These are our family ties. That is our life: without it we should be no more than some millions of people living in an island off the coast of Europe, in which nobody wants to take any particular interest.
    • Speech to the Columbia University, New York (January 1952), quoted in Anthony Eden, Full Circle (1960), pp. 36-7
  • Our quarrel is not with Egypt, still less with the Arab world. It is with Colonel Nasser. He has shown that he is not a man who can be trusted to keep an agreement. Now he has torn up all his country's promises to the Suez Canal Company and has even gone back on his own statements.
    • Broadcast (8 August 1956), quoted in "Oil route 'a matter of life and death'", The Times (9 August 1956), p. 6
  • We cannot agree that an act of plunder which threatens the livelihood of many nations should be allowed to succeed. And we must make sure that the life of the great trading nations of the world cannot in the future be strangled at any moment by some interruption to the free passage of the Canal.
    • Conclusion of broadcast (8 August 1956), quoted in Anthony Gorst and Lewis Johnman, The Suez Crisis (2013), p. 70
  • There is now doubt in our minds that Nasser, whether he likes it or not, is now effectively in Russian hands, just as Mussolini was in Hitler's. It would be as ineffective to show weakness to Nasser now in order to placate him as it was to show weakness to Mussolini.
    • Letter to President Eisenhower (1 October 1956), quoted in Scott Lucas, Britain and Suez (1996), p. 69
  • All my life, I've been a man of peace, working for peace, striving for peace, negotiating for peace. I've been a League of Nations man and a United Nations man and I'm still the same man with the same convictions, the same devotion to peace. I couldn't be other even if I wished. But I'm utterly convinced that the action we have taken is right.
    • BBC television broadcast (3 November 1956), quoted in Keith Kyle, Suez (2011), p. 425
  • If we had allowed things to drift, everything would have gone from bad to worse. Nasser would have become a kind of Moslem Mussolini, and our friends in Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran would gradually have been brought down. His efforts would have spread westwards, and Libya and North Africa would have been brought under his control.
    • Letter to Eisenhower (5 November 1956), quoted in Peter G. Boyle (ed.), The Eden-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1955-1957 (2006), p. 183
  • [It] has had the effect of making us the 49th state [of America].
    • On Harold Macmillan's government policies; letter to Lord Salisbury (28 December 1957), quoted in John Charmley, Churchill's Grand Alliance (1995), p. 354.


  • Britain's military defences were miserably weak [in 1935]. Many members of the Government thought that the Foreign Office ought to be able to resolve our European difficulties and so render rearmament unnecessary. I, on the other hand, was convinced that we could only reach worthwhile agreements if we were strong in spirit as our rearmament made itself felt. The Labour and Liberal Oppositions, though detesting the dictators, failed in their duty by voting and speaking against all measures to provide their country with the armaments to which alone Nazis and Fascists would give heed.
    • The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 318
  • In one respect, at least, the French and Belgian Ministers saw lucidly and straight. If Hitler were not pulled up now [1936], he would be more troublesome to deal with, every year that passed. This was true, even if he were only checked by the counter-action and not overthrown. Here was a lesson I learnt, and was determined to apply if I could, twenty years later. A militant dictator's capacity for aggrandisement is only limited by the physical checks imposed upon him. Hitler was not challenged until his power had been swollen by a succession of triumphs, and the price to be paid changed the history of our planet.
    • The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), p. 351
  • Although [in 1937] we might still hope to prevent the divisions of Europe into Fascist and anti-Fascist camps, our real affinities and interests, strategic as well as political, lay with France, a fact which some of my colleagues were most reluctant to recognise.
    • The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (1962), pp. 486-487


  • Il serait impertinent pour un pays n’ayant pas subi l’occupation de porter un jugement sur un autre l’ayant subi.
    • It would be impertinent for a country that did not suffer occupation to carry a judgment on another one that suffered one.
    • On the occupation of France, in an interview in the film Le chagrin et la pitié, 1971.

Quotes about Eden

  • Did it have to come to this? The paradox is that when Europe was less united, it was in many ways more independent. The leaders who ruled in the early stages of integration had all been formed in a world before the global hegemony of the United States, when the major European states were themselves imperial powers, whose foreign policies were self-determined. These were people who had lived through the disasters of the Second World War, but were not crushed by them. This was true not just of a figure like De Gaulle, but of Adenauer and Mollet, of Eden and Heath, all of whom were quite prepared to ignore or defy America if their ambitions demanded it. Monnet, who did not accept their national assumptions, and never clashed with the US, still shared their sense of a future in which Europeans could settle their own affairs, in another fashion. Down into the 1970s, something of this spirit lived on even in Giscard and Schmidt, as Carter discovered. But with the neo-liberal turn of the 1980s, and the arrival in power in the 1990s of a postwar generation, it faded. The new economic doctrines cast doubt on the state as a political agent, and the new leaders had never known anything except the Pax Americana. The traditional springs of autonomy were gone.
    • Perry Anderson, "Depicting Europe", London Review of Books (20 September 2007)
  • The most passionate advocate of absolute fidelity to the Covenant of the League in dealing with the Abyssinian question was, appropriately enough, the Minister for League-of-Nations Affairs, Anthony Eden. Eden, at thirty-seven, was the young man of the Cabinet, a representative of the new generation of public-school officer present here among ageing Victorians, a veteran of the trenches; idealistic, sensitive; something of a Brooke or a Sassoon. His were the kind of delicately and sensitively handsome features which would have well ornamented the wicket on the night when there was a breathless hush in the close, with ten to make and the last man in. The brave cause of the League could have hardly found a more appropriate standard-bearer; and, as Vansittart wrote, Eden's instincts "harboured few enthusiasms except for the League".
  • As Minister for League-of-Nations Affairs during the Abyssinian crisis Eden really acted as a second, and competitive, foreign secretary, urging his own policy in Cabinet, negotiating on England's behalf not only through the League at Geneva, but also directly with foreign governments, as with Mussolini in June. The springs of his policy are to be found in a pure internationalist faith, in a public-schoolboy's sense of honour and doing the right thing. Neither in his actions nor utterances at the time, nor even in retrospect in his memoirs, does he display any interest in, or understanding of, strategy or the world-balance of power, or the likely strategic consequences to England of his League idealism. He was indeed essentially another believer in "moral authority". In a memorandum written at Baldwin's request in the latter half of July, he argued that England must support the League, because otherwise "any opportunity that might still remain of bringing about peace by the use of the League's moral authority [author's italics] will be destroyed".
  • The deal between the French and the Israelis was struck in Paris on 1 October 1956. An eighteenth-century British cabinet would not have hesitated to join in... In contrast, Eden's cabinet was riven by moral squeamishness; so too were the house prefects of the Foreign Office... Eden as Prime Minister marvellously personified these ambiguities, being himself a pre-war moralising internationalist and apostle of the League of Nations, and a statesman-founder of the United Nations Organisation. Who can wonder that in the present crisis he was so edgy and indecisive? His was the dithers of a bishop nerving himself to enter a brothel.
    • Correlli Barnett, The Verdict of Peace: Britain Between Her Yesterday and the Future (2001), pp. 490-491
  • the last year of his life, aged 79, and very ill, produced a minor classic in Another World. He found the writing hard going but exciting and exhilarating. Whereas his previous autobiographical volumes had been very long and lacking in sparkle, this was a concise and beautifully written little book which might easily have been the work of a young man. It is vivid, moving, even funny at times, but never sentimental. It is also remarkably modest and understated, making no mention at all of the author's winning of the Military Cross and other commendations for gallantry. As Eden's biographer justly concludes: "In a lifetime of achievement against the odds, perhaps this was the most wonderful of all."
    • Brian Bond, Survivors of a Kind: Memoirs of the Western Front (2008), p. 162
  • Anthony's father was a mad baronet and his mother a very beautiful woman. That's Anthony—half mad baronet, half beautiful woman.
    • Rab Butler, quoted in Patrick Cosgrave, R. A. Butler (1981), p. 12
  • I don't think any Secretary of State I served excelled him in finesse, or as a negotiator, or in knowledge of foreign affairs.
  • Eden’s brief premiership was already in trouble before the fiasco of Suez brought it to an end. Despite winning his own mandate in the summer of 1955, Eden was in several respects unfit to be Prime Minister. He was insecure, hypersensitive, and prone to bursts of temper; his health – both psychological and physical (following a botched bile duct operation) was poor; and he had no experience of home affairs or knowledge of Whitehall beyond the Foreign Office.
    • John Campbell, Pistols at Dawn: Two Hundred Years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown (2010), p. 263
  • There seemed one strong young figure standing up against long, dismal, drawling tides of drift and surrender, of wrong measurements and feeble impulses. ... He seemed to me at this moment to embody the life-hope of the British nation, the grand old British race that had done so much for men, and had yet some more to give. Now he was gone.
    • Winston Churchill on Eden's resignation as Foreign Secretary, The Second World War, Volume One: The Gathering Storm [1948] (1950), p. 217
  • I still feel much happier with Eden as Foreign Secretary than I should with Brailsford, and so, I expect, do you.
  • Eden's position, first as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and then as Lord Privy Seal, was commanding. His fine war record, his charm, his versatility, his pre-eminence in debate, his appeal to men and women of all parties: all these made him an outstanding figure.
  • Eden's appointment as Foreign Secretary in place of Hoare was well received, especially by the younger Members of the party. We had more confidence in him than in any other member of the Government.
  • What is undeniable is that the Munich analogy has had a strong hold over statesmen and -women ever since and has been applied liberally to justify a whole range of policies. Anthony Eden, the British prime minister who succeeded Churchill, employed the analogy to disastrous effect when he tried to deal with Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian dictator in 1936. Like many leaders in what was then called the Third World, Nasser was prepared to take assistance from both sides in the Cold War. He bought arms from Communist Czechoslovakia but also tried to get a loan from the United States to build the Aswan Dam on the Nile. John Foster Dulles, the American secretary of state, was unable to get the loan 'through Congress. In retaliation and to raise the funds he needed, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, which up to that point had been owned and managed by the British. Eden's reaction was unequivocal. As British foreign secretary in the 1930s, he had dealt with the dictators. Now he and the world were facing the same thing again. As he wrote in his memoirs, ‘'Success in a number of adventures involving the breaking of agreements in Abyssinia, in the Rhineland, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, in Albania had persuaded Hitler and Mussolini that the democracies had not the will to resist, that they could march with the certitude of success from signpost to signpost along the road which led to world dominion.... As my colleagues and I surveyed the scene in those autumn months of 1936, we were determined that the like should not come again.” But Nasser was no Hitler intent on conquering his neighbours. Rather, he was a nationalist who badly needed resources to develop his own country and stake out a position of leadership in the Middle East. The British action in collusion with the French and the Israelis to seize the Canal Zone was not only badly conceived; it rallied the Egyptians and the wider Arab world to Nasser’s side. Furthermore, it infuriated the Americans who, far from seeing a repeat of the 1930s, worried about the moral impact on other Third World countries.
  • I never saw a better dressed fool.
    • Benito Mussolini in spring 1935. Quoted in Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley (2000), p. 271
  • Eden ha[s] put his country in a position where she sustained the greatest diplomatic reverse since Bismarck in similar circumstances had called Palmerston's bluff in the matter of Schleswig-Holstein...Further damage was done when Russia proved by her action in Spain, that she was not a good European as Mr. Eden had assured the world was the case.
  • Unlike Chamberlain’s summits, the leaders came to Yalta with detailed briefing books and a body of specialist advisors, including all three foreign ministers, and in many cases they acted on policies already laid down. The deals on prisoners of war, for instance, or Soviet territorial demands in Asia had already been established in outline, while Maisky’s presentation on reparations followed the lines of a report he had drawn up over the winter. At a number of key points, however, the leaders took their own line. Stalin rejected the advice of Beria and others to offer the West more fig leaves on the Polish government. Ignoring his advisors, FDR succumbed to British pressure to accept three Soviet votes in the UN. And Churchill batted aside Eden’s apt questions about why the Western Allies needed to buy Soviet entry into the Far Eastern war. But the British foreign secretary was very effective in obtaining a greater role for postwar France than any of the Big Three, left alone, would have preferred. In September 1938, Halifax had— belatedly—exerted influence in Cabinet, but he never appeared at the conference table. Eden, in contrast, was a real presence at Yalta—vocal if rejected over the Far East, influential over France, and backing up Churchill robustly on Germany. He was far more significant at Yalta than his counterparts, particularly Stettinius. As Eden and Cadogan remarked, Stalin was indeed a skilful negotiator, letting the others do the talking and saving his succinct remarks for the right moment. Nevertheless Churchill’s more bombastic approach should not be underrated: it wore down the other two over France and German reparations. And Roosevelt pushed harder on Poland than the myths might suggest
    • David Reynolds, Summits: Six Meetings That Changed the World (2007), pp. 158-159
  • He was ambitious, but not self-seeking, if by that we mean search for a self rarely found. Baldwin strongly recommended him to me; his mind was less capacious than his master's, but he used it to better advantage. Zealous, affable, intelligent, he had inherited from his father a temper mitigated by the restraints which careers impose on youth. He thus possessed early the making of "a good House of Commons manner". Desirous and deserving of praise, he avoided suspicions of brilliance or originality and pruned protusions with sense. He said the right thing so often that he seemed incapable of saying anything else.
  • He had been at Eton, but the place had no magic for him as for me, and he never mentioned it. He spoke French but not much of France. We had common ground when he opposed retreats still dear to the cheaper press; but his instincts harboured few enthusiasms except for the League. It was the right one at the time, though he put more weight on it than I could advise.
  • [T]he Italians wanted a deal... the Cabinet again decided to bypass diplomacy, and to send out Eden with the importance of a special mission. He was a good choice from our, but not from the Italian, standpoint. His future was assured in his own camp; he stood well with the Labour Party. "They say I'm the right man on the wrong side," he said to me. He learned early and instinctively all the things that please in Britain, and those things were right but not real, unsuiting him at this juncture as mediator with the wrong-minded. For fascists mocked the champion of Geneva Utopia, and called him Paradiso.
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