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Wilson, James Harold 1916- 1995

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October 2, 1967

Letter from Derek Day (Foreign Office) to Michael Palliser (Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister)

Responding to a request from Michael Palliser (Wilson's Private Secretary for foreign affairs), the Foreign Office's seasoned Europe-watcher Derek Day argued that the government needed to balance three – sometimes conflicting – UK interests. First, there was the position as a European power, particularly with regard to the ongoing EEC application. Second, there was the UK's status as a nuclear power, in which the UK shared “special responsibilities” with the US, exemplified by the UK's acquisition of Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missiles as its primary nuclear deterrent. Third, there was the desire to see a non-proliferation treaty concluded, which sometimes meant disagreement with both the United States and the Soviet Union. Day contended that the United Kingdom seemed to have been successful in positioning itself as understanding European anxieties, with Bonn having congratulated Wilson's administration on bring “good Europeans.” Day's assessment was seen and lauded by Wilson, who hoped that it was correct.

September 21, 1967

Memorandum from George Brown to Harold Wilson

When the USSR and the USA submitted a draft non-proliferation treaty in the early autumn of 1967, British representatives were enthusiastically arguing that as a prospective member of EURATOM, any British position must axiomatically take account of European interests.  As the negotiations moved forward, though, Wilson's government found itself caught in a three-sided trap of its own devising: fearful of being labelled “bad Europeans,” anxious about being seen by Washington as “unreliable allies,” and concerned about Moscow viewing them as part of the “treacherous West.”  Balancing out these competing concerns was becoming foremost in the minds of senior ministers.

March 1, 1967

Note for the Record [about a Meeting between the Prime Minister, Sir Burke Trend, and Sir Solly Zuckerman at 10:30a.m. on 1 March 1967]

Two "Notes for the Record" from March 1, 1967, describe the vigorous discussions between senior UK government figures, including Harold Wilson, Foreign Secretary George Brown, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Lord Chalfont, and chief scientific adviser to the government Solly Zuckerman. Brown argued that "our posture on the matter should be distinctively European rather than one of supporting the United States against other European countries." Wilson was even more explicit, stating that "our approach should be that of a European power discussing the matter with European partners and not seeking to fight American battles." Wilson was keen to let Washington take the lead so that his government might avoid upsetting the French, as had happened with the debates over De Gaulle's 1966 withdrawal from the NATO command structure.

May 18, 1967

Memorandum for the Prime Minister, 'Non-Proliferation'

By the early summer of 1967, Foreign Secretary George Brown felt compelled to comment that "if the situation should arise in which there is a direct confrontation between the United States and Russians on one side—and the members of EURATOM on the other, on the issue of the acceptability of EURATOM safeguards we should have to consider our position very carefully: the whole success of our European policy might depend on the choice we made. For the present it should therefore be a major aim of our policy at Geneva to see that things do not reach such a state." This came only a week after Wilson formally launched the UK's bid to become a member of the EEC, and two days after De Gaulle cast doubt on Britain's fitness to join the community.

December 7, 1964

Memorandum of Conversation between President Johnson and Prime Minister Harold Wilson

In this conversation, President Johnson and Prime Minister Wilson discuss the MLF and the proposed ANF--the "Atlantic Nuclear Force," a British proposal as an alternative to the MLF. The two leaders weighed the pros and cons of both proposals, with President Johnson ultimately deciding to give a positive response to the ANF, leaving it up to the British to see if Bonn could be enlisted.