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February 11, 1945

Yalta Conference Agreement, Declaration of a Liberated Europe

The text of the agreements reached at the Yalta (Crimea) Conference between President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Generalissimo Stalin.

July 26, 1956

Speech by President Nasser, Alexandria, July 26 [1956] (Extract)

Eighty-seven years after the Suez Canal’s completion in 1869 and less than two months after the last British troops had left it in June 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) on July 26, 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal Company.

Nasser announced the step in the text printed here: a speech that would become a classic in the annals of twentieth-century decolonization worldwide. The English translation used here is included in a documentary publication printed in 1956 by the US State Department in Washington, DC, titled The Suez Canal Problem; it is an excerpt of the whole speech.

Nasser pronounced the speech in the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Alexandria in front of a crowd of tens of thousands, during which he also uttered the code word signaling his security forces to occupy the company’s assets and offices in Egypt. Nasser’s step took the world by surprise. The French government, the Suez Canal Company’s Paris headquarters and its many French shareholders, and the British government that was the company’s largest shareholder and that on July 23, following Washington’s lead, had retracted a 1955 offer to back a World Bank loan to Egypt: all they were outraged. (France and Britain would fail to reverse nationalization in court; the outcome, in Britain, of the ensuing Franco-British-Israeli attack is the focus of another document dated 1956 in this collection). Diametrically opposed was the dominant reaction among Egyptians, other Arabs, and people in newly independent and still colonialized countries. They were ecstatic. The reason was not so much that Nasser nationalized the canal in order to find a new way to finance a dam at Aswan, on the Nile, although that project was a linchpin of Egypt’s modernization, a history analyzed in Guy Laron’s Origins of the Suez Crisis (2013). The reason was more existential. Nasser’s act turned himself, Egypt, and by proxy the entire non-white world from a passive object of history into an active subject. “Die of your fury,” Nasser told the Americans, and by extension Europe’s descending imperial powers. And by calling the shots—“Today, citizens, the Suez Canal Company has been nationalized. This order has been published in the Official Journal. It has become a matter of fact”—he symbolically subjugated Britain and France, humiliating those once so powerful empires as only a non-white ex-colonial subject could. Even a cut as historic as India’s independence, in 1947, had not hurt Britain this much. Technically speaking Britain had co-initiated that final act of the British Raj, and it was a loss of a limb, however crucial. Nasser, by contrast, had stabbed the empire in its very heart—a story classically narrated in Keith Kyle’s Suez (1991).

February 22, 1972

Memorandum of Conversation between Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai

1959

The Internationalization of the Algerian Problem and Its Inscription on the Agenda of the General Assembly of the United Nations from 1957-1959

Detailed summary charting the development of United Nations debates and discussions about the Algerian problem, from 1957-1959, told from an Algerian perspective. Narrates the context and time-line of key events spurring four UN debates on the Algerian problem (from the first, in February 1957, to the fourth, in 1959). Focuses heavily on the foreign policy of France, under Charles De Gaulle's government, highlighting France's reluctance to negotiate, and recognize the independence of Algeria, and France's objections to the United Nation's recognition of Algerian independence.

October 19, 1954

Minutes of the First Meeting between Premier Zhou Enlai and Nehru

Zhou Enlai and Nehru discuss French and Portuguese colonialism in India and China, the Sino-American conflict, conflict in the Taiwan Straits, and the China issue at the United Nations.