America in British political culture during the long 1950s
Since the end of the Cold War, the question of British attitudes towards the United States of America has received significant attention as historians and commentators have debated whether Britain has belonged to an English-speaking Anglosphere or a Europe defined by anti-Americanism. This research examines these contrasting ideas about British views of the US through a study of Britain’s political culture during the long 1950s. During this period events and trends from across the Atlantic were keenly monitored in Britain as the growth of the close Anglo-American diplomatic relationship added to the longstanding interest in US culture. This thesis provides an original contribution to debates about the ‘special relationship’ by analysing sources indicative of wider attitudes and ideologies which are often overlooked in existing accounts. It utilises a synthesis of sources including those pertaining to Britain’s political parties and their ancillary organisations, the media, and fictional representations of the US in order to analyse the reactions to America. Ultimately, it challenges the idea that anti-Americanism was widespread in post-war Britain and suggests that the threat posed by this viewpoint was usually exaggerated. Not only was the British political system particularly attentive to American trends and events but the majority of Britons were able to draw inspiration from groups or individuals in the US. Rather than being consistently positive or negative, views of the country intersected with other ideological beliefs and political exigencies, meaning that America was interpreted in diverse ways. Although there was often negativity about the country or opposition to its policies, these are best described as rational or reasonable criticism rather than excessive anti-Americanism. It was the US’s unprecedented international position rather than a surfeit of negativity which meant that it received sustained attention in Britain.