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International Factors and the 1964 Election

Young, John W.

International Factors and the 1964 Election Thumbnail


John W. Young


International issues are not usually seen as having been significant to the 1964 general election result. Harold Wilson made only limited references to foreign policy and defence during the campaign, while opinion polls showed that voters saw domestic questions as being far more important. Traditionally, international issues have had only a limited impact upon British general elections. But the 1964 election was one of the most closely run in history and this article argues that, interpreted broadly, international questions did have a real effect on the contest. The sitting prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home focused on the future of the nuclear deterrent for much of the campaign, while considerations about the country's relative decline in the world, reflected in chronic balance of payment problems, helped Labour's case that it was ‘time for a change’ at the top. Besides, the mid-1960s was a significant point for the country's global position: the post-war policy of ‘three circles’—in which Britain played a major role in Europe, maintained a global empire and influenced US policy via the ‘special relationship’—was being called into question. The question deserves to be asked, therefore, why there was not a more intense debate between the political leaders about Britain's international role.


Young, J. W. (2007). International Factors and the 1964 Election. Contemporary British History, 21(3), 351-371. doi:10.1080/13619460600825931

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 17, 2007
Publication Date 2007-09
Deposit Date Aug 23, 2019
Publicly Available Date Aug 23, 2019
Journal Contemporary British History
Print ISSN 1361-9462
Electronic ISSN 1743-7997
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 3
Pages 351-371
Keywords Political Science and International Relations; Development; Cultural Studies; History; Safety Research
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Contemporary British History on 17 Sep 2007, available online:


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