Interpreting Europe : the challenge to Conservative and Labour beliefs, 1945-1975
This thesis undertakes an interpretative analysis of belief change in respect of the European policy of the British Conservative and Labour parties over the period from 1945 to 1975. It applies an anti-foundational model to the study of belief change and by applying this model over a significant period of time, it seeks to provide a more detailed and nuanced understanding of how traditions of belief have developed in post-war British European policy. Having considered theoretical and methodological issues associated with an interpretative study, the thesis then examines explicitly the belief change of a sequence of key elite figures in each party. This is achieved by contextualising the elites within the broader changes of international relations and domestic politics. The approach reveals the extent to which e1ites have reacted in complex ways to situations which challenge long held beliefs, in turn impacting on traditions of belief. The investigation also shows that e1ite beliefs about foreign policy have not only been influenced by particular views of the world but by confidence in policy proposals. Once this confidence has been challenged, elite beliefs have shown rapid states of change. Underlying this change is the desire of elites to present a convincing and coherent narrative on foreign policy. This study also finds that while the foreign policy approaches of the Conservative and Labour Parties may have appeared similar, very different rationales and beliefs motivated policy initiatives. On the basis of these findings, it is concluded that the changes in belief over time are significantly accounted for by the theoretical model used in this thesis.