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Title: Not foreign to each other : Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences, 1944-1969
Author: O'Shea, Robert
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences were a unique experiment. They were an attempt at an intermediate mode of multilateral relations: members were no longer bound in an imperial hierarchy, nor were they fully foreign. A conscious effort was made to position the Commonwealth as a family, and the Conferences as their periodic reunion. Avoiding a 'diplomatic' culture at the Conferences in favour of a familial veneer allowed participants to claim that binding resolutions were not necessary and that meaningful cooperation could occur by consensus. This appeared to offer potential for forging a 'third way' between superpower blocs in a Cold War environment. This thesis makes an important contribution to the existing Commonwealth literature as the Conferences were the core structure of the Commonwealth until the formation of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1965, yet have never been the subject of a full-length study. The thesis also engages with the concept of the 'British world', arguing that the Conferences had a major role in projecting British 'soft power' once martial or economic hegemony proved impracticable. By drawing on archival sources in eight Commonwealth countries, this thesis shows that the Conferences were effective in facilitating discussions on flashpoint topics such as white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia, even if the Commonwealth failed to fulfil hopes that it would remain an important international grouping. The study also has contemporary relevance, given that the Conferences continue as Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, and that questions of transnational identity and 'foreignness' continue to shape debates over Britain's relationship with Europe and its 'world role'.
Supervisor: Darwin, John Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available