Networks and Actors in the British and French Foreign Ministries: Responses to the Idea of European Integration, 1919-1957.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Politics and International Studies


This project concerns the intellectual framework applied by civil servants (permanent officials) who formulated British and French foreign policy between 1919 and 1957 and how they decided whether an integrated European approach to international security was preferable to a more traditional single state strategy. Research on the history of European integration has tended to focus on policy at government level; little attention has been given to how policy was formulated and executed within foreign ministries and certainly not in any comparative way. And yet, the core political and diplomatic assumptions of the permanent officials should be intrinsic to our understanding of how the British and French foreign ministries, or networks within them, saw Europe as a solution to maintaining their international influence. We will also demonstrate how civil servants, including diplomats, reflected the value systems of those who appointed them and those who trained them, although it is not always true that they reflected the priorities of the government ministers whom they served.

Even though Britain and France became members of the European Community at different moments, they have been chosen because they are nation-states of similar populations, with similar imperial histories and world roles, they are both permanent members of the UN Security Council, leading members of NATO and of the EU. Nevertheless, historically these two countries have viewed the concept of European security and integration differently, with Britain placing more emphasis on the importance of overseas ties (Empire, Commonwealth, US) than the French have chosen to do. The British and French examples reveal how within the machinery of government of these states different views were held by politicians, permanent officials and diplomats about how far a commitment should be made to Europe as part of their wider foreign and imperial policy. The consensus among historians of British foreign relations is of an either/or contest between a continental and an imperial strategy, when in reality both views were held simultaneously by different groupings of permanent officials, diplomats and their political masters. The French case is similar. In France competing views were held by politicians and networks of officials about how to provide the security necessary for France to continue to play an imperial and world role. While some believed her security lay, as before the First World War, in a more loosely based network of alliances, others were increasingly committed to an institutional form of European integration.

Very little work has been done on the process by which the permanent officials of the foreign ministries of European states considered the question of European integration; when this has been done it tends to be in relation to Cold War strategic questions. Even fewer studies are to be found on European integration prior to the Second World War; and no works of a comparative nature consider foreign policy-making and the influence of networks in relation to the European ideal in the French Foreign Ministry or British Foreign and Commonwealth Office(FCO).

This work has considerable benefits for policy makers in the FCO, the French Foreign Ministry and in the European Commission. It is a current FCO priority to understand better the historical perspective on present-day policies to which this project would contribute. It would also be of great benefit to those engaged in the study and formulation of foreign policy amongst all EU members and future accession countries. It is our intention to use our research as the basis for a series of workshops for British and French diplomats and permanent officials as well as organisations that liaise with the EU such as the United Kingdom Permananent Representation to the European Union (UKREP).

Planned Impact

The research will investigate how foreign policy is made, its actors and the networks and influences that condition it and will therefore be of interest to both academic and non-academic audiences.

1) Who will benefit from the research?
- International academics and research institutions: beneficiaries include academics and students in the fields of international history, international relations, political science and, potentially, the fields of organisational behaviour and sociology.
- Policy makers at national government level: results will be of direct relevance to policy-makers in the British and French national political systems, notably in the areas of foreign policy formulation and execution i.e. the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the French Foreign Ministry. It could also benefit those engaged in the formulation of foreign policy across Europe especially in future accession countries.
- Policy makers at European level: similarly, the research will inform departments within the European Commission and Parliament engaged in foreign policy and integration, specifically the European Council's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
- Recruitment/HR infrastructure of civil service/EU: the comparison of the impact of the background of officials in terms of education, training and networks has the potential to inform current recruitment practices and feed into employment and equality and diversity strategies of both the Civil Service, the French Fonction Publique de l'État and the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), whose Director David Bearfield has agreed to be involved in the workshops and the dissemination of the findings of the project.
- Political commentators and the public: the project will also enhance public debate in the media and elsewhere on further European integration as well as contributing to an increase in the effectiveness of British diplomacy.

2) How will they benefit?
They will gain considerabl from:
- an understanding of the factors that shape the policy making processes of the British and French governments towards European integration
- new insights into how elites select themselves and the impact of that process on foreign policy-making
- the production of a prosopographical series of webpages of both British & French diplomats that will be located on the University of Salford website and accessible to other researchers
- the potential for this study to pave the way for similar studies of networks in other government departments and/or other countries

3) What will be done to ensure they benefit?
- In addition to the monograph and journal articles aimed largely at the academic community, the investigators also intend to use workshops and symposia to bring potential end-users into discussion with the investigators on the project. We will invite not only academics to these seminars, but also government and European Union officials to ensure that research is up to date and to maximise policy relevance.
- Regular workshops and a one-day symposium will allow engagement throughout the lifetime of the project and will act both as progress reports and as a way of making the final outcomes reach a wider public. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Branch, through Dr Isabelle Tombs, has agreed to host the final symposium at the FCO in London and to invite French diplomats to participate.
- Results will also be shared via the internet using the institution's website pages and also by posting on the University of Salford Institutional Repository (USIR), which is 'Open Access' and whose content is freely available and locatable via search engines.
- Salford University's Communications directorate will facilitate links to the press and media.
- The investigators will draft a Policy Recommendations Summary which will be available on USIR and for distribution directly to policy-makers and other beneficiaries


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Keiger J (2016) Sir Edward Grey, France, and the Entente: How to Catch the Perfect Angler? in The International History Review
Description Partly as a result of work on the award and prior research I have been invited to give papers at international conferences attended by policy practitioners. More distantly linked to the award I have been asked to advise international bodies on national reforms (see 'troika' expertise to Greek government)
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services
Title Project website and blog 
Description A website and blog dedicated to the overall project that contains documentation, information, news and events related to the project for sharing with the wider academic and public sphere: 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The website and blog have only recently been launched