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End of empire and the bomb: Britain, Malaya and nuclear weapons, 1956-57

Jones, Matthew (2022) End of empire and the bomb: Britain, Malaya and nuclear weapons, 1956-57. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 51 (2). pp. 351-383. ISSN 0308-6534

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03086534.2022.2116148


This article focuses on the repercussions of remarks made by Duncan Sandys, the British Minister of Defence, at a press conference held in Canberra in August 1957 which suggested that British nuclear weapons were going to be deployed to airbases in Malaya. Against the background of the negotiations that had led to the Anglo-Malayan defence agreement, and with Malaya on the cusp of independence, an intense debate took place between Whitehall officials over whether and what form of assurances over consultation should be given to Malaya’s new leaders over the deployment of nuclear weapons and the use of Malayan bases. Besides examining why and how such assurances were issued, this article seeks to demonstrate the tensions produced by British defence policy in South East Asia during this period, which was increasingly rooted in alliance obligations to SEATO and the consequent projection of nuclear capabilities, as they began to conflict with the political imperative to bolster the post-independence United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Alliance government in Malaya. It also brings forward some of the links and connections that can be made between nuclear issues and the dynamics of decolonisation.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: International History
Subjects: U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2022 14:12
Last Modified: 17 May 2024 01:33

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