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Sir Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon

(1897 – 1977)

Sir Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon was a British Conservative statesman, foreign secretary (1935–38, 1940–45, 1951–55), secretary for war (1940), and prime minister (1955–57). Eden resigned in 1938 in protest against Neville Chamberlain’s policy of “appeasement” to the Axis and became Churchill’s right-hand man during World War II.

In 1936, Eden signed the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, which was unilaterally denounced by Egypt in 1951.

During World War II, he increasingly advocated Arab unity, which in 1945 took the form of the Arab League that eventually turned against Britain. Eden was aware of the Holocaust and, indeed, made a famous statement in the House of Commons in 1942 confirming that the Nazis were exterminating Europe’s Jews, but that Britain could do little or nothing to thwart it apart from winning the war.

In 1955, Eden led Britain into the Baghdad Pact, an additional source of friction with Egypt. In November 1955, he suggested a compromise between the Arab demand that Israel withdraw to the boundaries of the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and Israel’s stand on the borders of the armistice agreements of 1949. In October 1956, after the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt, he and Guy Mollet, the prime minister of France, mounted the Suez Expedition, the object of which was to gain control of the Canal.

The Suez campaign had the secret backing and cooperation of David Ben-Gurion and the Israeli government. Under the extraordinary agreement reached between Britain, France, and Israel, Israeli forces were to take control of the Sinai – which they proceeded to do in short order – at which point Britain and France were to intervene to keep the belligerents apart but also to retake the Suez Canal for themselves. The Suez Campaign failed, thanks in large measure to American opposition. It aroused fierce hostility from the British Labour party and left-wing sources, but also marked the first time in which Israel’s military prowess was displayed successfully. Soon afterward, Eden became seriously ill and retired from the prime ministership and from political life early in 1957.

In retirement, he wrote Full Circle (1960), Facing the Dictators (1962), and The Reckoning (1965). In 1961, Eden was given an earldom. He had been made a knight of the Garter in 1953 and was known as Sir Anthony Eden during his prime ministership.


R. Churchill, Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden (1959). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Lamb, The Failure of the Eden Government (1987).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.