The Official History of Britain and the European Community. Vol. 2, From Rejection to Referendum, 1963–1975

In This Review

The Official History of Britain and the European Community, Vol. II: From Rejection to Referendum, 1963-1975
by Stephen Wall
Routledge, 2012
688 pp. $100.00

No diplomat could be more qualified than Wall to write an official history of how the United Kingdom become part of the EU. He served as the British ambassador to the union and as a private secretary or adviser to five British foreign secretaries and two prime ministers. As a historian, however, Wall has big shoes to fill: the author of the previous volume in this series was the late Alan Milward, the greatest academic historian of European integration, who sharply rejected conventional and official explanations of the eu’s origins. What Wall presents, by contrast, is very much the view from Whitehall and No. 10 Downing Street. When it comes to explaining how British decisions were made, his account is balanced and copiously documented. Yet when he turns to the issue of why decisions were made, the story becomes murkier. British politicians seem to have thought the United Kingdom’s membership was inevitable. But what role did economic, geopolitical, ideological, and more narrowly partisan considerations play in persuading them? Which justifications were fundamental, and which were just window-dressing? These issues remain for future historians to address.