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Memoria e Ricerca

Diplomacy and Science: United Kingdom Anctartical policy and the International Geophysical Year, 1955-1959

di Mauro Elli
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 29 (2008), p. 145

This article is concerned with the relations between diplomacy and science in British Antarctic policy in the run-up and during the International Geophysical Year. Using a variety of unpublished documents, it shows how the comprehensively traditional approach of UK diplomacy – mainly concerned with territorial disputes with Argentina and Chile in Antarctica, and prestige – was an advantage, in that it allowed Britain to play an original, positive role not hamstrung by the zero-sum view of the cold war prevailing in Washington. Caught between financial difficulties and political imperatives, British diplomacy wished to capitalize on the success of international scientific cooperation in order to both solving the dispute with the South American countries and involving positively the USSR. The eventual result was the Antarctic Treaty, a paradigmatic example of interaction between diplomacy and science, and one of the few non-confrontational outcomes of the early cold war.