Anthony Eden

former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1897-1977)

Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon, KG, MC, PC (12 June 189714 January 1977), British politician, was Foreign Secretary during World War II and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1955 to 1957.

Our quarrel is not with Egypt, still less with the Arab world. It is with Colonel Nasser.



  • I am sure that this policy of non-intervention is the only one which the Government of this country at this moment should pursue, and that it has the support of the great mass of the people of this country who, deeply as they deplore—and they do deplore—the causes of this strife in Spain, believe it to be the first duty of their Government to limit that strife to the great but unhappy country where it now takes place.
  • I do not believe that we can make progress in European appeasement if we allow the impression to gain currency abroad that we yield to constant pressure. I am certain in my own mind that progress depends above all on the temper of the nation, and that temper must find expression in a firm spirit. This spirit I am confident is there. Not to give voice it is I believe fair neither to this country nor to the world.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (21 February 1938) detailing his resignation from the government as Foreign Secretary
  • Mr. Greenwood, when moving the Amendment yesterday, told us that the war would shake many strongly held views. I fear that this war will do very much more than that. The war will bring about changes which may be fundamental and revolutionary in the economic and social life of this country. On that we are all agreed.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (6 December 1939)


  • Since the war began the Government have received countless inquiries from all over the Kingdom from men of all ages who are for one reason or another not at present engaged in military service, and who wish to do something for the defence of the country. Now is your opportunity. We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of 17 and 65, to come forward now and offer their service in order to make assurance doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the "Local Defence Volunteers".
    • Broadcast (14 May 1940), quoted in The Times (15 May 1940), p. 3. On 22 July the LDV was renamed the Home Guard.
  • Never had so much been surrendered by so many to so few.
    • 4 Jan 1941, after Operation Compass and the Italian surrender at Bardia in the Western Desert.
    • Quoted in B. H. Liddell Hart's A History of the Second World War (Cassell, 1970), p. 117
  • Wolfe has said: "War is an option of difficulties."
    • Speech in the House of Commons (6 May 1941)
  • There can be only one peace which will be acceptable to the people of this country. That is a peace which takes every precaution in our power to see to it that neither Germany nor Japan has any avoidable opportunity of starting this business again.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (29 September 1944)
  • Many hon. Members, I know, have studied the relevant documents which have been issued about German activities immediately after the last war. They show—I do not think anybody can doubt it—a devastating indictment of the complete absence of German sincerity from the very beginning in fulfilling any of the disarmament stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles. I believe it to be a fact that over the whole range of the disarmament stipulations of that Treaty the German military authorities practised ingenious, universal, and, let us admit it, to a certain extent successful evasion and obstruction at all possible points.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (29 September 1944)
  • [T]here was one principle underlying their approach to all these problems—a principle upon which they stood in fundamental opposition to Socialism. The Conservative objective was a nation-wide property-owning democracy. Both parties believed in a form of capitalism, but whereas their opponents believed in State capitalism they believed in the widest measure of individual capitalism. Man should be master of his environment, and not its slave. That was what freedom meant. ... [W]e of the Conservative Party must maintain that the ownership of property is not a crime or a sin, but a reward, a right, and a responsibility that must be shared as equitably as possible among all our citizens.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool (3 October 1946), quoted in The Times (4 October 1946), p. 2
  • At core Conservatism stands for the individual, his right to liberty, to justice, to respect for his own distinctive personality. It regards the family as the basic social unit—(cheers)—and the sanctity of family life as vital to the health of the State.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (2 October 1947), quoted in The Times (3 October 1947), p. 2
  • We are not a Party of unbridled, brutal capitalism, and never have been. Although we believe in personal responsibility and personal initiative in business, we are not the political children of the "laissez-faire" school. We opposed them decade after decade.
    • Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton (2 October 1947), quoted in The Times (3 October 1947), p. 2. Also quoted in The New Conservatism (Conservative Political Centre, 1955), pp. 11-12


  • If you drive a nation to adopt procedures which run counter to its instincts, you weaken and may destroy the motive force of its action...You will realise that I am speaking of the frequent suggestion that the United Kingdom should join a federation on the continent of Europe. This is something which we know, in our bones, we cannot do...For Britain's story and her interests lie far beyond the continent of Europe. Our thoughts move across the seas to the many communities in which our people play their part, in every corner of the world. These are our family ties. That is our life: without it we should be no more than some millions of people living in an island off the coast of Europe, in which nobody wants to take any particular interest.
    • Speech to the Columbia University, New York (January 1952), quoted in Anthony Eden, Full Circle (Cassell, 1960), pp. 36-7
  • Our quarrel is not with Egypt, still less with the Arab world. It is with Colonel Nasser. He has shown that he is not a man who can be trusted to keep an agreement. Now he has torn up all his country's promises to the Suez Canal Company and has even gone back on his own statements.
    • Broadcast (8 August 1956), quoted in "Oil route 'a matter of life and death'", The Times (9 August 1956), p. 6
  • We cannot agree that an act of plunder which threatens the livelihood of many nations should be allowed to succeed. And we must make sure that the life of the great trading nations of the world cannot in the future be strangled at any moment by some interruption to the free passage of the Canal.
    • Conclusion of broadcast (8 August 1956), quoted in Anthony Gorst and Lewis Johnman, The Suez Crisis (Routledge, 2013), p. 70
  • There is now doubt in our minds that Nasser, whether he likes it or not, is now effectively in Russian hands, just as Mussolini was in Hitler's. It would be as ineffective to show weakness to Nasser now in order to placate him as it was to show weakness to Mussolini.
    • Eden to President Eisenhower (1 October 1956), quoted in Scott Lucas, Britain and Suez (Manchester University Press, 1996), p. 69
  • All my life, I've been a man of peace, working for peace, striving for peace, negotiating for peace. I've been a League of Nations man and a United Nations man and I'm still the same man with the same convictions, the same devotion to peace. I couldn't be other even if I wished. But I'm utterly convinced that the action we have taken is right.
    • BBC television broadcast to the nation (3 November 1956), quoted in Keith Kyle, Suez (I. B. Tauris, 2011), p. 425
  • If we had allowed things to drift, everything would have gone from bad to worse. Nasser would have become a kind of Moslem Mussolini, and our friends in Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran would gradually have been brought down. His efforts would have spread westwards, and Libya and North Africa would have been brought under his control.
    • Eden to Eisenhower (5 November 1956), quoted in Peter G. Boyle (ed.), The Eden-Eisenhower Correspondence, 1955-1957 (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), p. 183
  • [It] has had the effect of making us the 49th state [of America].
    • On Harold Macmillan's government policies, to Lord Salisbury (28 December 1957), quoted in John Charmley, Churchill's Grand Alliance (Harcourt Brace, 1995), p. 354.


  • Although [in 1937] we might still hope to prevent the divisions of Europe into Fascist and anti-Fascist camps, our real affinities and interests, strategic as well as political, lay with France, a fact which some of my colleagues were most reluctant to realise.
    • Anthony Eden, The Eden Memoirs: Facing the Dictators (Cassell, 1962), pp. 486-7


  • Il serait impertinent pour un pays n’ayant pas subi l’occupation de porter un jugement sur un autre l’ayant subi.
    • It would be impertinent for a country that did not suffer occupation to carry a judgment on another one that suffered one.
    • On the occupation of France, in an interview in the film Le chagrin et la pitié, 1971.

Quotes about EdenEdit

  • Anthony's father was a mad baronet and his mother a very beautiful woman. That's Anthony—half mad baronet, half beautiful woman.
    • Rab Butler, quoted in Patrick Cosgrave, R. A. Butler (1981), p. 12
  • I don't think any Secretary of State I served excelled him in finesse, or as a negotiator, or in knowledge of foreign affairs.
  • There seemed one strong young figure standing up against long, dismal, drawling tides of drift and surrender, of wrong measurements and feeble impulses. ... He seemed to me at this moment to embody the life-hope of the British nation, the grand old British race that had done so much for men, and had yet some more to give. Now he was gone.
    • Winston Churchill on Eden's resignation as Foreign Secretary, The Second World War, Volume One: The Gathering Storm [1948] (Reprint Society, 1950), p. 217
  • I never saw a better dressed fool.
    • Benito Mussolini in spring 1935. Quoted in Piers Brendon, The Dark Valley (2000), p. 271
  • Eden ha[s] put his country in a position where she sustained the greatest diplomatic reverse since Bismarck in similar circumstances had called Palmerston's bluff in the matter of Schleswig-Holstein...Further damage was done when Russia proved by her action in Spain, that she was not a good European as Mr. Eden had assured the world was the case.
    • Sir Charles Petrie, Lords of the Inland Sea (Lovat Dickson Ltd, 1937), pp. 272-6

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