The imperial premiership

The role of the modern Prime Minister in foreign policy making, 1964–2015

By Sam Goodman

The imperial premiership


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0901-9
  • Pages: 376
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: October 2016
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General, Humanities / British & Irish history, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, European history, International relations, Politics & government, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Society & social sciences / International relations


Recent votes in the House of Commons on British military intervention have put foreign policy at the heart of public consciousness. This book examines fifty years and nine premierships - from Harold Wilson to David Cameron - to offer a unique account of the growing role of the prime minister in foreign policy making. The prime minister now spends more time on foreign policy than at any previous period outside war, but excepting crises the public and MPs themselves remain relatively ill-informed on the subject. Written by a senior parliamentary researcher and based on first-hand interviews with former foreign secretaries, Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, party officials, military chiefs and diplomats, this book provides an insider account of votes on military intervention in Syria, and raises questions around the vetting of those who seek the office of prime minister and the educating of the electorate.


'As someone who worked at close quarters for five British Foreign Secretaries and three Prime Ministers, I had a worm's eye view of the growing foreign policy role of the British Premier. Sam Goodman's account is detailed, forensic and subtle. For this is not a straightforward story and the interplay between Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary has been shaped by personality as well as by a political dynamic. Goodman understands, and he tells a fascinating story with authority and compelling clarity. Anyone looking for a concise, accurate and interesting account of the big events and challenges in British foreign policy over the last half century will enjoy this book and want to keep it as an invaluable source of fact and insight.'
Stephen Wall

'Sam Goodman's book gives an excellent overview of the main foreign policy challenges faced by nine British Prime Ministers over the last 50 years and how they dealt with them. It draws richly on first-hand accounts, is very well-written and will be a valuable source of reference for politicians and students alike.'
Hilary Benn

'This book is a must read for anyone seeking to develop a comprehensive understanding of the growing dominance of British Prime ministers in foreign policy decision making, especially when it comes to questions of war and peace. A Senior Parliamentary Researcher in Westminster, Goodman's important work greatly benefits from his unique access to primary sources and documents.
Covering a total of nine premierships between 1964 and 2015, The Imperial Premiership is based on numerous personal interviews as well as meticulous archival analysis. Goodman not only takes an institutional approach, taking a closer look at Prime Ministers' interactions with the Foreign Office, Cabinet, or Members of Parliament, but also places great emphasis on how their personal views, convictions, and styles shape foreign policy outcomes.
I highly recommend Goodman's excellent work to policymakers, academics, undergraduate and graduate students of international affairs and history, but it will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in contemporary British foreign affairs.' - Dorle Hellmuth, Associate Professor of Politics, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC


Sam Goodman is a Senior Parliamentary Researcher and has worked with Members of the House of Commons, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and the US House of Representatives


Foreword by the Rt Hon. Lord Owen
1. Harold Wilson, 1964-70
2. Ted Heath, 1970-74
3. Harold Wilson, 1974-76
4. James Callaghan, 1976-79
5. Margaret Thatcher, 1979-90
6. John Major, 1990-97
7. Tony Blair, 1997-2007
8. Gordon Brown, 2007-10
9. David Cameron, 2010-15

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