Events in the 1950s, especially the 1956 Suez crisis, marked British consciousness by dramatizing to a world audience their nation's diminished position in global politics. During the Suez crisis of 1956, Egypt's President Nasser nationalized the canal, after eighty years of British control. American President Dwight Eisenhower chose not to support what appeared to be an imperial adventure. Some Britons felt betrayed by their ally; others were mortified by their leaders' attempt to cling to imperial possessions. Because Suez represents the most shocking blow to British national pride or, alternatively, the most embarrassing recurrence of imperial adventuring, 1956 makes a useful date for pinpointing the start of the contemporary period. Like the range of responses to the Vietnam War, the reaction to Suez marks a generation, not through unanimity, but through the experience of dissent and violently felt differences of opinion. For younger writers, other social changes and historical events (such as the Falklands Islands war) loom larger, but they amplify, as in an echo chamber, the resonance of Suez. Because it transpires over decades, postwar decolonization effects all four generations of contemporary writers. [16]

Links to Related Material


Keen, Suzanne. Romances of the Archive in Contemporary British Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2001.

Last modified 24 September 2002