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Halifax, Edward Wood, 1st earl of

Halifax, Edward Wood, 1st earl of (1881–1959). A Conservative politician, Halifax made some progress as viceroy of India (1926–31) towards constitutional change in talks with the nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi. A devout high churchman, he was at first out of his depth in dealings with Nazi Germany. As foreign secretary (1938–41) he continued the search for an accommodation until September 1939, but he displayed mixed feelings during the Munich crisis (1938), and argued early in 1939 for tougher policies, including faster rearmament. In the leadership crisis of May 1940 he was favoured by some to succeed Chamberlain as prime minister. Briefly, while the Dunkirk evacuation hung in the balance, he showed interest in exploratory talks to end the war. Between 1941 and 1946 this tall, aloof aristocrat served with surprising success as ambassador in Washington.

C. J. Bartlett

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