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History Rewritten

all the coversAs Diplomat celebrates its 65th anniversary, Ronald Asprey casts an eye back at the state of the world in 1947, when the first ever issue was rolling off its pre-digital press

As Diplomat celebrates its 65th anniversary, let us cast an eye back at the state of the world in 1947, when the first ever issue was rolling off its pre-digital press.

George VI was on the throne, Clement Attlee was in Downing Street and Al Capone had just died. Fugitive Nazis were being rounded up and the full horrors of the Holocaust were being laid bare. Two years on from the end of World War п, Britons were still enduring food rationing and fuel shortages. Tinned meat and the much-despised snoek fish, imported from South Africa, were as appetising as the average mealtime got. Non-essential car travel was banned, as were foreign holidays, and this magazine’s early issues were much shorter, as newspapers and the like were still limited to their wartime size of four pages to save paper.

Abroad, Britain’s retreat from empire was in full swing. India and newly created Pakistan won independence, accompanied by terrible sectarian slaughter. Elsewhere, a war of independence was raging in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and there was civil war in China between Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists and Mao’s communists.

Despite the Allies’ victory of 1945, it was a very uncertain world, and the West was preoccupied with an economic crisis and the threat of Communism. US Secretary of State George Marshall addressed the former by unveiling the Marshall Plan – a massive programme of aid for the reconstruction of war-torn Europe – while President Truman set out his policy for resisting Soviet expansion. Known as the ‘Truman Doctrine’, this was based on the recommendations of diplomat George Kennan, often known as ‘the father of containment’. Relations between the Western powers and the Soviet Union were by now decidedly frosty, and the Cold War was beginning in earnest. Blissfully unaware of all this, Thor Heyerdahl was drifting across the Pacific on his Kon-Tiki raft.

Socially, the world of 1947 was also a very different place. Racial segregation still existed in the US, while Cambridge University was only just accepting women as full students for the first time. TV sets and other domestic appliances were still rarities.

Sixty-five years on and the world has been transformed in so many ways, though some things never change: trouble in Palestine-Israel, dispute over Kashmir, debates over nuclear power, and renewed economic slump (though today’s ‘austerity’ is nothing like that of the immediate post-war years). Predictions that the end of the Cold War marked the ‘end of history’ have proved well off the mark. New problems and challenges arise constantly, not least a global population that has swelled to more than seven billion, compared to the 2.5 billion we were in 1947. As President Truman put it in a speech from that year: ‘The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred.’ In short, the work of a diplomat is never done…

Before and After

Diplomat takes a trip down memory lane, looking at how its covers have changed throughout the decades

Date for your diary

Diplomat magazine exhibition


As part of its 65th anniversary celebrations, Diplomat magazine will be exhibiting three years worth of original cover art at the Chris Beetles Gallery in Mayfair on 5 December 2012. Each month Diplomat commissions an artist to create a new cover for the issue. These pieces of original art work commissioned for Diplomat will be on show and attendees will have an opportunity to order prints of the covers. Quentin Blake, along with 27 other incredible artists – including December’s cover artist David Mach – will be involved with the exhibition. A few artists will even be creating new work especially for this Diplomat exhibition.


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