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The year 1956 proved a pivotal one in the development of Anglo-American relations in the quarter century after World War II. In 1945, as one of the _Big Three_ powers that had triumphed over the Axis, the main colonial power, and the possessor of a special relationship with the United States, the United Kingdom aspired to play a co-equal role with America and the Soviet Union in shaping the postwar world. By 1970, however, Britain was of secondary importance at best in a global power structure dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union, had retreated from empire in Asia and Africa, and had recognized that the rhetoric of the special relationship with America did not fully match the reality. While these changes were evident in the decade after World War II, their development reached a critical juncture in 1956 and accelerated thereafter. The catalyst for this was the Suez affair of October 1956, which was not only the greatest crisis in Anglo-American relations of the entire cold war era but also the clearest symbol of Britain_s decline as a great power.

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