When the Nazis conquered the continent in 1939/1940, political elites from all over Europe fled to Great Britain, last remaining safe haven of the Allies in reachable distance. Most European governments whose territory was now being occupied by Nazi Germany moved to London. Representatives of France, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Norway and Greece inhabited flats and houses in the British capital, all around Hyde Park and close to the British authorities. A significant number of them had arrived as individual refugees, but once in London, they revived their former contacts to set up the mechanics of national committees and governments-in-exile, but also to continue political collaboration on an international level. The British government and King offered symbolical and political, but also substantial technical and financial support. European cooperation was expected to strengthen the allied cause. Needless to say, this collaboration also entailed conflicts. But, for the time of the war, the European political exiles and their British counterparts were stuck with each other – and most intended to make the best of this unusual geographical proximity and collaborate closely to defeat Nazism and plan a post-war world. Thus, just as Berlin became the capital of fascist Europe, London became the capital of free Europe, the seat of almost all European governments.
This blog engages with the history of collaboration between the European governments-in-exile in London during the Second World War and between them and their host country, Great Britain. It discusses questions of international relations using the local urban study of central London during the war. A special interest is given to aspects of legal history: The legal position of governments-in-exile, the activities of international lawyers in their circles, and the discussions leading to a new international law and international juridicial system.