Eden then studied Oriental languages at Christ Church, Oxford University (1919–1922), before entering politics in 1923, when he was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative. Interested in foreign affairs, during 1931–1934 he was undersecretary for foreign affairs. In December 1935 he became secretary for foreign affairs in Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's government.
In May 1937 Neville Chamberlain became prime minister, and before long Eden found himself at odds with what he saw as Chamberlain's appeasement of Nazi Germany and resigned in protest in February 1938. Upon the outbreak of war in September 1939, Eden was recalled to office and took up his former post of foreign secretary in December 1940 under the coalition government of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Following the Labour Party victory in 1945, Eden served as shadow prime minister. In October 1951 he became foreign secretary for a third time when Churchill led the Conservatives to victory. As foreign secretary, Eden brokered negotiated settlements concerning Trieste and the Anglo-Iranian oil crisis, thereby helping to heal rifts in the Western alliance. On 6 April 1955, Churchill resigned and Eden replaced him. Eden's secret deal with the French and Israelis to attack Egypt and retake the recently nationalized Suez Canal led to his downfall. From the start, Eden was determined to recover control of the canal and, if at all possible, remove Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser from power.
In November 1956, without consulting any of their allies—including the United States—Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt, but they were soon forced to retreat in the face of U.S. pressure. In a private phone conversation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower lambasted Eden for taking such unilateral action, purportedly reducing the prime minister to tears. The Suez Canal thus remained in Egyptian hands, while Eden had suffered a humiliating political defeat. With his reputation in tatters and his health declining, Eden had little choice but to resign from office in January 1957. His fiasco notwithstanding, he was granted the title of Lord Avon in 1961. He wrote several volumes of memoirs while in retirement and died in Alvediston, England, on 14 January 1977.
Dutton, David. Anthony Eden: A Life and Reputation. New York: St. Martin's, 1997.; Eden, Anthony. Full Circle: The Memoirs of Sir Anthony Eden. London: Cassell, 1960.; James, Robert Rhodes. Anthony Eden. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986.; Thorpe, D. R. Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden First Earl of Avon, 1897–1977. London: Chatto and Windus, 2003.