Britain And Appeasement

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The League of Nations

The League in Europe

  • Focus on the concept of Collective Security following WW1.
  • Was establised in 1919 following the creation of a British Group of the same name.
  • Included four permanent members- Britain, Italy, France and Japan.
  • Germany became a member in 1926 following the Locarno Agreement. 

British Opinion

  • Throughout the 1920s, British governments had varying opinions towards the league, e.g. Ramsay MacDonald was pro-league whereas Stanley Baldwin held a more sceptical stance.
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The Treaty of Versailles- 1919


  • Lost 10% of her population and 12% of her territory (e.g. Eupen Malmedy, Saar, Alsace Lorraine, Memel, etc.)
  • The Rhineland was demilitarised and their army was reduced to 100,000 volunteers, no tanks, no planes, no submarines and only 6 battleships.
  • Lost all African and Asian colonies.
  • The economic cost of the war was £8,500m and they had to pay reparations of £6,600m.
  • They felt humiliated and entirely blamed.


  • Believed the Treaty had been too harsh and spent much of the period trying to move Germany from an opposed peace (diktat) to an agreed peace.
  • J. M. Keynes (1919 book- The Economic Consequence of the Peace) was very influential in the period due to his criticisms of the reparation payments.
  • 'The Treaty of Versailles gave Germany cause for resentment, while leaving her the wherewithall to obtain revenge.'- Harold Nicholson.
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Changing the German Attitude

The Dawes Plan- 1924

Aimed to help rebuild the German economy through use of US loans.

The Geneva Protocol- 1924

Developed by Macdonald and it aimed to make the sorting of international disputes compulsary but was abandonded by Baldwin following the general election.

The Locarno Agreement- 1925

Agreed to 3 changes to benefit the German position. 

1. Germany would be welcomed into the League in 1926.

2. Germany's western borders with France and Belgium were agreed (the eastern borders however were not).

3. There would be an early end to the demilitarised Rhineland.

The Young Plan- 1929

Aimed to settle the issue of reparations where the £6,600m payment was reduced to £2,000m over the following 59 years. It also agreed to the withdrawal of allied troops from the Rhine 5 years early.

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Issues of WW1 Disarming

Only the defeated powers had to disarm, and one of the causes of WW1 was an arms race.

The Geneva Disarmament Conference- 1932

  • Britian believed that the only was to avoid another war was through universal disarmament.
  • Britain faced both economic and military constraints and could not afford another war, so their best policy was in appeasement. They were unable to carry out unilateral disarmament due to potential attack from Communist Russia.
  • At the conference, Germany felt attacked and withdrew but were conviced to return. Therefore, one of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was to remove them from the conference.
  • It continued to 1934 with no result. 
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The Problem of Japan

The Invasion of Manchuria- 1931

  • Japan invaded Manchuria due to economic depression following the Wall St Crash, an action that guaranteed imports to Japan. By 1937, this had developed into a fullscale war between China and Japan.

British Reactions to the Invasion

Britain took little action because of...

1. Political Factors

  • Traditional allies with Japan.
  • They were a useful ally and bulwark against the USSR.
  • Britain wanted to act through the League using collective security.

2. Military Factors

  • The British navy was overstretched and focused on maintaining the Empire.
  • They were not militarily strong enough to act.
  • The Lytton Report took 1 year to conclude that Japan was in the wrong.

3. Economic Factors

  • No spare resouces due to the weakened economy from WW1 and the WSC.
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  • Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933- it is important to note that he did not forcebly take power but was elected. 
  • People all over Europe were very happy with Hitler's new position.

'Germany has a stable government at last!'- The Daily Mail. They welcomed Hitler to his new position portraying him as an important and respected figure in Europe.

The Treaty of Versailles

Hitler wanted Germany to become a revisionist power by making changes to Foreign Policy, particularly changes to the unfair treaty. This led to conflict between France and Britian who wanted to maintain the status quo in Europe. 

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Anglo-German Relations

February 1934

Eden visited Germany to discuss the issue of German rearmament, he returned to Britain with a very positive attitude. 


British rearmament was announced forcing Hitler to postpone a meeting with 2 British politicians. In this time he announced the existence of a German Air Force.

June 1935

The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed (2 months after the Stresa Front). It allowed Germany a surface fleet 35% of the size of Britain's, aswell as a submarine fleet of the same size. Britain still maintained their naval supremacy but had agreed to a formal breaking of the Treaty.

Remilitarisation of the Rhineland- 1936

In March 1936, Hitler ordered his troops to enter the Rhineland and if they faced opposition to withdraw. They faced no opposition. Hitler was 'only going into his own backgarden"- Eden's taxidriver.

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Relations with Italy


  • Mussolini became leader of Italy in 1922 and was keen to expand Italian power, particularly in Africa.
  • During the 1920s, relations were good- Italy played a key role in the League and signed many of the key pacts of the era.
  • Italy prevented German troops from entering Austria and in April 1935, the Stresa Front was signed.

The Stresa Front

  • Was signed 2 months prior to the Anglo-German Naval Agreement.
  • It was a coalition between Britian, France and Italy and was created in opposition of Hitler's intentions to rearm.


  • In order to try and prevent the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, Britain gave Italy the Ogadan Region but they refused and proceeded to invade Abyssinia in 1935.
  • Britain encouraged the League to take action but did not take any individual action, e.g they failed to close the Suez Canal allowing Italian supplies to reach Abyssinia.
  • Britain and France wanted to maintain relatively positive relations with Italy and so developed the Hoare-Laval Plan in 1935, that gave 2/3 of Abyssinia to Italy. However, this failed and Italy conquered Abyssinia in 1936.
  • Britain refused to recognise the conquest.
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939


Following the abdication of the King in 1931, the country was left to the Republicans. However, the Nationalists wanted to take power, resulting in a civil war.

International Intervention

1. The Fascist Powers- Hitler and Mussolini sent 1000s of troops to aid the Nationalist forces as they wanted to fight the spread of Communism and expand fascist power in Europe.

2. The Democracies- France and Britian did not want Spain to fall to the Soviet backed republicans or to the fascists. This resulted in the establisment of a Non-Intervention Committee that aimed to prevent international aid from reaching Spain.

3. The USSR- Sent some weapons and supplies but not as much as the Fascists- Stalin was content with Hitler's efforts being focused on W. Europe.

4. International Brigades- young people from all over the EU and USA went to fight witht he republicans as they wanted to uphold democracy.

The Results

The Nationalists took Madrid in March 1939, winning the war. Hitler's position in EU was greatly strengthened due to the new Spanish ally of General Franco.

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March 1935

German rearmament was officialy announced with the existence of a German Air Force.

November 1935

The Secret Report was carried out assessing the state of Britain's defences and it reached many worrying conclusions...

  • the navy was outdated and overstretched.
  • the army was small and lacked modern weapons, e.g. tanks.
  • the airforce lacked bombers.
  • If Italy, Japan and Germany united Britian would be unable to defend herself.

British Rearmament

  • In 1936, a naval building plan took place (but it lacked skilled workers.)
  • Britain was still reliant on munitions factories from WW1.
  • Chamberlain attempted to bring about rearmament on the cheap.
  • A cost was agreed in 1936 of £400m over 5 years.
  • In September 1939, at the emergence of the Phoney War, limits to British rearmament were lifted and conscription was put in place.
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Public Opinion on War

The 1935 Peace Ballot

11m people took part in the ballot and it reached the conclusion that the British public had great faith in Collective Security and disarmament.

PPU (People's Pledge Union)

Was set up in 1939, in opposition to war. It had 130,000 members.

Following the Spanish Civil War, general opinion began to change as the British public began to see the growing power of Hitler in Germany. They were unhappy with the appeasement of dictators. 

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The Sudetenland


  • Some 3.25m German speaking people lived in the Sudetenland (which was part of Czechoslovakia) but they were demanding greater rights, including union with Germany. The Czech president opposed this.
  • Chamberlain met with Hitler in September 1938 and it was agreed that Hitler wanted 50% of the Sudetenland. Chamberlain returned to Britain to discuss this and it was agreed that the territory would be transferred.
  • But when he returned to Germany, Hitler had decided that he wanted 100% of the Sudetenland. War seemed even closer.

The Munich Agreement- 1938

  • Was signed on 29th September by Chamberlain, Hitler, Mussolini and Daladier.
  • It signed the Sudetenland over to Germany.
  • It also agreed that Germany would not go to war against Britain.

Opinions on Munich

  • The general public and media were very positive.
  • "A total and unmittigated defeat."- Churchill.
  • Many did not like it as it seemed to be appeasing dictators.
  • Ultimately, Hitler's actions did not promote peace, e.g. Kristallnacht. 
  • Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia showed Hitler breaking both Munich and the Treaty of Versailles.
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Following The Nazi-Soviet Pact- 1939

Background to the Pact

  • Followed the unsuccessful negotiations to forming an alliance between Russia and Britain.
  • It stated that Germany and Russia would invaded Poland and then split it between them.
  • It forced Britain to make guarantees to Poland and other countries, e.g. Bulgaria. 

The Invasion of Poland- 1939

  • 1st September- Germany invaded Poland and Britain attempted to put pressure on them to withdraw.
  • 3rd September- Chamberlain sent a 2 hour ultimatum to Hitler to withdraw but he did not. War was declared.

The Phoney War- 1939

  • Was the 5 month period following the declaration of war when nothing happened- "Hitler had missed the bus."-Chamberlain.
  • April 1939- Germany occupied Denmark and attacked Norway. Britian attempted to put up some resistance but failed.
  • Rearmament was increased and conscription introduced.


Chamberlain resigned in May.

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