The Great Depression and Onwards

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The Great Depression

  • Britain's trade fell by 40%
  • Britain forced to come off the Gold Standard which devalued the pound below the US dollar. 
  • By 1932 over 20% of the British workforce was unemployed. 
  • Britain would have preferred international co-operation to help releive the Depression as Britain depended on world trade. However, the Depression made many countries think of themselves. This led to Britain introducing a Import Duties Act in February 1932 which placed a 10% tax on many imported goods, except those coming in from the British Empire. At the Ottawa Conference in July 1932, Britain and the Dominions agreed to an imperial economic bloc, protecting the trade by a series of quotas and import duties. 
  • National government wanted to reduce the amount spent on defence as a means of improving the economy. The Left didn't see a point in spending money on rearmament as it would cause war rather than prevent it. The Liberals and Labour rejected the use of force as an instrument of policy and presisted for disarmament. 
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Examples of Public Opinion during the 1930's

  • 1933 Oxford Union where 273 of the 157 that 'this house would not fight for King and Country'
  • October 1933-East Fulham By-Election. A Conservative candidate who advocated increase defence spending and a pacifist Labour candidate. A Conservative majority of 14,000 was transformed into a Labour majority of 5,000. 
  • Increase in the amount of anti-war literature which shoed the wastefulness and the futility of war. 
  • Growth in strength of organisation such as National Peace Council, League of Nation Union and the Peace Pledge Union. 
  • Peace Ballot done in 1934 published in 1935. It was conducted to show the government that amount of support the League had in Britain as it seemed as though they weren't taking the principles of the League seriously. Also, public believed the government was using the League for their own interest. The Peace Ballot was only possible because of the half a million volunteers which helped-mainly women who appreciated the oppurtunity to have their voices be heard. John Simon criticised the peace ballot due to the part about private arm trade and called in socialist bias. 
  • 11.6 million people voted. 88% of them being being over the age of 18. The 'no' voters were made to boycott the votes which caused the inflation of the yes votes. The percentage for the first question was 96% which supported the League of Nation and disarmament. 
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How did Public Opinion affect the Government?

  • The Public were disillusioned that economic sanctions could deter an agression and that collective security meant that Britain would not be involved in European Affairs. 
  • Additionally, the public weren't clear on international affairs. 
  • Baldwin changed his policy to make it appear as though the government was upholding the League so he downplayed the British needed for rearmament. 
  • He called for the October 1935 electrion before the public became aware of the limitation and weakness of British foreign policy. 
  • The National governement didn't want to give the Liberals or Labour the advantage so adhere to the principles  of disarmament and international co-operation through the League of Nation as an alternative to rearmament, but nobody believed in rearming to support the League. 
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The Effect of the Great Depression Internationally

  • World Disarmament Conference (Geneva, 1932): Arthur Henderson, an ex-British foreign secretary who was the conference President. Germany wanted equality whereas France wouldn't allow this without the confirmation of security despite having one of the strongest military army. Therefore it was impossible to find a middle ground between Germany and France. 
  • Lausannce Conference (June 1932): MacDonald wanted to deal with some of Germany's grievances. Germany was in a dire economic probelm and 5,000,000 people in Germany were unemployed. It was agreed that Germany was make a final payment of 2.6 million to a European Reconstruction Fund and then the reparations payments would be abolished. The Lausanne Conference was the last example of collective diplomacy which had occured during the 1920's due to the change in the political climate. Collective security had suited British interest  as it maintained the status quo. 
  • Countries like the USA became more peaceful wheras other countries such as Germany and Japan, the depression undermined democracies and introduced government who believed that the foreign conquests of land, market and raw materials to help with their own economy. 
  • However, Britains trust in disarmament, collective security  and cut back in military spending meant that Hitler was not prepared for what it faced. 
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What were Hitler's aim?

  • Wanted to reverse the Treaty of Versaille such as the end to the rearmament constrictions  and the right to remilitarise the Rhineland. 
  • Exapnd their Eastern borders to gains Lebensraun. 
  • Wanted to destroy communism
  • Germany growing power affected the balance of power in Europe, however Hitler spoke of being allies with Britain. Therefore, Germany's interest seem to lie in Eastern Europe rather than Central Europe and his main enemy was the USSR. Germany would be a great buffer against the USSR expansion. A war between Germany and Russia wouldn't be a bad things when concerned with British interest. 
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Hitler's action

  • Hitler expressed admiration for Britain and hopes that the two great Germanic nations could work together. 
  • October 1933- Germany withdraws from the World Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations as the great powers couldn't decide whether to treat Germany as equal. Without Germany there, the Conference breaks down as no useful agreement could be reached. 
  • In 1932- Hitler signs a Non-Agression Pact with Poland who had originally been their arch-enemy. 
  • Hitler didn't nothing to help the Austrian Nazi's in the Austrian putsch in 1934. 
  • From 1933-1934, Germany was secretly arming.
  • March 1935, Hitler annouched that conscriptions had been introduced, the army had increased to 500,000. 
  • Saar was returned to Hitler in a plebsicte after the League having this area for 15 years. 
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Opinions of the British government

  • The DRC reported in 1934 that Germany was a threat and long range defence policy was required. 
  • However, many believed that Hitler would become less extreme now that he was Chancellor and only saw for the equality of Europe rather than the hegemony of Europe. 
  • There was great sympathy for German's grievances so there should be a greater effort to deal with them. 
  • Some hoped that Hitler would not be able to deal with the economic problems and lose power. 
  • Assumed that it would take a long time for Hitler to recover the economy. Some though that Britain should help Germany which was supported by the Bank of England and the Board of Trade. If Germany became prosperous again, this would give many benefits to Britain which could heal the wound of the pass and produce an international atmosphere of friendship and understanding. 
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