What impact did foreign affairs have on British Politics 1929-39?


Challenge of rise of extremist govs

  • Britain policy still determined by the Ten Year Rule (aka belief that there would not be war for at least 10 years) and foreign and domestic policy was guided by this
  • Great Depression brought about extremist governments, so Britain could not live in Splendid Isolation-> would be forced to act
  • Timeline of key events
  • 1931 Japan invades Manchuria, China
  • 1933 Germany withdraws from disarmament talks in Geneva and from the L of Nats
  • 1935 Germany begins conscription + naval expansion in defiance of the T of V (28/6/1919
  • Meanwhile, Italy invades Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
  • 1936 German troops remilitarise the Rhineland
  • 1938 Germany and Austria unite under the "Anschluss" Germany expands into the Sudetenlands of Czechoslovoakia
  • 1939 Germany seizes remainder of CZ in March, invades Poland in Sept
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Britain general response

  • Main concensus of how Britain should respond is to concede and avoid conflict at ANY cost. Traditional reliance on collective security (sanctions imposed by L of N) and deals with individual agressor countries
  • Under SB -> Anglo-German Naval Treaty 1935 allowed Germany to increase navy size despite this breaking the terms of the T of V
  • Otro ejemplo-> Hoare-Laval Pact 1935 with Italy , when Italy effectively just gets given a large chunk of Abyssinia. Some degree of outrage as Gov seen as undermining the League of Nations- Hoare even forced to resign, rare example of opposition to gov policy. Italy went on to occupy whole of Abyssinia in 1936 
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Appeasement under Chamberlain

  • Active appeasement was main foreign policy of NC, whilst also undertaking rearmament -> "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" 
  • Policy best illustrated by the fact NC flew to meet with Hitler on 3 occasions in Sept 1938 which ALLOWED Germany to annex the Sudetenland in Munich Agreement 1938, but only a vague promise from Hitler to ask for no more territorial demands. Shows the lengths to which Britain was willing to concede in order to avoid another WW on the same scale as WW1
  • Policy only changed after German occupation of Prague in March 1939- Britain then committed itself to guarantee the sovereignty of Poland (similar to that of Belgium in 1914)
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Did these policies of appeasement and collective s

  • DID! Eg, Chamberlain's Munich Agreement of 1938 was met with so much public acclaim. NC was though, a master of PR and ensured departure and return = major press occasion and newsreels of his "piece of paper" were showin in cinemas
  • Why was there general support for this policy?
  • Fear of another war, no one wanted WW1 x 2
  • People believed the League and collective security would work
  • Growing belief that the 1919 T of V was harsh on Germany and that Hitler's demands were 'reasonable' (at least up until 1939)
  • Fear of USSR and communism, Germany as buffer zone
  • Cost of rearmament too high during the time of the depressions-> money should be spent on Welfare
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Did foreign policy affect domestic policy?

  • Hardly at all. Very little division amongst parties over policy of appeasement/ rearmament. Labour more consistent supporters of appeasement whereas Cons more consistently supported Appeasement and rearmament after 1937.
  • Collective moral outrage at treatment of Abyssinia under Hoare Laval Pact 1935
  • But radical left, did oppose any drift towards war/rearmament
  • Most important impact of FP on DP= internal politics of the Cons partySmall group centred around WC urged more rapid rearmament + Churchill spoke out against the Munich Agreement and Eden (FS) resigned
  • MOST politicans and public did support appeasement right up to the outbreak of war. Even WC was willing to work with NC as part of War Cabinet after1940
  • Our view of this period coloured by Hindsight and the obvious failure of appeasement + Churchill's memoirs (The Gathering Storm) in which he claimed he was the sole opponnent of appeasement and he predicted German aggression which not not really true!!
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