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British foreign policy 1929-1939

In 1918 WW1 came to an end, with the defeat of the central powers (Germany, Austria and Hungary). Britain was styled 'Great Britain' and it had played a major part in defeating Germany. The British Prime minister, Lloyd George, was on of the 'Big Three' leaders who led the peace talks at the Palace of Versailles. During the 1920s Britain and France took the lead in ensuring that Germany stuck to the terms of the treaty of Versailles. Together they played the key role in the running of a new organisation, designed to secure world peace - League of Nations.

In 1918 Britain controlled the World's largest overseas Empire, it included one quarter of the World's land mass, e.g. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and nearly half of Africa. During the first world war the countries of the Empire had supplied military forces which had fought in Europe for the allies. Some of these forces such as the Canadian and Australian troops had paid a heavy price. This caused a back lash and after the war many of the larger nations began to demand independence from the British Empire. Britain spent the 1920s trying to resist the rise of nationalism. It managed to do this through the formation of the British Commonwealth. 

Strengths of Britain in 1920s

  • Empire covered 13 million square land mass, so forced highly mobile and good trade/resources.
  • UK did well from post war treaties.
  • Army of 5.5 million.
  • World's largest navy.
  • Owned more money than it owned people.
  • All rivals either defeated and weakened or friendly.
  • 458 million people in empire (1/4 of the world's population).
  • Strong allies outside commonwealth e.g. France and USA
  • Strong loyalty from commonwealth.

Threats to Britain in 1920s

  • Japanese/Italian rearmament.
  • Needed peace to prosper from trade.
  • USA refused to join League of Nations.
  • Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan were not happy with Peace treaties.
  • Britain became more vulnerable to new weapons.
  • Nationalist Irish movement 1916.
  • Britain struggles to keep hold of Ireland, Iraq, Egypt and India, all proved to be very costly.
  • Britain relied heavily on the Empire during WW1.

Problems facing Britain

  • Economic Problems;
    • Britain had paid a heavy financial price for it's role in WW1. Its National debt had increased 2 fold. This increased the amount Britain spent on interest payments hence there was a growing desire throughout the 1920s to cut expenditure e.g. disarmament. 
  • Defence Problems;
    • Britain had a large Empire to protect and the 1920s saw a growing gap between Britain's global commitments and its capacity to meet them. Its defence bill fell sharply after 1918 and it adopted a policy of not renewing or upgrading its weapons. By the early 1930s the army had been reduced to under 400,000, it's naval fleet was growing old and the RAF had fallen to being the fifth largest in the world.
  • Lack of allies;
    • In 1919 the League of Nations had been proposed by President Wilson but the US congress refused permission for the US to join…

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