• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent is it fair to describe the foreign policy of MacDonald and Baldwin as one of 'drift'?

Extracts from this document...


To what extent is it fair to describe the foreign policy of MacDonald and Baldwin as one of 'drift'? The international context of MacDonald and Baldwin's Britain is important in assessing their competence. At a time when dictatorships and fascist rulings were becoming more popular, and consequently more threatening to global peace, MacDonald was seen as a 'spent force; whose lack of power left him incapable of opposing Hitler by the time he became aggressive,. Likewise, Baldwin was not a suitable politician to address the international threats. He did not show much interest in foreign affairs and preferred to 'preside over' rather than direct his cabinet. Foreign policy was seen as one of 'drift' because of the limited nature of Britain's involvement overseas. The forming of alliances is a central facet of foreign policy, and Britain's inability to form many strong connections was partly due to Baldwin's and MacDonald's poor judgement and decision-making skills. No resolute or coherent strategy was followed throughout the inter-war period. Fascist takeovers such as the invasions of Abyssinia and Manchuria, weakened the League considerably, and Britain's insubstantial reinforcement of the League's power made future conflict more likely as the threat of the League was severely reduced. ...read more.


Britain's pursuing of two contradictory policies (Pressurize Italy to accept sanctions whilst seeking a compromise solution) failed, revealing the British government as seemingly incompetent. The Spanish Civil War was treated by Britain with similar ambivalent, non-interventionist policies, chiefly the 'Gentleman's Agreement' which accepted status quo with Mussolini in 1937, helped make forming any future anti-fascist alliance difficult. Russia consequently became increasingly distrustful of France and Britain because of their failure to prevent German and Italian support for the Spanish Nationalists. The League of Nations was revealed as weak and useless - a legitimate Spanish government had been overthrown. The mutual suspicions between Russia, France and Britain made a anti-fascist front even more unlikely. Although throughout the 1920's, it was unclear how much of a threat Hitler was, by 1933, his elevation to Chancellor meant to most the dropping of German appeasement which had been previously justified as an attempt to support a democratic republic. However from 1933-35, the government showed little enthusiasm for active appeasement, despite Nazi foreign policies showing a certain moral flexibility, the brutality of the 'Night of the Long Knives' or the lack of pacific motivation behind the introduction of conscription or existence of the Luftwaffe for example. ...read more.


Complete reliance on peace-keeping of League of Nations, collective security through a series of regional alliances or appeasement. The League was seriously undermined by Britain's detached attitude and its consequent defeat in the Abyssinia and Manchuria crisis's. Alliances were seen by the public as one of the main reasons for WW1, and with the governments increasing reliance of the public's vote, they had to adopt a similar attitude in their policies. Also, alliances were uncoordinated and weak during the inter-war period, with double dealings (Naval Agreement) and surprising matches (Anti-Comintern Pact). SO despite being marked out as the main causes of WW2 and Hitler's ascension to Fuhrer, it seemed to be the only option left open to British politicians. Whether this is a result of an era of foreign 'drift' is debatable, however MacDonald and Baldwin's refusal to face some League-weakening conflicts, and the undertaking passive German appeasement does seem to out-weigh their measured actions, such as the disarmament talks and attempts at forming allies. The overall outcome of almost twenty years of this compromising foreign policy was grim, Britain had few allies, and faced three dictators - whose strength had grown due to British conciliation and isolation - with no US aid or reinforcement of a now shattered League. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Why did the League of Nations fail?

    5 star(s)

    The short-term or 'trigger' causes were: i. The Wall Street crash on October 26th 1929 and the ensuing depression. ii. Hitler's ascension to power in 1933. iii. Japan and Italy turning openly aggressive as a result of the above. The Wall Street crash meant the collapse of the American economy and it's surrounding industry.

  2. "Foreign success; domestic failure." How fair is this summary of Bismarck's governance of Germany

    By the late 1870s German landowners and industrialists were clamouring for protective tariffs, by declaring protectionist policies, Bismarck could win influential support. Bismarck saw the opportunity to break with the National Liberals and broaden his support, after the 1878 elections, when the National Liberals had lost some 30 seats.

  1. Hitlers Germany

    It hangs over the Germans, obscuring the past and clouding the future. Even the assertion of minimal national pride has been a problem for Germans because it has frequently evoked paranoia abroad about the rise of a "Fourth Reich." In fact, the Historikerstreit quickly expanded beyond its German forum when foreign pundits began to inject their own tendentious opinions.

  2. Was appeasement the only option open to Britain in 1938-1939?

    proper force to back up the overly reasonable concessions made, it quickly became Hitler's tool for the destruction of Czechoslovakia and the start of World War II. The policy itself relied upon the notion that the existing territorial disputes in Europe could be met without resorting to even the threat of violence.

  1. Why was the league so ineffective in dealing with the Abyssinian Crisis?

    Abyssinia would be split up with Italy getting the fertile lands and a large area to the south would be reserved for Italian economic advancement. Neither Italy nor Abyssinia was involved in these "talks". These "talks" were then leaked to the press.

  2. Why was the league so ineffective in dealing with the Abyssinian Crisis?

    The whole idea of the league was to stop aggressors and yet here they were trying to come to some sort of deal with them. Because of these meetings Mussolini thought that both Britain and France wouldn't object at

  1. Was Appeasement Justified?

    This doesn't necessarily mean the source is weak as there are some factual aspects but as I have said it will be vary pro Chamberlain. It makes the point that the Munich Agreement was very popular with the public and that Chamberlain was carrying on 'traditional diplomacy'.

  2. britaina nd disarmament

    The Locarno treaty is an example of foreign policy at its most successful in ensuring international harmony in Europe. The treaty was crafted by Gustav Streseman, the German Foreign Affairs Minister, and in early 1925 the idea was put to the British.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work