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Why did Britain and France pursue a policy of appeasement? Was it successful?

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Introduction

Why did Britain and France pursue a policy of appeasement? Was it successful? In the late 1930s Britain, under Neville Chamberlain, and her ally France adopted a policy of appeasement. This meant that they wanted to keep the peace and avoid entering a war at any cost, even if it meant making concessions towards potential aggressors, particularly Germany ruled by the dictator Adolf Hitler. Britain and France adopted and pursued this policy for a variety of reasons, though it was eventually abandoned in September 1939. Appeasement was hugely popular amongst the British and French public. The suffering of the Great War was still very much in living memory and people wanted to avoid repeating it at all costs. There was also a fear that because of the advances in technology if there was a war it would be much more horrific than the previous one. The British and French governments knew that if they got involved in a war there would be a huge public outcry, so they pursued a policy of appeasement. As well as being unpopular war was also expensive. Following the depression Britain and France were in poor economic health. Even if they had wanted to fight a war it would have been unlikely that they could have afforded it. ...read more.

Middle

They believed that if they pursued appeasement and didn't go to war with Germany then Germany would provide defence against the spread of communism. In conclusion Britain and France pursued a policy of appeasement in the late 1930s for a variety of reasons. Public opinion was very much against war, as the horror of the first one was still in living memory. Britain and France could not afford to fight a war; they were more concerned with the social situation in their own countries, and with protecting their empires. They also saw it as unnecessary as they believed Hitler was just trying to unite German speaking people, and the breaking of the terms of the treaty of Versailles didn't matter as it was too harsh on Germany anyway. Britain and France also felt that the might need Germany as a defence against Russian communism. As Britain and France did eventually go to war in 1939 many saw appeasement as a failure. However this was not necessarily the case. Britain was not ready for a war before 1939. She did not have the money or the forces. By pursuing a policy of appeasement until 1939 Chamberlain bought Britain time to strengthen her forces, particularly the air force. The extra aircraft that were produced later became vital to Britain in the war, by the end of 1939 Britain had more aircraft than Germany. ...read more.

Conclusion

Though with hindsight a war seemed inevitable at the time Britain and France were unsure of Hitler's intentions, and therefore believed that by pursuing appeasement they could keep the peace. In conclusion, it is easy to say with hindsight that the policy of appeasement was a failure, but it did have some successes, for example it gave the British time to build up their forces. It was also the case at the time that people underestimated Hitler's desires, and believed that war could be avoided, hence were desperate to do so. However appeasement could have been considered more successful if it had been brought to a halt earlier. Appeasement was a successful policy whilst Britain and France still believed that Hitler only wanted to unite German speaking people. However when he invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia it became clear that his intentions were far greater, which clearly suggested appeasement was not going to be the solution. Though going to war at this point would have meant Britain and France had less forces than they did in 1939 they would have had the advantage of the Czechs and the Russians as allies so the lack of weapons would not have been such a disadvantage. Therefore appeasement was a successful policy in the beginning but ended up as a failure because it was allowed to continue too long. If it had been stopped earlier it would have been considered successful throughout the course of its application. Lula Teunissen, 11H 07/05/07 ...read more.

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