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To what extent was British foreign policy in the 1920s based on illusions?

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To what extent was British foreign policy in the 1920s based on illusions? When discussing Britain's foreign policy in the 1920s, it is important to remember that British politicians were forced to respond to the real and potential actions of a wide variety of powers. Indeed, non-Britons, as well as the Prime minister, Parliament, and public opinion, largely determined foreign policy. In this light, what first appeared to be foolish political errors might actually have been fully justified decisions. For example, British conduct at the Treaty of Versailles has been widely criticised; Lloyd George, the prime minister at the time, was accused of being too soft in his attempts to ease the harsh terms France wished to impose, and of ignoring his Cabinet's advice. Lloyd George talked hard, but this was merely an effort to please the voters back home, and this has led to historians branding him a political chameleon. ...read more.


France's invasion of the Ruhr in 1923 merely strengthened Prime Minister Balfour's argument that the French were over-reacting to the threat of Germany. Historians often criticise British Foreign policy for being too optimistic. British politicians accepted the view that the Locarno Pact of 1926 had succeeded in solving the 'German question' without hesitation, despite Gustav Stesemann's demands for further concessions to Germany. In addition to this, Britain still remained unwilling to back East Germanyy's borders, and her guarantee to enforce the Western frontiers was little more than an empty gesture. Yet Chamberlain's approach to foreign affairs was not entirely unjustified. The Prime Minister realised that public opinion would have been against him, should he have chosen to use strong-arm military tactics. Britain was also more concerned with maintaining her vast overseas empire, rather than providing the troublesome French with the security they desperately desired. Chamberlain was therefore fully prepared to co-operate with Gustav Stresemann and the Germans, believing them to be, generally, peaceful and respectable. ...read more.


However, as foolish as this may seem, Britain did have good cause for supporting the League. With over 50 members, an attack on the LON did seem to be highly improbable. The LON union, in the 1920s, was also proving to be a highly effective pressure group. Britain even attempted to solve the problem of the lack of LON armed forces with the Geneva protocol in 1923, though by 1925 this had been abandoned by the new Conservative government. British foreign policy in this case was ultimately determined by how much potential the League appeared to have. Britain's politicians judged how strong the LON was, and responded accordingly. Their belief that the League was effective, or at least could be effective, is therefore completely justified. Britain was aware of the lack of military strength and commitment from the other states, and there were few politicians who realistically believed in the League's efficiency- hence, they concentrated on the Empire, which in the 1920s seemed to be a far more valuable asset, both economically and militarily. ...read more.

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