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Examine the main factors which led British Governments to follow a policy of 'appeasement' in the period 1931-38

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Examine the main factors which led British Governments to follow a policy of 'appeasement' in the period 1931-38 Appeasement was the foreign policy of Britain adopted during the 1930s. It was the policy of Britain to negotiate with the dictators, and grant concessions in order to avoid war. Appeasement was followed by successive governments from Baldwin and Macdonald to Chamberlain. Appeasement prevailed in the period 1931-39 as the foreign policy of Britain because it had so few critics and aroused public support. The horrors of the First World War were still a bitter personal memory for many and British citizens feared the threat of bombing, which became even stronger from 1936 onwards, following the German bombing of the defenceless population of the Spanish town of Guernica, during the Spanish Civil War. This attack had left 1,600 men, women and children dead and sent shock waves around the world. In 1933 at the Oxford Union Debate it was declared that it would not fight for King and Country if called upon. Again, in the Peace Pledge Union Ballot in 1935, 92.35% of those who voted favoured universal disarmament by international decision. Many also believed that Germany had been harshly treated at Versailles. ...read more.


This was a real problem when the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931. The depression in 1930 led to instability in the world's markets. Trade collapsed as countries put up trade barriers. Countries turned to a more nationalist approach, in particular Japan, Italy and Germany. They looked towards other counties to get their resources, both Italy and Germany needed oil, and Japan needed many raw materials. Because Japan needed these raw materials, and trade between them and America was banned, the Japanese Army-based dictatorship looked towards Manchuria for these resources and the Chinese were too weak to resist the following attack. Japan annexed Manchuria, and when China protested to the League of Nations, a commission was sent to find out what was going on there. However, because the commission had to travel by boat, it took almost a year for them to return their report. Japan simply left the League, and in 1937, they invaded the rest of China. The attack by Japan proved to the rest of the world, particularly Hitler and Mussolini that the League was not powerful enough to deal with major countries. The dictators saw that the League preferred to follow a policy of appeasement, rather than using force to apply sanctions. ...read more.


It permitted Hitler to rearm from 1933, re-militarise the Rhineland in 1936 and achieve the Anschluss in 1938. Britain considered these acts justifiable. Faced with Hitler's demands, that Germany should acquire the outer border of Czechoslovakia in which 3,500,000 of the inhabitants spoke German, Chamberlain went several times to meet Hitler, the last on September 30, 1938, when he and the French prime minister flew to Munich. From there Chamberlain returned waving his notorious piece of paper, declaring that he had secured "peace in our time". This treaty is known as the Munich Pact. It secured the acceptance by Great Britain and France of the demand by Hitler that the Sudetenland, was to be given to Germany, which it bordered. However within six months of the signing the Munich Pact, the German army was in Prague and Czechoslovakia had ceased to exist as German troops marched into claim Czechoslovakia and subsequently made most of the country a German city state, therefore reversing the Munich Pact and arousing British suspicions of Hitler's dishonesty. For many Western nations the Munich Pact became the symbol of appeasement. In many ways Chamberlain was the most honourable of the appeasers, naive but not lacking courage. His views would not have prevailed if they had not had the support of the vast majority of the politically powerful and had not caught the public mood. Ramesh Kanesan - UVC ...read more.

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