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To what extent did British public opinion deter British Governments from standing up to Hitler and Mussolini in the years 1933-37?

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Introduction

To what extent did British public opinion deter British Governments from standing up to Hitler and Mussolini in the years 1933-37? In the years 1933-37 both Germany and Italy became more aggressive in their foreign policy. Hitler, who came to power in Germany 1933, was set on destroying the Treaty of Versailles; this was clear from passages of his book 'Mein Kampf' and in October 1933 Germany withdrew from the Disarmament Conference and then from the League. Hitler then went on to announce the reintroduction of conscription in March 1935 and she soon had an army of 500,000 and an air force, both of which were forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. Italy was also in a similar position; In October 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia. In this period we see Britain take up the policy of appeasement; maintaining the peace by making concessions to the aggressors. All of the British Governments at this time opted for appeasement. In their Manifestos at the General Election they all state the importance of the League and all comment that the League and the use of collective security should be used to deal with any future problems. British opinion had a large impact on the policies taken up by the British Governments, we can see from events such as the East Fulham by-election of October 1933 where a Conservative ...read more.

Middle

However these were not the only factors affecting the British Governments decision to uptake a policy of appeasement. The military were weak; the 10-year rule established in August 1919 that stated that defence spending would be based on the prediction that there wouldn't be another war for 10 years had led to a progressive reduction in defence spending. The Treasury had also advised that a large increase in defence spending would divert an already insufficient supply of skilled industrial workers into the armaments industry, damage the revival of important export and consumer industries and increase inflation. They suggested that to maintain a stable domestic economy defence spending would be set on specific priorities. Therefore the suggestions made by the Treasury supported the policy of appeasement. As well as not being able to increase their defences it was also found that the defence they currently had was not adequate; the British Government commissioned a secret report on the British National defence and found that the Royal Navy was incapable of defending the Empire and British trade, the Army was too small and poorly equipped to help France against a German attack and that the Royal Air Force had few bombers or fighter planes and inadequate air defence systems. ...read more.

Conclusion

This meant that Britain was essentially on her own and it was clear her defences on their own could not stop Germany and Italy. In conclusion although we can see that public opinion did have an influence on the British Government's decision to appease Germany and Italy it is difficult to assess how much influence it had as it was difficult to understand the public's opinion. At this time as public polls were only just starting during the 1930's and those which were held show that the public opinion wasn't in favour of appeasement, it was actually in support of dealing with issues through collective security and the League of Nations. We also see public opinion changing from March 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia as the majority of the British public now supported the creation of a military alliance between Britain, France and the USSR to stop Germany. Therefore I feel that public opinion was only a small factor which deterred British Governments from standing up to Hitler and Mussolini in the years 1933-1937. I feel a more influential issue was the weakness of the military as this produced doubt as to whether we could stand up to Germany and Italy. No Government would take their country into War if they felt they could not win and therefore we had little alternative but to appease Germany if we wanted to avoid conflict. ...read more.

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