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

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Why did Britain and France pursue a policy of appeasement? Was it successful? Appeasement is defined as "a disposition to avoid conflict by judicious concession and negotiation" and it became a key part of Britain and France's foreign policy in the 1930s with the lead up to World War 2 and Hitler's steady rise to power. There is no one reason why Britain and France followed this policy, however it is a combination of reasons all inter-linked and very much based on the people and government of the time. In the aftermath of World War 1, a mutual understanding developed between the British government and society that never again should such a catastrophe occur; it was described as the "war to end all wars", reinforcing the view that it was a cataclysmic event which should never happen again. The frightful events of world war one had instilled a sense of fear and regret amongst British society, and consequently Britain's aim was to prevent any future war, through whatever means necessary. The British public became disillusioned with the use of force in international relations and, as a result, sought an approach consisting of an effective system of collective security through the League of Nations. In post war society anti-war books, films (e.g. ...read more.


His supposed strength was emphasised through the use of propaganda and his forces' well publicised parades. Partly due to severe losses in World War 1 France was very short of man power and thus Britain and France felt too weak to tackle Germany alone. Because of the Rome-Berlin Axis Italy was no longer supporting Britain and France against Germany and as the USA also had a strong isolationist foreign policy and had made it clear that it would not intervene militarily in Europe to support Britain and France. Thus both Britain and France did not feel confident enough of victory in another (expected) war of attrition with Germany. However Hitler did not stop there, and by the end of 1938 Austria was taken by the German Reich (empire), and Hitler was demanding the Sudetenland (half of Czechoslovakia largely populated by German speaking people). Britain and France had done little to date to stop German expansion, fearing a return to world war. They then signed the Munich Agreement making Hitler promise that he would take no more land after the Sudetenland (Hitler said at the time that the Sudetenland was: "the last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe"). In March of 1939 Hitler broke the pact and took the rest of Czechoslovakia. ...read more.


In 1932 the British MP, Stanley Baldwin, declared that "I think it is well for the man on the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed.........the bomber will always get through." Fear of aerial bombing was one of the stronger reasons why Britain decided to follow this policy. In conclusion, many people in Britain and France admired Hitler's achievements especially in the spheres of economic policy. To some extent there was support of fascism. France had steadily lost allies: Italy, Russia and Czechoslovakia ("Czech freedom is not worth a drop of blood") as a result of Hitler's successful foreign policy initiatives during the 1930's. It is difficult to judge the policy and its effectiveness with hindsight as we know what the British public and government did not know: that the policy would lead to world war. At the time, the governments of Britain and France were more concerned with the pressing economic problems inside their own countries (recession, inflation, unemployment) than with stopping Hitler. Those who opposed later claimed: "we have eaten dirt in vain", expressing the fact that Britain had tolerated the deceitful acts of Germany to no avail or success. Appeasement did give Britain time to re-arm, and it is only now that we can see other options, though at the time the British public and government did not want to engage in war under any circumstances. Katie Taylor 11H November 17th, 03 ...read more.

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