Collapse of the League of Nations

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How important were appeasement and the collapse of the League of Nations as causes of the Second World War?

The appeasement policy in 1933-1939 towards Nazi Germany introduced by the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and also supported by France together with the collapse of the League of Nations were crucial for the start of the Second World War in September 1939 when A. Hitler invaded Poland. These were the two factors that contributed greatly to the cause of the war as the appeasement policy constantly gave opportunities for Hitler to seize power in Europe and convinced him that Britain and France were not yet ready start a war against Germany and feared the Reich. Further, the numerous failures of the League of Nations to keep peace both in Europe and in Asia through the objective of collective security, encouraged Hitler to take an open aggressive foreign policy and break the terms of the Treaty of Versailles by starting to rearm in 1933 and invading the territories taken by the treaty from her in the period of 1936-39 which eventually lead to a war.        

The importance of the policy of appeasement for the start of the Second World War has always been debatable among historians. Some historians such as R.J. Overy in the “Origins of the Second World War” published in 1987 take the view that the policy of appeasement made sense in the context of the atmosphere in the mid 1930s when Europe’s economy was devastated by the Great Depression and public opinion down most of the countries aimed to avoid any conflicts that can lead to war. On the other side, historians such as A.J.P. Taylor in the “Origins of the Second World War” published in 1961 argues that the appeasement policy served positively to encourage Hitler in his expansionist plans.

Since the end of the First World War in 1918, America’s policy of isolation towards any affairs outside her borders as its economy was badly destroyed by the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and West’s isolation towards the USSR due to fear of the spread of communism, Britain and France were the two leading nations in Europe and also in the world as they chaired the League of Nations. In the period between 1933 and 1939 Britain and France refused to use force to stop aggression and accepted the policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany. This policy seemed right for the context of the current atmosphere in Europe which was economically and socially shaken by the Great Depression and the previous war. Also with the absence of one of the world’s powers the U.S.  and based on the assumption that Mussolini and Hitler were reasonable politicians Chamberlin’s idea of appeasement sounded as a reasonable policy. After all, many British people were in support of it as they wanted peace, agreed that the Treaty of Versailles was not fear towards Germany and felt that events in Europe were not Britain’s business.    

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The policy of appeasement began as Britain and France did not stop Germany to rearm in 1933. Moreover Britain even made a naval agreement with her in 1935 without consulting with her allies. The agreement stated that Germany promises to keep her navy 35% of the strength of the British one. This was one of the first acts that gave Hitler hope that he would be able to fulfil his aim of destroying the terms of the Versailles Treaty which was his main objective even before coming to power.  

Moreover, the appeasement policy used in 1936 by Britain and ...

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