Examine the main factors which led British governments to follow a policy of ‘appeasement’ in the period of 1931-1938

There are many reasons why Britain followed a policy of appeasement during 1931-38, but one of the main reasons is Britain wanted to avoid going to war. After World War I the British public were shocked about such things like trench warfare, the Battle of the Somme (thousands of men lost their lives for a few miles of land) and as soldiers back then were encouraged to train, join and fight with friends, many villages lost their young men.

Politicians such as Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin had witnessed the Great War and had lost relatives close to them and weren’t willing to go through the same experience again.Also we know that public opinion was against war because in 1933, the Oxford University voted that it would not fight for King and Country. Also in 1935, the Peace Pledge Union held a nationwide poll to determine what was the public view on disarmament and 92.5% of the people said that they favoured disarmament.Also after World War I Britain was losing grip on its empire because such countries such as India were giving it problems. Also its military was scattered everywhere so it was weak everywhere and strong nowhere.

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So if Britain had to go war it would lose control of its empire. Britain knew it had expenses to pay after the First World War and in 1923 the Wall Street Crash occurred which led to World Depression and this didn’t help the British economy one bit. Also after the First World War, Britain owed the USA �1.365 billion and the national debt had risen to �7.435 billion.Britain knew that its dominions, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, wouldn’t support her if she went to war and its allies such as France, who were thought to be unreliable and to have had an unstable government. France’s military preparations were largely defensive and its army was weak.

The USA had followed a policy of isolationism and therefore were not willing to take part in European affairs.Also many people in Britain felt some sympathy for the Germans who seem to be getting a stable government and country. Many British people thought the Versailles Treaty was unfair and Germans were allowed to take back areas such as the Rhineland. The Versailles Treaty had been a compromise agreement between the allies and Germany, which pleased no one, and Germany had been forced to sign a War guilt clause that basically meant that they took the blame for the whole war. Also Germany’s army had been limited to a hundred thousand men, their navy was taken away and so was their airforce. None of their troops were allowed near the Rhineland, which was meant to humiliate the Germans even more.

Also Hitler’s attacks on German communists had won him strong support inside and outside Germany as well.Also many people and politicians thought that if Germany prospered then the Russian Communists weren’t likely to come further into Europe and some had a few that if Britain left Germany alone so they could ‘control’ East European countries which prevented the expansion of communism. Also many people in Britain were unaware of what was going on in Nazi Germany and were more concerned with the Russians, so they were ready to turn a blind eye to Germany’s aggressiveness. Also Bolshevik Russia propaganda was aimed at inciting revolts in capitalist countries and hopefully turning them communist.The Russians were the ultimate threat to the British although Russia had been had ally of Britain’s in the First World War.

Even if Britain had decided to turn to the Russia, the Russians couldn’t have helped that much because she was isolationist and Stalin was concentrating on industrial development. This ‘industrial development’ involved killing lots of innocent civilians and many soldiers from the army, which caused the Russians army to be weak.Chamberlain decided that if there was going to be a war then he would have to buy time to build up the British military. The army was small because Britain is an island so the people thought they needed a large navy to protect its seas. Also British politicians kept a policy of disarmament after the Great War, so the public would start asking questions if the government decided there was going to be a large increase on military spending because things like social welfare were more important and so it was vital that Britain had time to rearm steadily.One of the main fears of Britain was aerial bombing because the German airforce, the Luftwaffe, was very strong and effective whereas Britain’s airforce was weak. The RAF told Chamberlain they wouldn’t be ready until 1939 and so he had to but time by appeasing. Also British politicians overestimated the number of casualties that would occur in London, in the first week, so the fear was greater if there was to be a war.

A reason why many British people had feared bombing is because of what happened in the Spanish Civil War, in Guernica and Madrid, where many innocent civilians had been killed.Another reason why Britain followed appeasement was because the League of Nations was absolutely useless and ineffective. In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria and the League of Nations didn’t do anything. Also in 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia and the League of Nations imposed weak sanctions on Italy, but didn’t include oil. Chamberlain could have known that the aggressors realized that the League of Nations, would in fact do nothing and Britain was weak, so it was under threat of invasion.

One of the main reasons why Britain did follow a policy of appeasement is because the policy had a lot of support, not just from the people, but from many politicians as well. Chamberlain believed in active appeasement and as he was Chancellor of the Exchequer (1931-1937) and so he knew what a war could do financially to Britain. He was also the Primeminister, from 1937-1940, and he believed in the reasonableness of all men and was on a mission to secure European Peace.

Appeasement was also supported by Lord Halifax (Foreign Secretary), Sir Samuel Hoare (Home Secretary), Sir John Simon (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and also the Conservative Party.The Cliveden Set supported appeasement, and one of its members Lord Astor, owned the times, which was a very popular paper and therefore influenced the way the public viewed appeasement. All of these government officials supported the policy of appeasement, backed by the majority of the public and therefore Chamberlain probably thought he would have to try his utmost to avoid war with Germany.All of these different factors such as buying time to build up the military, to not having a repeat of the First World War left no doubt in the minds of British people, that it would be logical to support appeasement.