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Britain And France's Efforts To Prevent The Second World War

1199 words - 5 pages

In the interwar period, Britain and France alike other nations, feared another war. Public opinion was widespread in that war should and could be avoided through negotiation and disarmament. Britain and France had disarmed considerably since the First World War, whereas, Germany would come to remilitarise flouting the Treaty of Versailles. Morally, the majority of the public and policy makers believed in the notion of self-determination of foreign nations and for Britain in particular some hoped for a much larger defensive stance based on a more isolationist scope outside of European affairs. Leading up until the invasion of Poland 1939, no policy leader, although France had a better idea than Britain, knew what Hitler’s objectives were and perceived that once Germany had reclaimed what it had lost under the Treaty of Versailles, Germany would end its annexation, it was not understand in the lead up years that Germany desired to dominate Europe.

Morality played a significant part in the adoption of appeasement in 1938. Although the Treaty of Versailles was at first seen as just, at a later date many in Britain perceived the treaty as immoral and as a way for France to cripple Germany. Not only did this create Franco phobia in Britain but it also created a pro-German stance across Britain for instance religious groups at first saw the treaty as fair but ultimately saw it as unchristian. Therefore, not only did it lessen the ties between Britain and France on a moral standing but it also allowed Britain to rationalise that the fascist Germany was only trying to regain what was lost in the treaty and at the same time safeguard themselves against economic depressions. The moral viewpoint then was further amplified by the belief at this time in self-determination and that if Germans living in Austria or Czechoslovakia wanted to unite with Germany then that should be allowed. Furthermore, it is important to note that the majority of the public in Britain and France supported appeasement in 1938 and believed that Germany would eventually become peaceful. Appeasement then was adopted to allow what Britain perceived as justly Germany’s right, ergo to gain German speakers into Germany’s orbit and to try to gain some prestige which it has lost under the treaty. It was not Britain or France’s right to deny German speakers a unification with its home nation and thus, morality would prevent an attack on Germany that could not be defended under pacifist ideals.

Although the British public did not like that Germany was essentially dictating to a small Czechoslovakia, Britain did not have a treaty with them to defend them unlike France. Britain rationalised that as the First World War had begun in a European nation that was not tied to Britain, the second would also be created in Europe that was not tied to Britain in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain then said ‘of which we know nothing’. Similarly, Britain was debating whether a move towards isolationism and the...

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