U.K. History - Interwar Period (1919 to 1939)

U.K. History: Interwar Period (1919 to 1939) Part I


Between the First and Second World Wars, the problems that had already arisen in the second half of the Victorian Age worsened for Great Britain and Northern Ireland: In view of the considerable deficit in modernization in the old industries (coal, steel, iron, textiles, shipbuilding) and permanent unemployment, the British took Economic empire in power. It turned out to be characteristic of Great Britain that the modernization and expansion of the economy with simultaneous social reforms were dependent on the maintenance of peace. Because the country was not able to raise the costs for an internal structural change and at the same time for the armaments. In addition, Britain was involved in almost all major trouble spots.

International position after the First World War: The Versailles Treaty 1919 brought the British Empire the surrender of the German navy, a large part of the German merchant fleet, also German East Africa, German South West Africa, parts of Cameroon and Togo, German New Guinea and most of the possessions in the South Seas as mandates of the League of Nations, in which Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with its colonial territories approved as independent members, took on a leading role. It received Iraq, Palestine and Transjordan from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire as temporary mandates. The British Empire reached its greatest territorial expansion after 1919, but for British foreign policy this meant v. a. an increased potential for conflict, whereby the reduced means of power were no longer in proportion to the global ambitions and obligations.

As a result of the shift in power that occurred during the war, Great Britain and Northern Ireland had to grant the USA the same strength of the battle fleet at the Washington Conference (1921/22) and thus renounce its traditional naval superiority. In view of Japan’s expansive policy in Asia, it gave up its alliance with him. The unification of China by Chiang Kai-shek also reduced British influence there. Great Britain and Northern Ireland kept Hong Kong as a pillar of the East Asian position and Singapore, which was strengthened as a fortress after 1924. An imperial conference (October 19-18, 1926) defined Dominion status, which was enshrined in the Westminster Statute in 1931 (British Empire and Commonwealth).

In the Middle East, Great Britain was confronted with the political activity of national movements. In Egypt z. B. found it compelled to give up protectorate rule; However, Egypt granted him the protection of the Suez Canal zone and the continuation of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium over Sudan. In 1932 the British government recognized Iraq’s independence. In the mandate of Palestine, that came through the Balfour Declaration promoted Jewish immigration to Arab resistance. Great Britain and Northern Ireland, bound by contradicting promises on both sides, had to take these Zionists, as well as the influential Zionists in America, into consideration. Therefore, the mandate over Palestine assumed in 1920 made the British government increasingly difficult. The Indian question (India, history) turned out to be unsolvable for the time being.

National development: In the elections of December 1918, which were still subject to an – albeit low – census and to which all men aged 21 and women aged 30 were entitled (a total of 21.3 million), initially received the conservatives the majority. But domestically, the war had strengthened the Labor Party at the expense of the Liberals. The Liberals lost so many voters that Great Britain and Northern Ireland reverted to the two-party system; The Labor Party had now taken the place of the Liberals for the first time. When in 1922 the coalition government of Lloyd Georges broke up, who had still succeeded in pacifying Ireland, the Conservatives alone took over the government (Prime Minister A. Bonar Law, since May 1923 S. Baldwin, Secretary of State Lord Curzon). The Baldwin government disapproved of the French occupation of the Ruhr area, but remained dependent on its French partner and acted wait and see.

However, when Baldwin wanted to give up the policy of free trade in the face of changed global economic conditions, the Conservatives lost the elections in January 1924 and the Labor Party came to power for the first time, but – since it did not have an absolute majority – could not without the support of the Liberals get along. The government supported by it under Prime Minister J. R. MacDonald tried to improve relations with France and recognized the USSR (February 1924).

After only 11 months, however, elections – under the banner of Russia policy – brought the conservatives back to power (Baldwin’s second cabinet) and decisively reduced the liberals. According to Payhelpcenter, the Conservative government broke off diplomatic relations with the USSR (May 1927) because the Soviet commercial agency in London and a front company v. a. seemed to be concerned with espionage and decomposition. The cabinet survived a coal strike (May – November 1926), which at times increased to a general strike, ended with the legal restriction of the right to strike and severely impaired the economy. In the détente brought about by G. Stresemann and A. Briand between Germany and France (Locarno agreements, 1925) Great Britain and Northern Ireland provided assistance, as did the 1929 revision of the Dawes Plan (Young Plan). It joined the Briand-Kellogg Pact (1928) with reservations.

When the Labor Party won the general election in 1929, MacDonald formed his second cabinet. In its government activities, the latter remained dependent on tolerance by the liberals. On October 1, 1929, he resumed relations with the USSR and stiffened the stance against France, which Sir A. Chamberlain (Foreign Minister 1924-29) had accommodated as far as possible. Since the global economic crisis since 1929 Great Britain and Northern Ireland drew heavily affected and increased unemployment, the Labor Party resigned in August by the government.

U.K. History - Interwar Period (1919 to 1939)