U.K. History - Interwar Period (1919 to 1939) 2

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


At the urging of King George V, MacDonald took over a coalition government (National Government) in August 1931, which granted powers and on September 21, 1931, removed the pound from the gold standard, which had hitherto been regarded as an immovable pillar of the world economy. The October elections gave this largely conservative government a major victory (473 seats in parliament for the Conservatives); only 52 opposition Labor representatives and 33 liberals entered the lower house. Due to the economic situation, the old free trade policy has now been abandoned and that already at the turn of the century by J. Chamberlain propagated principle of protective tariffs largely realized. The Import Duties Act (February 29, 1932) protected the British market; the Ottawa Imperial Conference (July – August 1932) put a system of mutual preferential tariffs into effect within the Commonwealth. The economic crisis (about 3 million unemployed in 1932) was brought to a standstill by an economic policy of cheap money without inflation and by a wave of construction. An armament program was added in 1936/37 (about 1.5 million unemployed at the start of the war). The coalition government, which since 1935 with S. Baldwin and since 1937 with A. N. Chamberlain When the prime minister was increasingly led by politicians from the Conservative Party, the existing international system and increasingly also its own position as a world power had reopened since the mid-1930s as a result of the expansive policies of Germany, Italy and Japan (July 7, 1937 War between Japan and China) and the increasing disintegration of the British Commonwealth at the same time. The attempt to fully protect British interests despite insufficient military strength, to allow only limited changes to the status quo and v. a. Preventing a new world war has become known as the politics of appeasement.

Domestically, 1936 was dominated by the crisis of the throne. After the death of King George V (January 20, 1936), his son Edward VIII succeeded the throne. But this was forced to relinquish the throne on December 10th because of his planned marriage to the divorced American Wallis Simpson (* 1896, † 1986), who was disapproved by Prime Minister Baldwin and the public. He was succeeded by his brother as George VI. (1936-52).

Appeasement policy: For Europe, this initially meant an attempt to restore the old balance of power and that also meant that the German Reich should remain an economically and politically viable partner in the European context even after the military defeat. Since this came into conflict with France, but on the other hand did not want to give up the Franco-British Entente, the scope of action of British politics was often very limited. Under the guiding point of view of an appeasement policy that preserves the European equilibrium, the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany did not initially bring about any change. First corrections to the Versailles Treaty, such as the reintroduction of compulsory military service by the German government in 1934 and the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, were recognized as justified. And as Hitler unilaterally renounced the arms restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, London tried to gain security through arms restrictions with a separate German-British naval agreement (1935). In addition, for many British people, the prehistory of the First World War seemed to speak against the resumption of an alliance system that was again directed against Germany, especially with the inclusion of the new Soviet power in the east, which was viewed with extreme suspicion. The “policy of non-intervention” was also followed in the Spanish Civil War. In the Far East it was necessary to come to a modus vivendi with the expansive Japan, which in January 1936 had prevented a comprehensive agreement by leaving the London Naval Conference.

In terms of foreign policy, according to Oxfordastronomy, the policy of appeasement became increasingly questionable when, in view of the obvious expansionist goals of German foreign policy, A. N. Chamberlain was ready to make territorial concessions in 1938. In the annexation of Austria in March 1938, the British government contented itself with half-hearted verbal protests and in the Munich Agreement of 1938, with which the separation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia was sanctioned, Great Britain found itself ready to give up the old equilibrium policy and Germany a clear supremacy to concede in Central Europe. But after the occupation of the remaining Czech territory in March 1939 it became clear that with Hitler no policy of peaceful compromise could be achieved. The appeasement strategy had failed, but at least a welcome respite had been gained for armaments that were now urgently needed. In this sense, Great Britain and Northern Ireland together with France guaranteed the independence of Poland (March 31, 1939) and – after the occupation of Albania by Italy – also that of Greece and Romania (April 13, 1939). On April 26, 1939, general conscription was reintroduced. In terms of foreign policy, Great Britain and Northern Ireland sought, together with France, unsuccessfully to include the USSR in a line of defense against the aggressive activities of National Socialist Germany. a. for this reason, Hitler-Stalin Pact).

U.K. History - Interwar Period (1919 to 1939) 2