The main factors which led British governments to follow a policy of ‘appeasement’ in the period 1931-38

There are many fundamental factors which influenced the British government to follow a policy of appeasement during 1931 – 1938. There are two distinct categories, idealistic thinking from the public who were anxious over the perilous German aerial capability combined with the memories of WW1. Therefore it was in the interest of all countries to avoid any similar outcome. Britain was feeble with restricted numbers in the air force and army, additionally in the number of allies it had. This was as the rational reasoning behind appeasement.

Britain was alone, there once dependable allies had deserted them. USA was economically unhinged from the Wall Street crash in 1929 (causing the Great Depression within Britain); subsequently they isolated themselves from Europe to help reinstate their financial superiority. France had become increasingly weak with mounting destruction with 11 governments from 1932-35 therefore making their militarily weak. The British public believed Hitler’s anti-communist approach would help oppose Stalinism with the government fearing communism more than Nazism. Furthermore Chamberlain informed the Cabinet in September 1938 that Mussolini and Hitler were ‘dictators of moods’ and their ‘arms limited’.

Britain’s economy was weak following WW1, with only 120 functional aircraft by 1920. The Chief of Staffs had explained to the government in 1937 that the army and RAF were not able to overcome an invasion from Japan, Germany and Italy. They detailed that they must resolve their problems with 2 of the 3 countries that signed the Anti-Comintern Pact. Britain was also in large debt, £7,500 million with the USA demanding over £1,250 million. The government wasn’t able to go to war due to its financial position, hence the policy of appeasement.

The public believed the treaty of Versailles was unfair towards Germany. The nation was shamed by losing 10% of its population, 13% of its territory and the war guilt clause of Article 231. The League of Nations was a weak organisation, their security counted for nothing for example when Japan invaded Manchuria (1931) and Italy’s leader Mussolini invaded Abyssinia (1935). This was known as the ‘blind faith’ of the association.

Britain’s government didn’t want to involve its Empire which massed 25% of the world’s land. Britain wanted to avoid bringing in naval troops from the imperial world. Additionally New Zealand and Australia were conscious of the Japanese threat in Asia and also wanted to appease Germany; however Chamberlain didn’t recognize the comparison with imperialist government’s appeasement and territory loss.

Another reason for appeasement was high losses from WW1 which were so devastating that another war would further reduce Britain’s young population, therefore affecting the economy. British politicians from WW1 advised the government to appease Germany due to WW1 deaths (over 20 million). They set up alliances such as the Anglo-German Naval Agreement to help avoid war. Britain was a pacifist nation, who held large demonstrations, for example the Peace Pledge Ballet of 1935 (11.5 million people), also the Peace Pledge Union poll illustrated that 93% of Britain preferred disarmament.