British and French appeasement, to 1938

British and French appeasement, to 1938

Reasons for Appeasement

  • Britain and France adopted a policy of appeasement toward Germany during the 1930s. The main reason for this was the horrific memories and impact of World War I and the deep desire to avoid another war at all costs.
  • The British and French leaders, including Neville Chamberlain, believed that many of the terms in the Treaty of Versailles were too harsh. As such, they were sympathetic towards Germany’s grievances and were prepared to allow changes to the treaty.
  • The Great Depression had a significant impact on both countries, reducing their willingness and ability to engage in military conflict.
  • There was a widespread belief that a stronger Germany could prove to be a successful buffer against the spread of communism from the Soviet Union.

Key Events of Appeasement

  • In 1935, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement allowed Germany to rebuild its navy, this was Britain’s first direct act of appeasement.
  • The Remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, a clear contravention of the Treaty of Versailles was met with no opposition from Britain and France.
  • At the time of the Anschluss with Austria in 1938, despite voicing dissent, Britain and France did not take action to prevent the union.
  • Most significantly, the Munich Agreement of 1938, where Britain and France consented to Germany’s demands to annex the Sudetenland, was a clear example of appeasement.

Consequences of Appeasement

  • The policy of appeasement emboldened Hitler’s expansionist aims. After Munich, he believed he could manoeuvre without the threat of serious opposition.
  • It undermined the power and reputation of the League of Nations, reducing its ability to maintain peace.
  • The policy of appeasement resulted in a less prepared Britain and France when World War II finally broke out. This was largely because it had allowed Germany to grow in military strength without proportionate response.
  • It led to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in 1939, as Russia lost faith in Britain and France’s ability to stand up against Hitler.
  • The failure of appeasement was finally evident when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, bringing an end to the policy and triggering the start of World War II.