Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: appeasement
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review 2019-08-13 23:55
Don't blame the Treasury!
British Rearmament and the Treasury, 1932-1939 - G. C. Peden

In the eight decades since the start of the Second World War, there has been an unending search of scapegoats to hold responsible for failing to prevent the greatest war in human history. For the British, one of the most persistent of these was the Treasury, whose "dead hand" has long been cited as a key factor holding back Britain's ability to adequately prepare for the threat posed by Nazi Germany. Were it not for the penny-pinching Treasury mandarins, the argument goes, His Majesty's army, navy, and air forces would have been in a better position to stop Germany, possibly even deterring the outbreak of war in Europe in the first place.


George Peden takes issue with this argument. In this dense but well-argued book, he makes the case that, contrary to the legend, the Treasury played a positive role in the rearmament of Britain in the 1930s. Drawing upon a range of documents from the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, and the service ministries (many of which had only been recently declassified at the time he wrote the book) he detailed the process of rearmament form the perspective of the Treasury, setting it in the context of contemporary perspectives and concerns. As he notes, throughout the 1930s the British were still grappling with the problems of the Great Depression, and while the economy was recovering steadily throughout the period it was of paramount importance to both politicians and civil servants to do nothing to jeopardize this. A major consideration in this respect was the argument of finance as the "fourth arm" of the British military effort, and the ongoing need to recover not just from the Depression but from the depletions of British finance caused by the First World War. Given these concerns, any rearmament efforts had to be measured ones.


Within those constraints, however, Peden sees the Treasury as playing a vital role in shaping rearmament efforts. Much of his book is about the role the Treasury played in this process, both in terms of policy formulation and in its implementation. Not only did the Treasury exert considerable influence in determining the amount of money budgeted for the military, they also played a role in determining on what that money would be spent. As Peden shows, much of this was done consultatively, taking into consideration the views of the respective service departments and the military professionals who headed the three branches. This forced the officials involved to determine their priorities in light of means, which, Peden concludes, "ensured that essential elements in Britain's defences were completed first", leaving the country better prepared for the long war that came about than it otherwise would have been.


By shedding light on the sometimes opaque process of fiscal policy formulation and implementation, Peden provides readers with a valuable study of how Britain readied for war in the 1930s. In the process, he makes a convincing case for a more nuanced judgment of the Treasury’s role, one that gives it due credit for its efforts to prepare the armed services and the national finances for the conflict that followed. Though some of his related judgments can be harsh (his treatment of Stanley Baldwin is a little cold-blooded), his book is necessary reading for anyone interested in learning about a vital aspect of British rearmament in the years before the Second World War, one that is no less important for how little attention it receives.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-04-28 18:12
Women and appeasement
‘Guilty Women’, Foreign Policy, and Appeasement in Inter-War Britain - Julie V. Gottlieb

All too often, foreign policy has been treated as though it were exclusively the concern of men, with women usually seen either as passive participants or as secondary support. Breaking that paradigm often requires broadening the view of foreign policy formulation to take into account other, less tangible factors, such as political rhetoric, public opinion, and social encounters in which women were often able to exert influence on international relations. One such example of this was in the appeasement debates in Britain in the 1930s, in which, as Julie Gottlieb reveals in this book, women played a significant role in both the advocacy for appeasement and in the efforts to urge a stronger stance towards Nazi Germany.


Gottlieb's examination is divisible into three areas. The first is in the role women played in public activism. This was an area in which women enjoyed their greatest prominence, as their participation in such activities as peace movements and refugee aid organizations had long provided them with an entrée into public discussions regarding foreign affairs. By contrast their participation in electoral politics was more novel, yet here Gottlieb describes the role that women played as well, not just in terms of elected officials such as Nancy Astor, but others such as Annie Chamberlain who, while not a Member of Parliament nonetheless enjoyed a degree of public prominence and played an important role as a campaigner for her husband, Neville. Their presence proved more than symbolic, and they were seen as important conduits to the millions of recently enfranchised women, whose votes now had to be factored into the political calculus of any decision.


By expanding the analysis of the participants in the arguments over appeasement, Gottlieb has provided a long-overdue correction to a traditionally blinkered understanding of the participants in the contemporary debates over appeasement. While her writing can be a little dense due to her over-reliance upon jargon, she nonetheless provides an invaluable study of the development of British foreign policy in the 1930s. No future study of the subject can afford to ignore the fresh perspective she has brought to it, and hopefully it can serve as a model for similar studies that can restore women to an area of history from which that have been unjustly left out for too long.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-11-03 05:56
A sympathetic reassessment of a failed policy
Hitler and Appeasement - Peter Neville

"Appeasement" is a word loaded with historical baggage -- specifically, its association with the failed efforts by the British and the French in the 1930s to avert war in Europe by accommodating Adolf Hitler's territorial demands. The effort, of course, was in vain, and when war came in 1939 Germany began it in a stronger position than they had been just a few years before, thanks in no small measure to the earlier concessions of his foes.


This failure to avert the war has been viewed ever since as the ultimate discrediting of appeasement as a policy, with its advocates viewed as fools or worse. Peter Neville takes exception to this view, however. Surveying the evolution of appeasement in the interwar period, he offers a sympathetic assessment of the situation policymakers faced and the decisions they made. He highlights the difficult choices facing British policymakers, with a multitude of vulnerabilities worldwide and few partners other than France (which itself was riven with problems) to help shoulder the load. Given the initial focus on bordering territory with ethnically German populations, appeasement was the best available option while the British rearmed their forces.


Neville is not uncritical of the decisions British politicians made, and he is particularly astute as to the personality clashes which often determined who exerted influence. He also incorporates appeasement's opponents into his analysis, showing how such esteemed figures as Winston Churchill were not always as hostile to the policy as they later sought to portray themselves as being. Overall it makes for a provocative reassessment of what remains an extraordinarily controversial period in history, one that helps us to better understand the choices people made and why it was that they failed in their goals.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?