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Q. To what extent can the policy of ‘appeasement’ be blamed for the outbreak of the Second World War? (150 words)28 Mar, 2022 GS Paper 1 History
- Briefly describe the appeasement policy of Britain and France.
- Explain the rationality behind this policy.
- Give examples of appeasement at work.
- Assess the role of appeasement in the outbreak of WWII.
Appeasement, the policy of making concessions to dictatorial powers in order to avoid conflict, governed Anglo-French foreign policy during the 1930s.
Learning from the First World War made Britain and France apprehensive of another global escalation and they wanted to avoid a war-like situation by any means.
Why France and Britain resorted to appeasement:
- It was thought essential to avoid war, which was likely to be even more devastating than ever before.
- Many felt that Germany and Italy had genuine grievances. Italy had been cheated at Versailles and Germany had been treated too harshly.
- Since, the League of Nations seemed to be helpless, Britain and France believed that the only way to settle disputes was by personal contact between leaders.
- Also, the fear of communist Russia was great, many of them believed that the communist threat was greater than the danger from Hitler.
Examples of appeasement
- No action was taken to check the German rearmament.
- German occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia met no resistance whatsoever from either Britain or France.
- There was only half-hearted British action against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
- The allied powers failed to check the German advancement in Rhineland.
To what extent appeasement spurred the outbreak of WWII
- The policy of appeasement provided leeway to Hitler for revanchism.
- It allowed Germany, Italy and Japan to come closer to form the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis. The emergence of this alliance had disturbed the balance of power.
- The initial successes and the absence of resistance from Western powers tempted Hitler to reach out further, and to take bigger risks.
- He might not have had definite plans for war but after the surrender of Czechoslovakia at Munich, he got convinced that Britain and France would remain passive again and thus he decided to gamble on war with Poland.
- The policy of appeasement convinced Hitler that western democracies had neither the intention nor possessed the capacity to stand in front of Germany.
In the years leading up to World War II, Britain and France underestimated just how determined Adolf Hitler was in his lust for conquest. Consequently, failure of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement meant that the war was inevitable.
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