Britain and the Problem of International Disarmament, 1919-1934

By Carolyn J. Kitching | Go to book overview

3

THE HUMAN ELEMENT

Before going on to an in-depth analysis of the way in which individual British governments tried to solve (or avoid) the disarmament dilemma, it is important to examine the attitudes of the individuals who formed those governments. Whilst any one government may have official policies on a number of issues, the influence of the individuals within that government cannot be overlooked. Individuals help to formulate collective policy, but, more importantly, they must then interpret that policy in their own sphere of interest. This can be done with a greater or lesser degree of enthusiasm, depending on the privately held views of the Minister or official in question. It is obviously impossible to look at every individual member of each administration, but the views of the most prominent on the disarmament question, as well as on the League of Nations and, importantly, the question of French security, will now be considered in some detail. For convenience, the list has been broken down into three categories, Liberal, Conservative and Labour, although in view of the fact that many members of each political persuasion served in both Coalition and National governments, and one changed party allegiance, the influence of each individual clearly varied in relation to the ideological mix of the government in question.


Liberal ministers

The involvement of Lloyd George in the disarmament process began with the part he played in the drawing up of the Treaty of Versailles. Lorna Jaffe, in her book The Decision to Disarm Germany (1985), accuses Lloyd George of inconsistency in his views on disarmament, pointing out that during his period as Minister for Munitions, when he revamped Britain's munitions industry and pressed for the introduction of conscription, he appeared to have forgotten his Radical Liberal roots which had previously called for expenditure on arms to be reduced in order to assist social reforms. 1 Lloyd George, however, did not forget his Radical roots. In the spring of 1917 it was he who pressed the Imperial War Cabinet to include disarmament among Britain's war aims, and this was not the unilateral disarmament of

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