Anglo-French Relations before the Second World War: Appeasement and Crisis

Anglo-French Relations before the Second World War: Appeasement and Crisis

Anglo-French Relations before the Second World War: Appeasement and Crisis

Anglo-French Relations before the Second World War: Appeasement and Crisis

Synopsis

Despite their shared interests, Britain and France, the only powers in a position to effectively meet the first overt challenges to the European order established after 1918, failed in the management of the crises facing them in Ethiopia and the Rhineland. In this book, Richard Davis attempts to understand the (mal)functioning of the Anglo-French relationship at this key juncture on the path to the second world war.

Excerpt

The contacts between Britain and France have always played a key role in European affairs and they continue to be the focus of considerable popular and academic interest on either side of the Channel. The often stormy Anglo-French relationship has rarely been trouble-free even if they have regarded themselves as allies for most of the twentieth century. Nor have the fundamental similarities in their international positions always been sufficient to overcome their deep-rooted mistrust of one another. As the recent history of British membership of the European Union has shown, the inclination to condemn their cross-Channel neighbours has been provoked all too easily by even relatively minor issues. Despite repeated reminders of its continued validity, the Entente Cordiale has clearly not lived up to its name. This was particularly the case in the 1930s.

Few periods in history have been more troubled than that of inter-war Europe. The enormous tensions in the system set in place in 1919 that emerged in the following years produced an intense and prolonged period of crisis. How the victors of 1914–18 managed, or mismanaged, the international anarchy confronting them was of vital importance. The consequences of their failure to cope with these strains, part of the general failure of the period, can still be seen today. Both Britain and France confronted the international situation with broadly similar outlooks and with the shared objectives of preserving peace and maintaining their existing positions in the world. It is this contradiction between shared interests, and to a large extent common policies, on the one hand, and the undoubted strains in relations between them, on the other, that formed the basis of their policies during the Ethiopian and Rhineland crises and, indeed, throughout the pre-war period.

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