Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era

Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era

Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era

Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era

Synopsis

This book investigates the course of Anglo-French policy in Europe from 1936 to1938, a critical period during which France was governed by a series of Popular Front coalition Ministries. It asserts that French policy-makers made a substantial impact upon the course of British foreign policy whilst breathing new life into the waning Entente Cordiale. The study contends that close attention to the role of French influence is fundamental to a grasp of British appeasement and rearmament policy in the period and essential to the understanding of the Anglo-French response to such problems as the Spanish Civil War, the collapse of League of Nations authority and the treatment of the Soviet Union. Essential reading for students of British or French Political History or the origins of World War II in Europe

Excerpt

Between May 1936 and April 1938 France was governed by Popular Front coalitions. This two-year period was pivotal in shaping the nation that went to war in September 1939. As a coalition the Front populaire was distinctive: a parliamentary grouping of Socialists, Radical-Socialists and -- to varying degrees at differing times -- Communists, backed by a diverse range of anti-fascist non-parliamentary groups from unions to literary guilds. At its inception, this governing bloc evoked anticipation and dread in similar measure across French society as a whole. The number of senior Popular Front ministers paraded before the Vichy regime's supreme court at the Riom show trial in March and April 1942 bore witness to an anti-republican consensus which regarded the nadir of la Troisième as Léon Blum's first ministry of May 1936 to June 1937. Accused of questionable patriotism, vilified for the inadequacy of its defensive preparations and pilloried for its decadence, the Popular Front was cast as the harbinger of French defeat. In certain respects, the Riom judgments make one intention of this book quite simple. It is hoped to show that far from being 'guilty' of a deliberate or misconstrued neglect of France's strategic plight, the Popular Front led France towards a more comprehensive preparation for war.

This is not, however, a study of French rearmament. Rather, it is an investigation of the Anglo-French diplomatic relationship during the Front populaire years. Writing a generation after the release of British governmental documents from the late 1930s, any study of the entente cordiale in the age of appeasement carries a weight of accumulated historical baggage with it. Over recent years, numerous scholars have also worked extensively within the more diffuse French archival record. Such research has transformed our understanding of French foreign and defence policies in the pre-war period. Yet France still fits uneasily into the historical debates over the appeasement of Germany and Italy during the 1930s. Not surprisingly, the varied definitions of appeasement policy have been formulated primarily with the British government in mind, usually with the shadowy figure of Neville Chamberlain looming from the text. In comparative studies of the entente powers this may be dangerous. Defining a policy applicable to the Baldwin and Chamberlain administrations does not put one in a position to graft that definition . . .

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