Britain and the Problem of International Disarmament, 1919-1934

By Carolyn J. Kitching | Go to book overview

9

CONCLUSION

Having analysed the detail of Britain's approach to the dilemma of confronting the disarmament problem, the study has shown that the method chosen by successive British governments was, as a general rule, merely to react to events and proposals instigated by other powers. The two minority Labour governments did, at least, try to impose their own ideology on their conduct of foreign policy, including the pursuit of disarmament, but their success was restricted by factors largely outside their control. Overall, however, Britain took refuge behind the twin myths that her own unilateral arms reductions had been undertaken to bring about agreement at the League-and so absolved her from making further reductions-and that her own reductions in armaments after 1919 were on a different level and scale from any other power. Accordingly, she left others to make the running at Geneva. With one or two exceptions, the result was a purely reactive policy, with a considerable element of procrastination thrown in for good measure. 1

The Lloyd George Coalition government presided over what was arguably one of the most successful examples of disarmament in the period under review-the Washington Naval Conference. The Coalition was also responsible for initiating policy in regard to the international quest for disarmament under the auspices of the League. In this respect, it should be emphasised that the unilateral arms reductions undertaken by the Coalition-upon which Britain was to base her credentials in successive negotiations at Geneva-were brought about by the need to channel the vast expenditure on armaments of 1914-18 into the social and domestic areas, not by any wish to meet the 'obligation' to pursue multilateral disarmament enshrined in the Versailles Treaty and League of Nations Covenant. Significantly, priority was given to the Washington Conference which had nothing to do with the League's attempts to formulate a plan; no help was given to Esher in the preparation of his plan at the Temporary Mixed Commission.

After the first flood of enthusiasm for arms reductions had passed, and the signatories to the League had reduced the level of their armaments in line with immediate postwar requirements, the more pro-disarmament members of the international community began to press for progress in the League's

-174-

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Britain and the Problem of International Disarmament, 1919-1934
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Concept and Context of Disarmament, 1919-34 7
  • 3 - The Human Element 23
  • 4 - The Lloyd George Coalition Government, 1918-22 42
  • 5 - The Conservative Governments, 1922-3, and the First Labour Government, 1924 65
  • 6 - The Conservative Government, 1924-9 87
  • 7 - The Labour Government, 1929-31 115
  • 8 - The National Government, 1931-4 136
  • 9 - Conclusion 174
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 216
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