The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union, 1937-1939

By Louise Grace Shaw | Go to book overview

Introduction

If… Mr Chamberlain on receipt of the Russian offer [of a triple alliance] had replied 'Yes. Let us three bond together and break Hitler's neck', or words to that effect, Parliament would have approved, Stalin would have understood, and history might have taken a different course. 1

Throughout the spring and summer of 1939, British, French and Soviet representatives negotiated to conclude some form of agreement regarding resistance to future German aggression. The result, however, was the announcement of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact on 23 August. When Britain finally declared war on 3 September, it did so without a Soviet ally. The British government had failed to secure the assistance of a country that would eventually help to decide the outcome of the war. Moreover, it had failed because of the unwillingness of certain ministers to put aside their anti-Soviet prejudices during the foreign-policy decision-making process. This contention is substantiated in the following book by an examination of the attitudes of the British political elite towards the Soviet Union during the period of Neville Chamberlain's premiership, and an assessment of the influence such attitudes had upon British foreign policy.

Much has been written about appeasement policy, the Chamberlain government and the path to war. A brief outline of the three schools of thought that have emerged will be given, but both Donald Cameron Watt and Michael Jabara Carley have provided useful historiographies on the subject. 2 The first, the 'orthodox' school of thought, dominated opinion immediately after the Second World War. It criticised appeasement policy and the 'guilty men' of the British government for their obstinate support of appeasement. 3 The second, the 'revisionist' school of thought, emerged in the 1960s and attempted to redress the subject by explaining British foreign

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The British Political Elite and the Soviet Union, 1937-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Series Editor's Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Cabinet and Communism 5
  • 2 - Building Bridges 31
  • 3 - The Foreign Office and the Soviet Union, 1937-38 51
  • 4 - The Anti-Appeasers 75
  • 5 - Poland or the Soviet Union? 101
  • 6 - The Loss of an Ally 117
  • 7 - Germany and the Soviet Union: Allies or Enemies? 149
  • 8 - United in Opposition 169
  • Conclusion 185
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 206
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