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About this book

In 1941, the European war became a world war. This book tackles that process in its economic, political and ideological dimensions. Margaret Lamb and Nicholas Tarling explore the significance of the Asian factor and the importance of East Asia in the making of the war in Europe and the transformation of the European war of 1939 into the world war of 1941. This Asian factor has often been neglected, but the policies of all the major powers were affected by their world-wide interests. France had its possessions in North Africa and Asia; Nazi Germany chose to become involved in China and to make an agreement with Japan; Britain's action in Europe and the Mediterranean were conditioned by its commitments elsewhere in the world, and the United States and the Soviet Union were both involved in Europe and Asia. In particular the threat that Japan presented to the status quo in East Asia made it difficult for the war in Europe in turn affected the position in East Asia. The US built a two-ocean navy and encouraged the British to continue their struggle by keeping the resources of South East Asia available, and these steps led to a clash with the Japanese.

Lamb and Tarling's global approach throws valuable new light on the origins of the Second World War.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The First World War

Abstract
Britain was the most successful of the nineteenth-century European powers in expanding its territory overseas, but that very success brought an increasing nervousness and sense of vulnerability as well as prestige and status as a world power. As early as the 1830s, the possession of India had led to growing fears about the threat of Russian expansion in Central Asia. The development of intense imperial rivalry with France in Africa and Asia, disagreements with the United States over the Canadian-American boundary and over Central America, pressures from Germany to make colonial concessions, and the perception that the Russian threat had extended to Manchuria and China as well as the Middle East caused the British to reconsider their whole diplomatic position. They decided that they were no longer able to stand aloof from the alliances of the other European powers and alone defend their interests against a number of potential enemies. When the attempt to conclude an agreement with Germany failed, they made an alliance with Japan in 1902 to help protect their interests in the Far East and settled their differences with the United States in 1902 and 1903, with France in 1904 and with Russia in 1907. Although the memories of years of rivalry and friction could not be expunged, Britain’s relations with France and the USA steadily improved.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 2. The Peace Settlements

Abstract
The statesmen who met in Paris in 1919 to draw up a peace settlement faced a daunting task. Lloyd George, the leader of the British delegation, claimed that ‘it is not one continent that is engaged — every continent is affected’.1 The collapse of the four empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey and the demands of previously subject national groups necessitated a major redrawing of the map in Europe and the Middle East. In Africa, China and the Pacific, the future of Germany’s former possessions had to be considered. Many diverse and often conflicting hopes and aspirations depended on the outcome of the negotiations. Some were inevitably disappointed and those disappointments fuelled the criticism of contemporaries and have influenced the judgement of historians. The fact that the settlement was followed twenty years later by another major war has led to the assumption that it must have been fatally flawed. There has been less agreement on the nature of the flaws. Its treatment of Germany has been criticised both as too harsh and as not severe enough. The peacemakers have been accused of failing to appreciate the full strength of nationalist aspirations but they have also been blamed for too easily acquiescing in the break-up of the multinational Austro-Hungarian empire. Most frequently the settlement has been criticised for failing to fulfil expectations that it would be the first major act of the new open diplomacy of which Wilson had been the advocate.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 3. The Implementation of the Peace Settlements

Abstract
In the decade between the signing of the major peace treaties and the onset of the Great Depression, the statesmen of Europe attempted to come to terms with the major changes which had occurred and to reconstruct the economic and political life of the continent on the basis of the new settlement. The outbreak of another major war only ten years later suggests that the statesmen of the 1920s were not successful in laying the basis for a stable lasting peace. Some historians argue that considerable progress had been made in solving disputes and easing tensions and that it was the Great Depression of the early 1930s which produced new economic and political causes of international instability. Others believe that the tensions and disputes of the Great War era were never resolved and that there was a mere ‘illusion of peace’.1 All agree, however, that the difficulties that the statesmen faced were immense. In the aftermath of the war all governments needed to restore national finances, stimulate economic growth and maintain domestic political and social stability. Foreign policy had to respond to and reflect these domestic needs and pressures.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 4. The Depression

Abstract
While the Wall Street crash of October 1929 has been seen as signalling the onset of the Great Depression, it is acknowledged that its causes were more long-standing and complex. There had been no major reconstruction of the whole international economy following its dislocation by the war, only piecemeal attempts to return to pre-war conditions. Many problems, whose origins lay in the pre-war period, were not recognised. In Britain, for instance, the need for the modernisation of its old staple industries, particularly shipbuilding and mining, was ignored. Several years before 1929 there was an overproduction of primary products with a consequent decline in prices. The rural parts of Germany, many of the east European states and the mainly primary producing British Dominions, as well as rural America, were already experiencing the adverse effects of this situation when the financial crash occurred. Much of the European economic recovery in the 1920s had been dependent on American loans, usually short-term ones. Germany had had something approaching $4 billion and Austria $3 billion. Prior to the 1929 crash, this flow of American capital abroad had been shrinking as investors were tempted by the boom in their own country, but after the crash, the flow became a mere trickle. Markets contracted, businesses failed, banks collapsed and millions faced unemployment throughout Europe.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 5. The End of Collective Security

Abstract
The hopes at the end of the First World War for a new era in international relations and an end to war had been based on the concept of ‘collective security’, of which the twin pillars were disarmament and the League of Nations. The developments of the first few years of the 1930s seriously undermined these hopes. The long-awaited Disarmament Conference had failed to reach an agreement on land armaments limitation. Despite the Washington and London conferences, agreement on naval limitation was by no means complete. Germany was firmly under the control of a regime which had openly expansionist aims and was blatantly rearming. The messages emanating from the other major fascist state, Italy, were somewhat confusing, but Mussolini’s constant incitement of the Italians to warlike attitudes, his glorying in the instruments of war, the savage nature of the Italian reprisals on the rebels against their rule in Libya and their fomenting of discord in Yugoslavia led some foreign diplomats to see Mussolini as ‘one of the chief existing dangers to European peace’.1 While the hopes for disarmament and for a growing commitment to peace were disappointed in Europe, the League had also failed to curb Japanese aggression in Manchuria.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 6. Appeasement

Abstract
Post-war discussions of international developments in the 1930s were inevitably influenced by the knowledge that a major war did break out in Europe in 1939 and in Asia in 1941 and that in the early years of the fighting the Germans and the Japanese won massive military victories. As far as Europe was concerned, it was assumed that Hitler had planned and prepared for the war which came. The statesmen of Britain and France who had made concessions to Italy and Germany until the eve of war and allowed them to extend their control over much of continental Europe were roundly condemned. Appeasement, which had been seen as an honourable policy of seeking to reduce strife and achieve a general pacification amongst nations, was now viewed as a weak dishonourable policy of simply giving way to demands. If negotiations had been designed to buy time for the democracies to further their own military preparations, why, it was asked, were they so apparently unprepared for the German onslaught when it came?1 With the passage of time and with greater historical research, there have been a variety of answers to this question and a reassessment of the policies of all the major powers.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 7. The War of 1939

Abstract
At Munich Britain and France demonstrated the lengths they were prepared to go in order to preserve the peace. France sacrificed a major military ally and tacitly admitted that its whole post-war diplomacy and strategy of alliance with the eastern European states was in ruins. Hitler, according to Cadogan, ‘had got all that he said he wanted’ but he admitted that that was not to say that ‘he has got all that he wants’.1 The latter point was crucial. It was recognised that future international developments in Europe would depend largely upon the policy of Hitler’s Germany. Would he abide by the commitment which he had made with Chamberlain to eschew war between their two countries and to seek to resolve any disputes by conciliation? Would Germany remain content with the gains which it had made and seek to consolidate them, or would it continue a policy of aggressive expansion?
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 8. The War of 1941

Abstract
In the spring of 1940, Britain and France on one side and Germany on the other began military measures which brought to an end the so-called ‘phoney war’. Both sides began operations in Scandinavia. In an extension their strategy of blockade, Britain and France were anxious to deprive Germany of supplies of Swedish iron ore. They had originally contemplated sending troops across northern Norway and Sweden to help the Finns in their war against Russia and hoped, in the process, to obtain control of the export of the iron ore fields. When the Finns capitulated, the British and French adopted the alternative plan of laying mines in Norwegian territorial waters to block the ice-free route down the Norwegian coast which the Germans used. Unprepared themselves to go so far as violating Norwegian neutral territory, they anticipated that their measures could provoke a German attack upon the Scandinavian countries, to which they could respond by seizing the iron ore fields. Anglo-French disagreements delayed the operation. The mine laying began on 8 April, but the Germans had already despatched forces to occupy Denmark and Norway.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Chapter 9. Conclusions

Abstract
The nineteenth-century prophecy that Russia and the United States would be the dominant powers of the twentieth century was fulfilled at the end of the Second World War. None of the other former major powers could have any pretensions to the superpower status which it was recognised the United States and the Soviet Union occupied. Japan and Germany were defeated and the latter was about to be divided. France was recovering from the humiliation of defeat in 1940 and from the divisions caused by the Vichy regime. Britain, despite retaining the trappings of an imperial power, was financially broke. As the war had progressed its relative contribution of men and material to the fighting forces had steadily declined. Britain, Churchill ruefully acknowledged, was a ‘little donkey’ compared to ‘the great Russian bear’ and ‘the great American buffalo’.1 While the manpower and economic resources of the United States and the Soviet Union were fundamental to their leading positions, the dramatic extent of their predominance owed much to the involvement of the European powers in a second major war little more than twenty years after the end of the first.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling

Epilogue

Abstract
After the war world politics was dominated by the USA and the Soviet Union, a situation long foreseen. The way the war was fought, however, clearly affected the kind of relationship those superpowers had, one influenced by ideological conflict and the existence of the atomic bomb. Britain and the USA fought on three fronts: in Europe, in the Mediterranean and in East Asia and the Pacific. The Soviet Union fought on one front. It survived the German onslaught and, turning it back, was able to dominate much of eastern and parts of central Europe. Its unprecedented position, and the sense of unity the Great Patriotic War had evoked, encouraged its hopes in the post-war period and aroused the fears of others.
Margaret Lamb, Nicholas Tarling
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