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British Rearmament in the Thirties: Politics and Profits

British Rearmament in the Thirties: Politics and Profits

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    British Rearmament in the Thirties: Politics and Profits
    Book Description:

    Here is a comprehensive analysis of rearmament under the Baldwin and Chamberlain governments. It reveals the primary determinants of events and provides important new information regarding the principal considerations underlying Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. The author concentrates on a problem that was of central concern to the government. For this reason, and because he draws on the recently opened Cabinet and Treasury papers at the Public Record Office in London, he is able to offer a broader view than that of the existing studies. He describes in detail the interaction of the Cabinet, Treasury, and Armed Services, and the influence of the financial and industrial communities.

    Originally published in 1977.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7107-0
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science

Table of Contents

    (pp. 3-10)

    Britain’s rearmament in the 1930s was the largest, most expensive program of any kind ever undertaken by a British government in time of peace. Initiated in response to the Japanese threat to the Empire, the program was spurred to full stride by the menace posed to the home islands by the burgeoning German air force. Although the British program was unprecedented in scope and size, it failed to keep pace with what Lord Weir, one of the Government’s advisers, referred to as the “German Fantasy.” Economic and political considerations prevented Britain from pursuing rearmament on the German scale. By 1938...

  2. CHAPTER I The Coming of the National Government and the Pressures to Rearm
    (pp. 11-47)

    The Cabinet’s decision to revoke the Ten Year Rule¹ on March 23, 1932, in response to Japan’s increasing threat to the Empire in the Far East, marked Britain’s first halting step towards rearmament. The study of the process by which that decision was reached reveals many of the lines of division within the Government concerning defence policy, lines of division that were later to be brought into relief when the resurrection of Germany as a military force compelled the Government to make hard choices. Those choices, which determined the direction that British rearmament took, were influenced by many factors, both...

  3. CHAPTER II Towards a Substantive Commitment, April 1935–August 1936
    (pp. 48-91)

    In the White Paper on defence issued on March 4, 1935, the Government announced to the public that in view of the deterioriation of the world situation and especially the failure of the disarmament conference, the nation had undertaken to equip herself to deal with the military threats posed to the national security by foreign nations. It went on to state in general terms the needs of the armed services, and warn that the preparations envisioned would entail additional spending.¹ Little of this should have come as a surprise to anyone who had followed the defence debates in Parliament the...

  4. CHAPTER III Industrial Mobilization for Rearmament
    (pp. 92-133)

    When the suggestion began to be heard with increasing frequency, in the offices and corridors of the service ministries along Whitehall in late autumn of 1933, that the new Government might be moved by the C.O.S.’s rather alarming annual strategic review of the world situation to at last take some steps to remedy the deficiencies that had been allowed to accumulate in the nation’s armed services, a small group of obscure men took special notice. They were the members of the Supply Board, the central committee of the Principal Supply Officers Sub-Committee of the C.I.D., and it was to be...

  5. CHAPTER IV The Financing of Defence
    (pp. 134-158)

    By early 1937 the Government’s rearmament program had been under way for almost a year. Thomas lnskip, in a review of the progress, asserted that it “is undoubtedly behindhand in many important respects, but it is behindhand just in those areas which no compulsory powers could affect, such as guns, tanks and technical instruments like predictors.”¹ He went on to qualify his statement by saying that the shortage of skilled labor was at the heart of much of the problem, and that short of taking up Swinton’s proposal to “pick the eyes out” of certain civil industries by taking powers...

  6. CHAPTER V The Rationing of the Services
    (pp. 159-196)

    In the course of 1936 the Treasury had become concerned that what they saw as “the system under which individual departments put up great new schemes at odd times, without regard to the aggregate bill,” was “leading to financial chaos.”¹ The Treasury believed that it had lost control of defence spending, and that as a result the whole defence program had lost any semblance of unified direction. The protean growth of the programs of the individual services was reflected in the appalling magnitude of the service estimates for the 1937 budget, which gave the actual impetus to the Treasury’s decision...

  7. CHAPTER VI The Anschluss and the Czech Crisis: The Acid Test of Rationing and Appeasement
    (pp. 197-227)

    The Anschluss, Germany’s incorporation of Austria into the Reich by force, came at an awkward time for the Chamberlain Government. Just when the Cabinet had accepted the necessity of rationing the expenditure of the services, and tacitly approved the conduct of a conciliatory foreign policy as a consequence, Germany’s violent act brought the efficacy of both courses into question. In the field of diplomacy the Anschluss was a rude blow to Chamberlain, who had been personally courting the friendship of the Italian leadership with an eye to winning their support in opposing this union of Austria and Germany. Chamberlain’s efforts...

  8. CHAPTER VII From Munich to War: The Unraveling
    (pp. 228-280)

    Despite the military weaknesses that were exposed by the Czech crisis, the conclusion of the Munich agreements could have been justifiably regarded by Chamberlain as a vindication of the rearmament policy he had initiated. He had succeeded through appeasement in bringing about an outcome he lacked the power to determine through strength, and had taken a step toward the conciliation of Britain’s major enemy. All of this was in keeping with the imperative stated by the C.O.S. and reiterated in Inskip’s final report that it was essential to reduce the number of the nation’s potential enemies. Chamberlain saw Munich as...

    (pp. 281-296)

    The course of British rearmament in the thirties was determined by a complex interplay of forces, interests, personalities, and events. At the center of that interplay was the National Government, which weighed the conflicting considerations and decided on the response it believed was best suited to the political, economic, and strategic realities of the time.

    The Government’s decisions were to a large degree uninfluenced by the types of political pressure traditionally associated with democratic forms of government. The men who guided Britain’s rearmament never had to defend their decisions before the electorate, because the 1935 election, the last before the...