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Greater Britain in the Second World War and beyond
Wendy Webster

‘Together’ was the slogan of British imperial propaganda during the Second World War, and propagandists put in considerable effort to show a togetherness that crossed differences of race and ethnicity. This chapter looks at the racial hierarchies and definitions of Britishness which gave the lie to this official rhetoric of togetherness. It demonstrates that racism ran like a deep scar through the policies of governments in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. In different places and at different moments, white people were privileged in decisions about who could enlist in the armed forces, who could serve as combatants, who received promotion and who was evacuated from colonies invaded by the Japanese. The chapter traces some of the experiences and feelings of people assigned different places in the racial hierarchy and the continued impact of racial exclusion and definitions of Britishness in the aftermath of war.

in The break-up of Greater Britain
Mass migration from Britain to the Commonwealth, 1945–2000
Jean P. Smith

Though it has received less attention than migration to the United Kingdom after the Second World War, rates of migration from the United Kingdom were significant in this period, outpacing immigration until late into the twentieth century. While some Britons moved to destinations outside of the Commonwealth, such as the United States and, later, Europe, the majority moved to the settler colonies of the ‘old’ Commonwealth: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Rhodesia. These nations offered subsidies and incentives to British and other European migrants as they sought to increase their supply of skilled workers and increase their white populations. Despite the increasing political separation between Britain and the former Dominions and the development of domestic rather than imperial national cultures and identities, until the late twentieth century these countries continued to recruit and subsidise British migration. This migration reflects the long legacy of imperial and settler colonial racial ideologies not only in the formation of these immigration policies, but also in often implicit beliefs about identity and belonging, about who is a desirable migrant and what kind of migration is unremarkable.

in The break-up of Greater Britain
The (British) Commonwealth of Nations, decolonisation and the break-up of Greater Britain
Andrew Dilley

The transformation of the tight-knit interwar British Commonwealth of Nations in the post-war world into a loose international association was a major element of British decolonisation. This chapter reconceptualises this changing nature of the Commonwealth emphasising discontinuity and distinguishing two separate entities: an Empire-Commonwealth, and a post-colonial Commonwealth. The chapter charts the loose practices of coordination of the Empire-Commonwealth, before arguing that the dramatic transformation of global institutions, power and culture after 1945 then reshaped the Commonwealth, leaving a post-colonial Commonwealth shorn the attributes of a supra-national political entity (however informal) which characterised its interwar predecessor.

in The break-up of Greater Britain
The Falklands and Gibraltar in Thatcher’s (Greater) Britain
Ezequiel Mercau

This chapter examines the evolution of the disputes in the Falklands and Gibraltar – two territories that punched well above their weight in Thatcher’s Britain – within the broader context of the unravelling of Greater Britain in the wake of empire. It focuses on a number of crises in the early 1980s –particularly the British Nationality Act of 1981, the Falklands War and the decision to close the Royal Naval Dockyard in Gibraltar. This was a time of uncertainty in both British Overseas Territories – a time of transition, hopeful expectations and worrying disappointments – and these events provoked an emotional rollercoaster in both territories, thrusting Gibraltarians and Falkland Islanders in all directions. At the heart of this was the evolving nature of these communities’ bond with Britain, which had until then been the solid bedrock of their national identification. The chapter argues that it is only by examining the disputes side by side that we can appreciate how some of the key forces driving the local responses to these international events transcended the territories themselves. Looking at these two cases together through the transnational prism of Greater Britain can help us better understand their disproportionate reverberations in Thatcher’s Britain.

in The break-up of Greater Britain
Richard Toye

This chapter places Churchill’s description of the Munich Agreement as ‘a total and unmitigated defeat’ within the context of his evolving attitudes to diplomacy over the course of the 1930s. In particular, it investigates his understanding of what he referred to as ‘the European system’. As a young man, he had adhered to a brutally realist view of Great Power politics, but in the interwar years this was somewhat tempered by his promotion of ideas of collective security. Such rhetoric had an opportunistic aspect, as he sought to court progressive opinion in Britain; and it was well said of him that he only became enthusiastic about the League of Nations when he thought it might lead to a war. Nevertheless, his views did undergo a genuine evolution. Notably, his approach to the USSR changed, as can be demonstrated by reference to newspaper articles that he published that have up to now escaped notice by scholars. He was never less than strongly anti-communist, but he was perhaps above all anti-Trotskyist; thus, whereas at the start of the decade he highlighted the threat of Soviet rearmament, by the mid-1930s he had become convinced that Stalin’s policy of ‘socialism in one country’ meant that Russia could potentially be trusted to act as a Great Power within the system on traditional tsarist lines. Churchill’s belief that the Soviet Union would behave selfishly but rationally and predictably therefore constituted a key element of his approach to the Munich Crisis.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Hungary and Poland in the vortex of the Munich Crisis of 1938
Miklos Lojko

Hungary, like Germany, was a vanquished power after the Great War, and propaganda denouncing the peace settlement was ubiquitous. Slogans condemning the peace permeated public life, politics, education, academia, literature, the press and broadcasting. The mentality engendered by this atmosphere infused the private discourses of families and individuals. The victimhood mentality helped to mould and sustain Admiral Horthy’s interwar regency. The ‘Szeged idea’ – drawn up in the southern town of Szeged in 1919 – remained the binding element of public and private discourse, predicated on anti-liberal and anti-Western principles that would rebuild and govern Hungary along Christian-national lines. In this atmosphere, Hungary’s small liberal elite, who had no sympathy with Hitler’s regime, struggled to denounce the injustice of Munich. An annex of Munich referred the territorial dispute between Hungary and Czechoslovakia to direct negotiations that eventually awarded Hungary southern Slovakia in November 1938 and Subcarpathian Ruthenia in March 1939. Thus Hungary, a country with a largely silent opposition, became a beneficiary of Munich. The politicians’ views are easily decoded, deriving from geopolitical circumstances. However, the absence of dissent by public intellectuals, the press and public opinion points to a deeper crisis in interwar Hungarian political culture. Using a range of non-political publications, journals, literary magazines, private diaries and other sources, this chapter elucidates the social and psychological dynamic behind Hungary’s quiescent and often complicit attitude during the Munich Crisis.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Mary Heimann

In school textbooks, TV documentaries and political speeches, the Munich Agreement appears within a sweeping narrative of ‘the Road to War’ or the ‘Price of Appeasement’. This is a story in which the repeated failures of France, Britain and the League of Nations to ‘stand up’ to the dictators culminates in Germany’s Anschluss with Austria, annexation of the Sudetenland and attack on Poland. Into this interwar drama, featuring a bullying Germany, a hesitant France and a spineless Britain, a little-known country called ‘Czechoslovakia’ suddenly appears to take on the part of sacrificial lamb. In this familiar narrative, Czechoslovakia features imperfectly, not as a state that could influence other countries’ foreign policies, but simply as a victim. The Munich Agreement, which still haunts the Czech imagination, became part of an Allied wartime narrative that has proved remarkably resilient. Although Czechoslovak security was fatally weakened by the removal of the Sudetenland, and although Czechoslovakia was let down by its Allies and humiliated at Munich, this only tells part of the story. Czechoslovakia’s reputation as righteous victim has depended on its supposed record as an innately decent and tolerant state until the Munich catastrophe sapped its moral fibre. Examining more closely the interwar Czechoslovak state’s attitudes towards its non-Czech citizens, and the regional responses to Munich within the first and second republics, allows a more complicated picture to emerge. Taking a less sentimental and Whiggish view of the interwar Czechoslovak state leads to a cautionary tale with a rather different moral.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
German popular opinion during the Czechoslovakian crisis, 1938
Karina Urbach

We already know much about Nazi propaganda in the build-up to the Sudeten crisis. But how did the average German actually experience the tense months from May to October 1938? To answer this question, this chapter examines a hitherto neglected source: the Sopade reports. These reports, published by the exiled Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) between 1933 and 1940, were accumulated by a network of informants who sought opinions from a diverse range of groups – from factory workers to the German middle classes. The reports show that Nazi propaganda worked especially well on young people and women, who believed that the Sudeten Germans were seriously suppressed and needed support. They also perceived the Western democracies as weak, since they had not intervened militarily in Spain, had responded passively to the Anschluss, and would likely give up Czechoslovakia easily. Even old SPD supporters agreed, commenting, ‘who will stop Hitler? The French have one government crisis after the other, England is pro-Hitler and Russia will only march if France does, which will never happen’. Still, the Munich Conference shocked Hitler’s opponents who could not believe the betrayal of ‘those English pigs!’ While most Germans seemed relieved about the outcome, there was no great elation. Instead the average German thought the impoverished Sudeten Germans were a further financial burden who would have to be fed as much as the ‘poor’ Austrians. Despite the propaganda efforts of the regime, Munich did not impress the average German as much as Hitler’s previous successes.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Popular agency, activity and the reframing of history
Jessica Wardhaugh

Defined by a political and diplomatic elite, the Munich Agreement of 1938 deliberately excluded the people. Daladier was greeted with enthusiasm, but more politicised expressions of popular emotion were circumscribed by a police refusal to authorise mass meetings. Little wonder that research and recrimination have focused on a guilty few while assuming the esprit munichois of the many. Nevertheless, the Munich Crisis transformed the activity and agency of ordinary French people: 700,000 reservists were mobilised, urban areas were prepared for attack, and individuals and families fled the capital. The crisis was feverishly discussed in the streets and in the press, around radio sets in cafes and at private political gatherings. Both individuals and groups sought to shape events ostensibly outside their control. Engaging with recent research that challenges the image of a passive or pacifist populace, this chapter explores popular activity, agency and memory at a time when the anticipation of attack shaped both daily and nocturnal life. It examines how different sections of the population reacted to the crisis, as well as its transient but wide-ranging effects on transport, communication and the urban environment. New light is thus thrown on the relationships between populations and technology in the control of movement, information and emotion, probing questions of individual agency at a time of crisis. The chapter reveals how the ‘Munich moment’ shaped both individual and collective narratives, whether in reimagining French and European peoples in 1938, or in preparing mental and material pathways for the experiences of 1939–40.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Abstract only
Julie V. Gottlieb
Daniel Hucker

This introduction provides a brief overview of the existing scholarship on the appeasement era in general and the Sudeten crisis in particular. It demonstrates how the vast historiography of this topic has been uniform, employing a ‘top down’ approach that focuses overwhelmingly on the key protagonists (all men), on the ‘appeasing’ countries (especially Britain but also France), and the diplomatic and strategic impact of the crisis and its aftermath. The introduction contends that a more holistic and inclusive appraisal of the crisis is long overdue, an approach that attends to the broader social, cultural, emotional, material and international responses. It suggests further that there are substantial benefits to be derived from tapping into more recent and germane disciplinary trends, including the ‘cultural’ and ‘emotional’ turns. The introduction also teases out the links between the various contributions, accentuating the key themes and motifs that lend the collection its focus and coherence. It showcases the advantages of curating a timely selection of original and methodologically innovative approaches to a well-documented event, with a view to unpicking the hitherto under-explored links between the cultural and the diplomatic. In so doing, it positions the collection as an additional insight into the popular cultural and emotional responses to the imminent threat of modern warfare.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people