To what extent was there a decline in British power in the period 1919 to 1945
For an adequate explanation of British power declining during the period 1919 to 1945, it is essential to recognise Britain as part of a larger metamorphosis of European power.
In 1919, Britain seemed to have emerged from the First World War in a very strong position. Ending the war with an army of 5,500,000 men, over 100 cruisers, over 20,000 planes and her mobilisation at its peak, Britain appeared to be the greatest power in the victorious alliance. Britain had only 5 per cent its active male population, whereas France had lost 10 per cent and Germany 15 per cent who suffered much devastation,. Britain seemed to have little to fear from the other ‘great powers’ which had emerged victorious from the war.
Although America and Japan were now much stronger, neither in the short-term appeared to pose a serious challenge. Japan had been allies with Britain since 1902 and being on good terms with them meant that they posed no threat. America had aligned itself decisively with Britain in the War and common ties of language, culture and tradition meant that there was already talk of ‘special relationship’ between the two powers, with an exception of a little Armageddon between the cultures in fear of becoming too Americanised and visa versa.
The elimination of German competition helped British manufacturers. The great industrial effort of the war seemed to have demonstrated the strength and flexibility of the British economy. Britain had been so successful that it was able to loan vast sums of money to other Allied governments such as Russia and still pay for the war largely out of its own resources. The economic impact of World War One was less considerable than many had feared with the help of Britain’s enormous reserves of wealth and its established hold on many overseas markets.
The flawed Treaty of Versailles is often seen as sowing the seeds of the second word war. Others have blamed the ‘appeasers’ of the 1930’s such as Llyod George and Neville Chamberlain. Some have argued hat British power of decline was expected and already in retreat before 1914, continuing through the inter-war years and the second world war acting as a catalyst to the weaknesses of Britain’s position.
With hindsight it is possible to regard
The war had substantiated the Empire’s unity and utility providing vital raw material and some two and half million ‘colonial’ troops.
The First World War was not a major turning point for Britain’s decline compared to the Second World War, where it had a massive effect on Britain’s international position, bringing about British decline of power.
Britain’s relative power across time to her alliance effectively rose after the second world war in connection to the state of her economy and armed forces.
Whatever the dreams of imperial enthusiasts, in reality the British Empire did not match up. The total cost of administering and defending such a heterogeneous collection of territories was a major problem.
Britain’s share of the world’s trade had been declining by 1919 and on wards, due to the persistantcu to keep old industries – textiles, iron and steel. Britain found themselves becoming less competitive and even new industries were slow to develop, to crearte comp[etion and challenge to ‘Britain’s power’
What , ultimately , this argument is saying is that arms increases – and arms-races -are the retlection of complex political/ ideological / racial / economic / territorial differences rather than phe-nomena which exist , as it were ,of them selves ,uncaused causes , uncontrollable , unsteerable , unstoppable steamrollers of death . Such different and tensions between states (or , at least, between the elites of states ) have often produced feelings of insecurity , which are man