The policy of appeasement, adopted by Britain and its allies towards Germany in the 1930s, aimed to diplomatically accommodate the national interests of the Axis powers. This approach involved various concessions and agreements with Germany, such as the Munich Agreement, the Anglo-German Naval agreement, and supporting the reunification of Germany-Austria. However, the policy of appeasement has been a subject of debate regarding its effectiveness and its role in causing the outbreak of the Second World War.

Reasons for the Policy of Appeasement:

Failure of League of Nations:

  • The League of Nations had proved ineffective in providing collective security or imposing meaningful sanctions in response to aggressive actions by Japan (Manchuria) and Italy (Ethiopia).
  • Absence of a working mechanism for international cooperation compelled the allied powers to pursue appeasement as a means of dealing with Germany.

The Great Depression:

  • During the economic crisis of the 1930s, Germany emerged as an attractive market for countries like Britain and the USA.
  • Avoiding antagonizing Germany was essential to prevent the loss of markets during challenging economic times.

Countering Communism:

  • The rise of communism and increasing labor unrest were major concerns for the allied powers.
  • Germany was seen as a potential counterbalance against the influence of communism and the Soviet Union.


  • France and Britain lacked the desire and capability for an active foreign policy that could instigate war with Germany.
  • The Munich Agreement exemplifies their preference for appeasement over confrontation.

Popular Sentiment:

  • The traumatic memory of the massive loss of lives during the First World War shaped public opinion against engaging in another conflict.
  • Sections of the population sympathized with Germany and perceived the Treaty of Versailles as unjust, making appeasement a widely accepted approach.

Appeasement’s Role in the Outbreak of World War II:

  • Empowering Axis Powers: The policy of appeasement allowed Germany and Italy to strengthen their military capabilities, significantly altering the balance of power in Europe and leading to aggressive invasions and annexations.
  • Facilitating Militarization: The lack of confrontation against military aggressions by Japan (China), Italy (Ethiopia), and Germany (Czechoslovakia) facilitated their militarization and expansion.
  • Neglecting Checks against German Aggressions: The policy of appeasement marginalized the Soviet Union, reducing its ability to act as a deterrent against German expansion.
  • Moral Concerns: Appeasement followed the principle of “might-is-right,” allowing strong countries to use aggression against weaker neighbors, as witnessed in the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
  • German Invasion of Poland: Hitler’s overconfidence in the allied powers’ non-interference, due to their appeasement policies, led to the invasion of Poland and triggered World War II.

Counterarguments Against Identifying Appeasement as the Sole Cause:

  • Aggressive Axis Ambitions:
    • The aggressive and unreasonable ambitions of the Axis powers were the primary cause of international militarization.
    • Appeasement was an attempt to contain the crisis rather than encourage it.
  • Realist Approach: Appeasement represented a realist approach aimed at avoiding immediate conflict and buying time for preparation.
  • Inevitability of War with Hitler: Hitler’s conviction in German military superiority would have made any alternate policy futile in achieving peace.
  • Other Underlying Causes: The failure of the League of Nations, the Nazi-Soviet pact, and expansionism as an economic strategy were more critical factors leading to World War II.
  • Simultaneous Military Preparations: Britain also bolstered its military capabilities alongside the policy of appeasement, as evidenced by the induction of modern fighter aircraft like Hurricane and Spitfire.


The policy of appeasement pursued by Britain and its allies in the 1930s sought to maintain peace at home but failed to address the escalating crisis abroad. While it allowed Germany and its allies to grow stronger militarily, it cannot be solely blamed for the outbreak of World War II. Instead, a combination of aggressive Axis ambitions, geopolitical factors, and the failure of international mechanisms like the League of Nations played significant roles in precipitating the global conflict.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish February 27, 2024