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Great Britain and the Ruhr occupation Arendt, Clayton Hondo


France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr Valley in Germany in January 1923. Germany responded with passive resistance. For the following nine months these three countries remained locked in a powerful struggle of wills. Britain was not directly involved in the conflict but she was certainly affected by it. Britain believed that the occupation would destroy Germany's ability to pay reparations. However, Britain decided to pursue a policy of neutrality; she did not oppose the occupation, nor did she support it. Historians have tried to determine why Britain chose the policy of neutrality. If Britain believed that the occupation was unwise, why didn't she try to end the Ruhr struggle? Most historians concluded that Britain did not actively oppose France for one of three reasons. Some believe Britain could not act because of the clear strategic advantages which France held. Others believe that Britain did try to oppose France but that her efforts ultimately failed. These first two groups of historians have accepted the central idea that Britain wanted to oppose France. However, a third group of historians rejects this thesis, claiming instead that Britain did not oppose France because she had no desire to do so. This paper attempts to discover general British attitudes toward the Ruhr occupation. It tries to determine whether the British wanted to oppose France in 1923. A variety of materials were used to try to discover what attitudes and beliefs determined British foreign policy during the Ruhr occupation. The main source used was the British press. This paper makes use of a number of British newspapers from that period. A variety of first hand accounts, general histories, and government documents were also used. Together these sources provided a clear picture of general British opinions of the occupation. This paper demonstrates that Britain could not contemplate opposing France in 1923. The popular attitudes and beliefs of the time precluded any such action. Britain remained neutral not only because France was in a better strategic position than she, but also because she did not want to oppose the occupation. The evidence which has previously been used by historians to demonstrate pro-German sympathies has been entirely misinterpreted. There is nothing in British statements, actions, or beliefs which would suggest that Britain had any desire to oppose France actively in 1923.

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