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The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography$
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Robin Winks

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205661

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205661.001.0001

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The Empire-Commonwealth and the Two World Wars

The Empire-Commonwealth and the Two World Wars

(p.354) 23 The Empire-Commonwealth and the Two World Wars
The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume V: Historiography

Ritchie Ovendale

Oxford University Press

The general histories of the two world wars and their origins, and in particular those of the second, until the 1960s, largely ignored the role of the British Empire-Commonwealth. A possible explanation for this is that the reluctance of the Dominions to fight in September 1938 was often cited as an explanation for Neville Chamberlain’s policy at Munich by those who endorsed ‘appeasement’. Britain’s Eastern policy during the First World War, and during the subsequent peace settlements, saw a vast addition to the British Empire in the Middle East. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, at a time when Australian Labor governments raised the question of severing the links with the British Crown, the matter of the defence of Singapore and Britain’s commitment to Australia’s defence just before and during the early stages of the Second World War again became a live political issue which stimulated academic controversy. The development of the Empire-Commonwealth during the Second World War is shown in this chapter. In making an overall assessment of the significance of the Second World War for the Commonwealth-Empire some scholars have offered profit-and-loss accounts.

Keywords:   British Empire, Commonwealth, First World War, Second World War, Eastern policy, Dominions, Australian Labor governments, Middle East

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