image

COURSERA: The Modern World, Part Two: Global History since 1910, W3.05 Triumph of the New Empires

Hi. Welcome back. Last time we talked about the ambitions of the new empires. This time we'll talk about how those ambitions unfolded during three terrible years: from 1937 to the summer of 1940. As soon as Hitler's ambitions and others become apparent, the democracies had some fundamental decisions to make as to where, if anywhere, they were going to draw the line to confront Hitler with the danger of war. They stand by as Hitler annexes Austria in March of 1938. But then as Hitler begins to look at Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1938, war clouds gather. The British and French have to decide: Will we go to war over the issue in Czechoslovakia? What was the issue in Czechoslovakia? It had to do with Hitler's claims the Sudetenland. Because, of course, Hitler's not revealing all of his large imperial ambitions. What he's saying is, he just wants to reunite the Germanic peoples. And there's some German speaking people living in this part of, one of these new states created in 1918 and 1919, Czechoslovakia. Let's take a look at this from the German point of view. Here's a German map of Czechoslovakia that shows their Sudetenland. You see, these little images of the German-speaking lands of Czechoslovakia with their picturesque little castles and the German-speaking people in their folk costumes. The Germans say, we just want to annex the Sudetenland. This part of Czechoslovakia. Now, it turns out that this part of Czechoslovakia has, of course, all of Czechoslovakia's defenses. It also has Czechoslovakia�s key munitions industries that make its armaments. So, if Hitler's ambitions are granted, and the Germanic-speaking peoples are reunited, Czechoslovakia becomes defenseless. The military balance in Europe begins to shift because Czechoslovakia is a powerful medium-sized country. It's got a real army. It could have given the Germans a serious fight, in conjunction with help, perhaps, from the British and the French. So there's a really serious danger that there's going to be a general European war that comes to a head in a series of meetings in September 1938. Three summit conferences are held, the diplomatic lead held by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Very early on Chamberlain makes it clear that they're prepared to have some kind of plebiscite or vote or some process that may allow the Sudetenland to be turned over to Germany. Hitler, in a way, refuses to take yes for an answer, alarming Chamberlain and the British Cabinet. He says, no I can't wait for this slow process, I need this right now, or else we're just going to have a war. For a lot of Chamberlain's Cabinet this is the moment at which that really dawns on them that Hitler really does want a war. There's a lot more going on here than just the claims to reunite the Germans. Chamberlain makes one last effort. Hitler falters at carrying forward his ultimatum to go directly to war. He allows himself to be talked out of going to war at the third of these summit conferences, this one held at Munich at the end of September 1938. Here are the summit participants: Hitler in the foreground, next to him is the French prime minister, �douard Daladier, who clearly looks unhappy to be there. There's Neville Chamberlain. Over here is the Italian Duce, Benito Mussolini. Their aides are in the background. That gentleman on the far right is the Italian foreign minister, Count Ciano. The result of the meeting is: The Sudetenland will be turned over to Germany in fairly short order. Chamberlain comes back to London and tells the relieved world there will be no general European war, he has secured peace in our time. Everyone praises what Chamberlain has done. The American president, Franklin Roosevelt, writes him a congratulatory message. Fairly soon it becomes clear that the Sudetenland really was just the first step. In March of 1939, Hitler takes the rest of Czechoslovakia, too, which is now defenseless. And this map shows you the way in which the Germans proceed to cut up Czechoslovakia and parcel it out to their friends. These areas in dark purple simply become part of Germany. This area becomes an imperial protectorate, German protectorate. A puppet republic here. Land given here to the Hungarians who'd become Germany's allies. After seeing what happened to Czechoslovakia, though, the British and French governments rally. The British Cabinet is determined that the line has to be drawn, the French government strongly with them. They decide to draw the line at Poland. They issue a guarantee to the Pols that if Germany attacks them Britain and France will come to their defense. Let's think about this choice for a moment, though. Why Poland? At this point, Germany and its new occupied territories will surround Poland from three sides: north, west, and south. It will be very hard to defend Poland against a German attack. The British and French, however, are deciding to make a stand, telling Germany you will have a European war if you go there. Why that stand then? Why not just let the Germans have Poland and have the Nazis face to face up against Stalin. It's clear the British and French don't just view this as a cynical calculation; there is this sense of we really have to decide whether we're going to stand up to the preservation of independent states in Europe. Whether we're going to stand up at some point to the development of a gigantic German continental empire. There's almost a sense of pride, embarrassment, prestige, their status as empires. Plus, especially in the case of the French, a long-standing emotional dedication to the cause of Polish independence. All these factors come together as the British and French decide that's the place to draw the line. They then begin looking to their former mortal enemy, Stalin's Soviet Union, and asking do you want to make common cause against the Nazis. Stalin, of course, is no more trustful of them than they are of him. He looks around, Stalin thinks about his options, Stalin makes a choice that stuns the world. At the end of August 1939, the Soviets and the Nazi Germans, the sworn deadly enemies of right and left, combine and sign an agreement, named for their foreign ministers, the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, in which they decide they're going to not only stand back and let the Germans take Poland, they're going to join with them and cut up the country between them. Hitler had hoped that his agreement with the Soviet Union might persuade the British and French to stay out of the war, at least for a while. But when he goes into Poland, they come in too. But it doesn't do much to protect what happened in Poland. To just kind of illustrate this graphically, I've got this wonderful interactive map prepared by the British government's National Archives. You can see that German annexation of Austria in 1938. The Sudetenland: September �38. The rest of Czechoslovakia: spring of '39. And then comes the invasion of Poland, followed shortly thereafter by the Soviet Union making its move. So as a general European war begins, the sides start looking at their war plans. They're taking into account some lessons from the last war. For instance, they're not going to charge headlong into machine guns and artillery fire. On the British and French side, they're going to stand pat behind strong powerful defensive fortifications built in eastern France, which they call the Maginot Line. They have powerful forces poised at the border between France and Belgium in case the Germans try to come in that way, the way they had in 1914. And then they're going to rely on their advantages in naval power, especially, to try to strangle Germany with a blockade, like they had in the First World War. The Germans, meanwhile, are looking at their lessons from the last war. They're adopting offensive plans. They don't want to charge headlong into that Maginot Line. They're thinking also about replaying a little bit of what they had done in 1914. We'll invade through Belgium and come around. But that's kind of exactly what the British and French are expecting. The German High Command looks at that. They're pretty pessimistic about what's going to happen, but they're getting ready. In fact, the German generals had thought, really from 1938 on, that if there was a war between Germany and Britain and France, probably they're going to lose. Or they're going to get a long stalemate at best. They were deeply pessimistic about how all this was going to work out. But, they followed the F�hrer�s orders. They prepared these plans. The British and French are relatively Confident that they can do well, relying on their blockade, relying on building up a large air force that can bomb Germany, eventually. This period of quiet that ensues as the Allies are waiting for a German attack and making their plans, the Germans are looking at their offensive plans, just can't quite go forward - the generals reluctant, weather problems, no invasion of France in the fall of 1939. It seems to the outside world like a phony war. What's really happened though is the initial plans of both sides have already failed. Why? Well on the Allied side, the blockade plans were hopeless, because Hitler's Germany is getting all the raw materials it needs from its friend the Soviet Union, which has access to raw materials from throughout Eurasia. The blockade's hopeless. So hopeless, in fact, that the British and French start asking themselves whether they need to go to war with the Soviet Union and think about taking sides when the Soviets pick this moment to have a war with Finland, up to their north. What about the German side? Well, they're finally getting ready to launch that attack through Belgium that the Allies are expecting. And then a courier carrying these plans is actually downed in his plane over Belgium. The plans are captured by the Allies, which reveals that the Germans are getting ready to do about what they expect them to do. But the German High Command thinks, desperately, well, we better come up with some sort of different plan, since we just turned over our existing plans to the Allies. What then follows is one of the strangest, startling military victories in modern history. I use the term strange victory here, borrowing the phrase that a colleague of mine, Ernest May, used for his great book about the French campaign of 1940. He called it strange victory, reversing the terms a French scholar, Marc Bloch, had used to call it a strange defeat. No, it wasn't so much France's defeat that's strange. In a way, it's that the Germans were able to win at all. They develop an incredibly high-risk plan, desperate to find something that might work. Now, I haven't spent a whole lot of time in the course zeroing on military campaign plans, but this one is so important in the course of world history that it's worth taking a little bit of a look at what happened here. The original plan of the German High Command, portrayed up here, was an invasion up through Holland and Belgium that might eventually then sweep down against the French and British forces that are waiting to move in to confront them up here. What might then ensue would be another version of World War I all over again, but with the British and French forces relatively even stronger in comparison to the German ones. And of course after their plans were captured, the German generals are even more certain that this plan is doomed, at best, to get a stale mate, and probably long-term defeat. But one of their generals, von Manstein, proposes a daring idea. So Manstein's plan, this gamble, was you'd start just the way the Allies are expecting, moving in up here. They respond, wheeling their armies up into Belgium. Then you use this army group, here, to punch in behind them, sweeping behind them, cutting off their forces, driving them against the English Channel. Sounds like a great idea. Why is this hard? Well first of all, you have to mass this huge army group here, and the Allies can't really quite notice or fully figure out what you're doing. Second, this army group has to punch through the most difficult terrain in the entire front: heavily wooded valleys, where armored vehicles in their thousands all most have to line up single file, crossing significant river obstacles. If the French move their forces rapidly enough down here, this can be bottled up easily and the whole offensive fails. In fact, when the German generals analyzed the prospects for success of a plan like this, which got successfully refined in the coming months, they estimated the chances that it would work as something like one in ten. It was kind of like the military equivalent of what, in American football, we might call a Hail Mary pass. But, amazingly, it worked. The French and British forces actually fought well and bravely. The quality of their equipment was very good, comparable to, sometimes superior to the German equipment. The problem was the French were out of position. Their intelligence had not worked well enough in anticipating and seeing the German move. And they had not been agile enough to respond once they detected the move. As sometimes those Hail Mary passes do, this play worked, but the consequences were simply enormous. So let's go back to our handy interactive map prepared by the British government's National Archives so we can see this process unfold. It'll start with a German attack on Denmark and Norway in early April of 1940, an attack in which they will end up controlling the Baltic Sea, access to their raw materials from neutral Sweden. Then the Germans, knowing about the defensive line in eastern France, make their feint in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their attacks there followed by the attack that'll punch through down here, in order to drive the Allied armies to the English Channel. From here, hundreds of thousands, mostly British troops but also French troops, had to be evacuated, at the end of May, back to Great Britain. The evacuation of Dunkirk. After this, the rest of France is helpless. The Germans take Paris a couple of weeks later and subdue the rest of the country. France surrenders. The Germans and the French agree to set up a government, at Vichy, that will rule France in partnership with Germany, as the Germans set up a military occupation over the rest of the country. The sudden collapse of France, the defeat of the British and French in little more than a few weeks, stunned the world. Everyone had in their mind the memory of World War I: years and years of struggle and battle and trench warfare. Suddenly, there was a lightning war, a blitzkrieg, and the balance of power in the world was overthrown. The first choice that had to be made was by Britain: Should they fight on, should they make terms? The issue comes to a head in five days in London at the end of May 1940, as the catastrophic news pours in. The key players in the British government on the issue: Neville Chamberlain had already resigned as prime minister. He had been replaced by the conservative maverick Winston Churchill, someone who'd been warning about the German menace for years but had been a bit of an outcast, even within his own party. With Churchill now as prime minister, he looks to his foreign minister, the conservative Lord Halifax, for advice. Halifax thinks it's probably best to, perhaps, look at ways to make terms, find some way to protect the Empire. Churchill is determined, however, to fight Hitler to the death. In this, interestingly, he's joined by the other key partners in this British government of national unity. That's the British Labour party: social democrats and socialists led by this man, Clement Attlee. The Labour Party is determined that the war should be fought to a finish. They align with Churchill. The British Cabinet decides that Britain will fight on. But Britain's choices are only the opening act for the choices everyone else in the world will make. It looks like the dictatorships are now holding the whip hand over the rest of the world. Indeed, fairly shortly after these victories, at the dawn of this new era, Germany, Italy, and Japan formally conclude a new alliance. A pact of steel. Here's a picture of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, festooned with the banners of the new alliance. And back in Japan, Japanese schoolchildren could see how children from all lands are rejoicing at the conclusion of this new coalition. From the point of view of the democracies, or from the British point of view, this is what the world looked like in late 1940: The areas in black are the areas effectively controlled by, dominated by Germany, Italy, and Japan. The areas in red controlled by the Soviet Union, Germany's friend - not a formal ally but so far its partner. Facing them is the British Empire in blue, along with its allies among the Dominions, like Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand. At this point, in late 1940, the dictatorships of the world, the totalitarians, will control the action. If you had been asked to rank the five most powerful countries in the world in the fall of 1940: probably Germany and the Soviet Union would be number one and number two. Maybe the British Empire, gravely weakened by its defeat in France but having the Empire and Dominions behind them, might be ranked as number three. The Japanese might be number four. The Americans over there, they're neutral; they have a strong navy but negligible army. This is a point at which the totalitarian countries, if they can continue working together, will more or less decide how the world is going to get carved up. The democracies have lost their ability to take the strategic initiative or drive the action. Those are both the opportunities and the dilemmas that the world faces in the summer of 1940. The choices that they will then make, on all sides, in 1940 and �41, that will transform the whole shape of this war, is what we'll come to next week. See you then. [BLANK_AUDIO].



Want to learn a language?


Learn from this text and thousands like it on LingQ.

  • A vast library of audio lessons, all with matching text
  • Revolutionary learning tools
  • A global, interactive learning community.

Language learning online @ LingQ

Hi. Welcome back. Last time we talked about the ambitions of the new empires. This time we'll talk about how those ambitions unfolded during three terrible years: from 1937 to the summer of 1940. As soon as Hitler's ambitions and others become apparent, the democracies had some fundamental decisions to make as to where, if anywhere, they were going to draw the line to confront Hitler with the danger of war. They stand by as Hitler annexes Austria in March of 1938. But then as Hitler begins to look at Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1938, war clouds gather. The British and French have to decide: Will we go to war over the issue in Czechoslovakia? What was the issue in Czechoslovakia? It had to do with Hitler's claims the Sudetenland. Because, of course, Hitler's not revealing all of his large imperial ambitions. What he's saying is, he just wants to reunite the Germanic peoples. And there's some German speaking people living in this part of, one of these new states created in 1918 and 1919, Czechoslovakia. Let's take a look at this from the German point of view. Here's a German map of Czechoslovakia that shows their Sudetenland. You see, these little images of the German-speaking lands of Czechoslovakia with their picturesque little castles and the German-speaking people in their folk costumes. The Germans say, we just want to annex the Sudetenland. This part of Czechoslovakia. Now, it turns out that this part of Czechoslovakia has, of course, all of Czechoslovakia's defenses. It also has Czechoslovakia�s key munitions industries that make its armaments. So, if Hitler's ambitions are granted, and the Germanic-speaking peoples are reunited, Czechoslovakia becomes defenseless. The military balance in Europe begins to shift because Czechoslovakia is a powerful medium-sized country. It's got a real army. It could have given the Germans a serious fight, in conjunction with help, perhaps, from the British and the French. So there's a really serious danger that there's going to be a general European war that comes to a head in a series of meetings in September 1938. Three summit conferences are held, the diplomatic lead held by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Very early on Chamberlain makes it clear that they're prepared to have some kind of plebiscite or vote or some process that may allow the Sudetenland to be turned over to Germany. Hitler, in a way, refuses to take yes for an answer, alarming Chamberlain and the British Cabinet. He says, no I can't wait for this slow process, I need this right now, or else we're just going to have a war. For a lot of Chamberlain's Cabinet this is the moment at which that really dawns on them that Hitler really does want a war. There's a lot more going on here than just the claims to reunite the Germans. Chamberlain makes one last effort. Hitler falters at carrying forward his ultimatum to go directly to war. He allows himself to be talked out of going to war at the third of these summit conferences, this one held at Munich at the end of September 1938. Here are the summit participants: Hitler in the foreground, next to him is the French prime minister, �douard Daladier, who clearly looks unhappy to be there. There's Neville Chamberlain. Over here is the Italian Duce, Benito Mussolini. Their aides are in the background. That gentleman on the far right is the Italian foreign minister, Count Ciano. The result of the meeting is: The Sudetenland will be turned over to Germany in fairly short order. Chamberlain comes back to London and tells the relieved world there will be no general European war, he has secured peace in our time. Everyone praises what Chamberlain has done. The American president, Franklin Roosevelt, writes him a congratulatory message. Fairly soon it becomes clear that the Sudetenland really was just the first step. In March of 1939, Hitler takes the rest of Czechoslovakia, too, which is now defenseless. And this map shows you the way in which the Germans proceed to cut up Czechoslovakia and parcel it out to their friends. These areas in dark purple simply become part of Germany. This area becomes an imperial protectorate, German protectorate. A puppet republic here. Land given here to the Hungarians who'd become Germany's allies. After seeing what happened to Czechoslovakia, though, the British and French governments rally. The British Cabinet is determined that the line has to be drawn, the French government strongly with them. They decide to draw the line at Poland. They issue a guarantee to the Pols that if Germany attacks them Britain and France will come to their defense. Let's think about this choice for a moment, though. Why Poland? At this point, Germany and its new occupied territories will surround Poland from three sides: north, west, and south. It will be very hard to defend Poland against a German attack. The British and French, however, are deciding to make a stand, telling Germany you will have a European war if you go there. Why that stand then? Why not just let the Germans have Poland and have the Nazis face to face up against Stalin. It's clear the British and French don't just view this as a cynical calculation; there is this sense of we really have to decide whether we're going to stand up to the preservation of independent states in Europe. Whether we're going to stand up at some point to the development of a gigantic German continental empire. There's almost a sense of pride, embarrassment, prestige, their status as empires. Plus, especially in the case of the French, a long-standing emotional dedication to the cause of Polish independence. All these factors come together as the British and French decide that's the place to draw the line. They then begin looking to their former mortal enemy, Stalin's Soviet Union, and asking do you want to make common cause against the Nazis. Stalin, of course, is no more trustful of them than they are of him. He looks around, Stalin thinks about his options, Stalin makes a choice that stuns the world. At the end of August 1939, the Soviets and the Nazi Germans, the sworn deadly enemies of right and left, combine and sign an agreement, named for their foreign ministers, the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, in which they decide they're going to not only stand back and let the Germans take Poland, they're going to join with them and cut up the country between them. Hitler had hoped that his agreement with the Soviet Union might persuade the British and French to stay out of the war, at least for a while. But when he goes into Poland, they come in too. But it doesn't do much to protect what happened in Poland. To just kind of illustrate this graphically, I've got this wonderful interactive map prepared by the British government's National Archives. You can see that German annexation of Austria in 1938. The Sudetenland: September �38. The rest of Czechoslovakia: spring of '39. And then comes the invasion of Poland, followed shortly thereafter by the Soviet Union making its move. So as a general European war begins, the sides start looking at their war plans. They're taking into account some lessons from the last war. For instance, they're not going to charge headlong into machine guns and artillery fire. On the British and French side, they're going to stand pat behind strong powerful defensive fortifications built in eastern France, which they call the Maginot Line. They have powerful forces poised at the border between France and Belgium in case the Germans try to come in that way, the way they had in 1914. And then they're going to rely on their advantages in naval power, especially, to try to strangle Germany with a blockade, like they had in the First World War. The Germans, meanwhile, are looking at their lessons from the last war. They're adopting offensive plans. They don't want to charge headlong into that Maginot Line. They're thinking also about replaying a little bit of what they had done in 1914. We'll invade through Belgium and come around. But that's kind of exactly what the British and French are expecting. The German High Command looks at that. They're pretty pessimistic about what's going to happen, but they're getting ready. In fact, the German generals had thought, really from 1938 on, that if there was a war between Germany and Britain and France, probably they're going to lose. Or they're going to get a long stalemate at best. They were deeply pessimistic about how all this was going to work out. But, they followed the F�hrer�s orders. They prepared these plans. The British and French are relatively Confident that they can do well, relying on their blockade, relying on building up a large air force that can bomb Germany, eventually. This period of quiet that ensues as the Allies are waiting for a German attack and making their plans, the Germans are looking at their offensive plans, just can't quite go forward - the generals reluctant, weather problems, no invasion of France in the fall of 1939. It seems to the outside world like a phony war. What's really happened though is the initial plans of both sides have already failed. Why? Well on the Allied side, the blockade plans were hopeless, because Hitler's Germany is getting all the raw materials it needs from its friend the Soviet Union, which has access to raw materials from throughout Eurasia. The blockade's hopeless. So hopeless, in fact, that the British and French start asking themselves whether they need to go to war with the Soviet Union and think about taking sides when the Soviets pick this moment to have a war with Finland, up to their north. What about the German side? Well, they're finally getting ready to launch that attack through Belgium that the Allies are expecting. And then a courier carrying these plans is actually downed in his plane over Belgium. The plans are captured by the Allies, which reveals that the Germans are getting ready to do about what they expect them to do. But the German High Command thinks, desperately, well, we better come up with some sort of different plan, since we just turned over our existing plans to the Allies. What then follows is one of the strangest, startling military victories in modern history. I use the term strange victory here, borrowing the phrase that a colleague of mine, Ernest May, used for his great book about the French campaign of 1940. He called it strange victory, reversing the terms a French scholar, Marc Bloch, had used to call it a strange defeat. No, it wasn't so much France's defeat that's strange. In a way, it's that the Germans were able to win at all. They develop an incredibly high-risk plan, desperate to find something that might work. Now, I haven't spent a whole lot of time in the course zeroing on military campaign plans, but this one is so important in the course of world history that it's worth taking a little bit of a look at what happened here. The original plan of the German High Command, portrayed up here, was an invasion up through Holland and Belgium that might eventually then sweep down against the French and British forces that are waiting to move in to confront them up here. What might then ensue would be another version of World War I all over again, but with the British and French forces relatively even stronger in comparison to the German ones. And of course after their plans were captured, the German generals are even more certain that this plan is doomed, at best, to get a stale mate, and probably long-term defeat. But one of their generals, von Manstein, proposes a daring idea. So Manstein's plan, this gamble, was you'd start just the way the Allies are expecting, moving in up here. They respond, wheeling their armies up into Belgium. Then you use this army group, here, to punch in behind them, sweeping behind them, cutting off their forces, driving them against the English Channel. Sounds like a great idea. Why is this hard? Well first of all, you have to mass this huge army group here, and the Allies can't really quite notice or fully figure out what you're doing. Second, this army group has to punch through the most difficult terrain in the entire front: heavily wooded valleys, where armored vehicles in their thousands all most have to line up single file, crossing significant river obstacles. If the French move their forces rapidly enough down here, this can be bottled up easily and the whole offensive fails. In fact, when the German generals analyzed the prospects for success of a plan like this, which got successfully refined in the coming months, they estimated the chances that it would work as something like one in ten. It was kind of like the military equivalent of what, in American football, we might call a Hail Mary pass. But, amazingly, it worked. The French and British forces actually fought well and bravely. The quality of their equipment was very good, comparable to, sometimes superior to the German equipment. The problem was the French were out of position. Their intelligence had not worked well enough in anticipating and seeing the German move. And they had not been agile enough to respond once they detected the move. As sometimes those Hail Mary passes do, this play worked, but the consequences were simply enormous. So let's go back to our handy interactive map prepared by the British government's National Archives so we can see this process unfold. It'll start with a German attack on Denmark and Norway in early April of 1940, an attack in which they will end up controlling the Baltic Sea, access to their raw materials from neutral Sweden. Then the Germans, knowing about the defensive line in eastern France, make their feint in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their attacks there followed by the attack that'll punch through down here, in order to drive the Allied armies to the English Channel. From here, hundreds of thousands, mostly British troops but also French troops, had to be evacuated, at the end of May, back to Great Britain. The evacuation of Dunkirk. After this, the rest of France is helpless. The Germans take Paris a couple of weeks later and subdue the rest of the country. France surrenders. The Germans and the French agree to set up a government, at Vichy, that will rule France in partnership with Germany, as the Germans set up a military occupation over the rest of the country. The sudden collapse of France, the defeat of the British and French in little more than a few weeks, stunned the world. Everyone had in their mind the memory of World War I: years and years of struggle and battle and trench warfare. Suddenly, there was a lightning war, a blitzkrieg, and the balance of power in the world was overthrown. The first choice that had to be made was by Britain: Should they fight on, should they make terms? The issue comes to a head in five days in London at the end of May 1940, as the catastrophic news pours in. The key players in the British government on the issue: Neville Chamberlain had already resigned as prime minister. He had been replaced by the conservative maverick Winston Churchill, someone who'd been warning about the German menace for years but had been a bit of an outcast, even within his own party. With Churchill now as prime minister, he looks to his foreign minister, the conservative Lord Halifax, for advice. Halifax thinks it's probably best to, perhaps, look at ways to make terms, find some way to protect the Empire. Churchill is determined, however, to fight Hitler to the death. In this, interestingly, he's joined by the other key partners in this British government of national unity. That's the British Labour party: social democrats and socialists led by this man, Clement Attlee. The Labour Party is determined that the war should be fought to a finish. They align with Churchill. The British Cabinet decides that Britain will fight on. But Britain's choices are only the opening act for the choices everyone else in the world will make. It looks like the dictatorships are now holding the whip hand over the rest of the world. Indeed, fairly shortly after these victories, at the dawn of this new era, Germany, Italy, and Japan formally conclude a new alliance. A pact of steel. Here's a picture of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, festooned with the banners of the new alliance. And back in Japan, Japanese schoolchildren could see how children from all lands are rejoicing at the conclusion of this new coalition. From the point of view of the democracies, or from the British point of view, this is what the world looked like in late 1940: The areas in black are the areas effectively controlled by, dominated by Germany, Italy, and Japan. The areas in red controlled by the Soviet Union, Germany's friend - not a formal ally but so far its partner. Facing them is the British Empire in blue, along with its allies among the Dominions, like Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand. At this point, in late 1940, the dictatorships of the world, the totalitarians, will control the action. If you had been asked to rank the five most powerful countries in the world in the fall of 1940: probably Germany and the Soviet Union would be number one and number two. Maybe the British Empire, gravely weakened by its defeat in France but having the Empire and Dominions behind them, might be ranked as number three. The Japanese might be number four. The Americans over there, they're neutral; they have a strong navy but negligible army. This is a point at which the totalitarian countries, if they can continue working together, will more or less decide how the world is going to get carved up. The democracies have lost their ability to take the strategic initiative or drive the action. Those are both the opportunities and the dilemmas that the world faces in the summer of 1940. The choices that they will then make, on all sides, in 1940 and �41, that will transform the whole shape of this war, is what we'll come to next week. See you then. [BLANK_AUDIO].

×

We use cookies to help make LingQ better. By visiting the site, you agree to our cookie policy.