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Politics and National Security: The Battles for Britain

Politics and National Security: The Battles for Britain

Abstract

Between 1889 and 1939 Britain created security for itself through alliances, rearmament, or appeasement (either alone or in some combination). The existing literature emphasizes the role of geopolitics, domestic characteristics, and individual idiosyncrasies to explain Britain's choices. I argue that within Britain, two broad and logrolled coalitions (outward-looking internationalist bloc and inward-oriented nationalist faction) battled to advance their faction's preferred security strategy and to capture the associated distributive benefits. Supporters and opponents understood that how Britain secured itself would create internal winners and losers. Supporters and opponents also recognized that any changes in the security strategy would have domestic redistributional consequences. I apply this model to Britain and use a longitudinal controlled comparison over three periods: 1889—1914, 1914—1919, and 1919—1939.
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