Historiography and British

Judith K. Libby, Butler University


Opinions do not generate in a vacuum; they are the product of thoughts which have sifted down from many sources. One important contributor to this influx of ideas has been the historian. Fut even while the importance of his role is acknowledged, his effects are not always readily calculable, and it is sometimes difficult to discern whether a better understanding of past events has had any significance in shaping men's responses to contemporary issues. It is the thesis of this paper that there have been certain situations when historical research had an important bearing on the choices statesmen made and the policies they pursued. This will be illustrated by focusing on a group of historian8 known as revisionists and analyzing the impact of their work on one particular event, Britain's reaction to the remilitarization of the Rhineland. Called revisionists because they reached conclusions at variance with previously accepted versions of the First World War, these men helped to alter the entire scheme of values and beliefs concerning Anglo-German relations during the inter-war period. Their new explanations for the causes of the war pervaded the intellectual climate 1 2 of the twenties and thirties and became an integral part of the body of ideas that nurtured the British philosophy of appeasement. Furthermore, the evidence they uncovered did much to predispose officials and public opinion in favor of pro-German alterations to the Treaty of Versailles