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Negotiating Neutrality

Anglo-Spanish Relations in the Age of Appeasement, 1931–1940

Scott Ramsay is a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of History at the University of Leeds. He completed his PhD at the same institution in summer 2021. His research has been published in several renowned academic journals, including Diplomacy & Statecraft, the International History Review and the Bulletin of Spanish Studies.

The British government’s policy of non-intervention in response to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War sought primarily to prevent the conflict escalating into a wider European war but also to ensure that it could maintain or establish cordial relations with whichever side emerged victorious. Due to General Franco’s military successes, the support he received from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the geostrategic importance of the Iberian Peninsula in Britain’s Mediterranean strategy, non-intervention evolved into a policy of appeasing Franco. This sustained strategic programme remained in place beyond the Civil War and throughout the Second World War. It aimed to drive a wedge between Franco and the Axis Powers to prevent Spain’s incorporation into the Rome–Berlin Axis and thereby ensure the neutrality of the Iberian Peninsula. The British government’s diplomatic recognition of Franco and simultaneous abandonment of the Spanish Republic in February 1939 formed a concession comparable to British policy towards Abyssinia and Czechoslovakia.

Negotiating Neutrality uses appeasement as an analytical framework to show how appeasement policies alter power dynamics in diplomatic relationships. As a beneficiary of appeasement, Franco, like Hitler and Mussolini, intuitively understood how to use this policy to his regime’s advantage and it formed an important part of his development as a statesman alongside his German and Italian counterparts. For its part, the British government increasingly encountered difficulties when trying to re-assert itself as the dominant power in Anglo-Spanish relations. In this sense, the author challenges the dominant view within the existing historiography – that British policy makers harboured ideological prejudices towards the Spanish Republic, or sympathy for the military rebels, and allowed these to cloud their judgement when formulating a policy towards the Civil War – show that Franco’s victory was far from the preferred outcome for the British government.

Published in association with the LSE Spanish History Series

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-116-0
Hardback Price: £70/$84.95
Release Date: March 2022
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Introduction: Britain, Spain and Appeasement


Part One: The Origins of Non-Intervention

1 Ideological Foundations of Non-Intervention: The British Foreign Office and Spain’s Political Polarisation, 1931–1936

2 The Outbreak of the Spanish Civil War: Formulating a Foreign Policy, July–August 1936


Part Two: Embracing Appeasement and the Slow Death of Non-Intervention

3 A New Dictator Emerges: Evolving Power Dynamics in Anglo-Rebel Relations, September 1936–December 1937

4 Appeasing Franco: Making Friends with ‘National Spain’, January 1938–February 1939


Part Three: From Civil War to World War

5 Hoping for Benevolent Neutrality: Making Amends for Non-Intervention, March-August 1939

6 Investing in Franco’s Neutrality: The Triumph of Non-Intervention? September 1939–June 1940


Conclusion: Perfidious or Timorous Albion?




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