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This forlorn adventure: British policy towards Poland, 1944-1947

Mason, Andrea (2014) This forlorn adventure: British policy towards Poland, 1944-1947. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis offers a study of British policy towards Poland from 194 to 1947. It traces the British attempt to negotiate a postwar political settlement for Poland that would met he expectations of both the Polish government-in-exile, to which Britain had committed its support in return for Poland’s substantial wartime military contribution, and the Soviet Union. During the last year and a half of the war, British policy makers struggled to mediate between the two sides and accommodate their competing demands. Ultimately, a compromise was reached, which saw the former prime minister of the exile government, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, return to Poland at he end of the war to join the provisional government. Mikołajczyk agreed to return on the basis of a British commitment to provide ongoing support in reconstituting a sovereign Polish state and establishing a democratic government. This thesis charts the outcome of that commitment, from the negotiations for the formation of the new Polish government under the auspices of the Three Power Commission in the summer of 1945, to the Polish referendum of June 1946, and the elections in January 1947. It shows that British policy makers struggled to met the commitment to Poland within the changing context of the postwar international system. In the circumstances of the emerging Cold War, as the reality of the Soviet resolve to absorb Poland into its sphere grew clearer, Britain’s political promises to the Polish democratic opposition became increasingly difficult to fulfil. Not al sections of the British policy making establishment were immediately prepared to accept heir dramatically circumscribed power to influence the shape of the Polish political settlement. Whereas the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin reconciled himself to the new circumstances with pragmatic sped, the Warsaw embassy, and many of the Foreign Office Northern Department officials, were less wiling to abandon the original terms of the British commitment. Thus, while some diplomatic and Foreign Office officials continued to lend support to the democratic Polish opposition parties, Bevin increasingly sought to limit Anglo-Polish relations to bilateral issues, including negotiations for financial and trade agreements, the repatriation of former members of the Polish armed forces, the final demarcation of Poland’s western frontier, and the transfer of the German population from western Poland to the British occupation zone. The result of these different priorities was a lack of uniformity in British policy. Much of the scholarship on Britain’s early postwar policy towards Poland takes one of two approaches: either it assumes that Britain understood immediately in 1945 that Poland was ‘lost’ to the Soviet Union, or it sets a reprehensible cynicism in the British approach, without due acknowledgement of the limits which constrained British policy options. This thesis offers a different interpretation; it argues that Britain adjusted much more slowly and unevenly to its diminished position after the war, and that its limited capacity to shape the Polish political settlement was understood only gradually, and at different times in different parts of the policy making establishment, creating an overall inconsistency in policy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Andrea Grace Mason
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Prazmowska, Anita J.

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