1st Edition

The Writing on the Wall The British Commonwealth and Aggression in the East 1931–1935

By E. M. Andrews Copyright 1987
    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    First published in 1987, The Writing on the Wall tells the story of the muddle, shortsightedness and duplicity which characterised Britain’s dealings with her Pacific Dominions. It describes the reactions of each Dominion and chronicles the desultory responses of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to the developing crises in the North Pacific. The result is an important contribution to the history of all four continents. 

    As the 1930s opened, the British Empire was everywhere recognised as a Great Power.  Its rule extended over one-fifth of the earth’s land surface; it encompassed the largest population of any ‘State’ in the world; it controlled one-sixth of the world’s trade. In truth, the Empire was tragically fragile. Both Britain and the Dominions had disarmed to the point of impotence, so that when Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931 and attacked Shanghai, the centre of British trade in China, in the following year, they were unable to respond. British defence chiefs declared Japan’s success to be ‘the writing on the wall’. Despite these warnings, British politicians chose to appease the Japanese at the cost of seriously damaging the League of Nations, and to avoid spending money on defence in the Far East. Despite the concerns of the Dominions—Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—the scene was set for the total collapse of Britain’s Empire in the East within a decade. This book will be of interest to students and researchers of history.

    1. The birth of the ‘Commonwealth’  2. The new idea tested: crisis in the East, 1931–32  3. Hesitation in the League, 1932–33  4. The writing on the wall: problems of defence  5. Armaments or diplomacy: The search for security  6. The collapse of consultation  7. The Commonwealth fallacy exposed  Appendix  Comparative naval strengths in April 1931  


    E. M. Andrews was an Australian historian, academic and author. He taught history at Newcastle University, UK.

    Review of the first publication:

    “The great strength of this book lies in its detailed archival research and the detached narration of events. Andrews’s emphasis on the influence of individual personalities is also laudable, as is his perceptive sketches of their backgrounds.”

    Ritchie Ovendale, University College of Wales