Britain and Upper Silesia 1919 - 1922

  • Peter Lesniewski

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis provides the first complete dedicated narrative on Britain's political and military involvement in Upper Silesia between 1919 and 1922.It establishes the background to the Paris Peace Conference's decision to conduct a plebiscite in this important industrial region on the new Polish-German frontier. It also demonstrates how the region's long-standing ethnic tensions,combined with Polish national aspirations and class consciousness led to three insurrections in Upper Silesia between August 1919 and May 1921. British military leaders utilised the prevailing fears about the post-war industrial unrest in Britain to reduce their military commitments in Europe. The thesis explains how this action resulted in a French ascendancy on the inter-Allied Commission administering Upper Silesia and the military forces policing it. The initial absence of the British troops also affected the attitude and effectiveness of the British contingent serving with the inter-Allied Commission.The internal conflicts within the Commission are dealt with, as are the differing attitudes of the French, British and Italian Commissioners towards the highly partisan, and often violent,Polish and German plebiscite campaigns. Using mainly unpublished official documents and private papers, this work describes the attitude and conduct of the British officials serving in Upper Silesia. It identifies each of the British military units eventually sent to Upper Silesia and records the British soldiers'confrontations with German and Polish Upper Silesian para-militarists during the final insurrection in May - July 1921. Attempting to settle the controversial questions about the 6 outvoters', the thesis provides an individual analysis of the result in each one of the 1,545 voting constituencies. And, apart from demolishing the myth perpetuated in English-language historiography that Germany somehow or other 'won' the plebiscite, the thesis examines Upper Silesia's significance from an international perspective - particularly its effect on British relations with Poland and Germany, relations within the Entente, and the involvement of the League of Nations - an action resulting in Upper Silesia's partition in 1922.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish

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