Neville Chamberlain Research Papers
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British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is remembered for one word: appeasement. The word has taken on such negative connotations that war since the end of World War II are often undertaken by digging up the ghost of Chamberlain and the disastrous consequences of his policy towards Hitler in 1938 and 1939. His immediate successor, Winston Churchill, on the other hand, is remembered for his iron will in fighting Hitler, giving blood, sweat and toil towards the defeat of Nazism. These two had far more in mind than political differences. Each saw the looming crisis with Nazi Germany as a turning point in history. How each one approached the problem is the realm of historians.
Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister in 1937. Europe was already in crisis, due to the agitation of Fascist regimes in Italy and Germany. Chamberlain “was a harder, more practical man” than his predecessors, “impatient with drift in foreign affairs and confident that he could stop it”.
- Chamberlain believed that there could be a diplomatic solution that would avert a European war.
- Chamberlain believed…that the dissatisfied Powers—and Germany in particular—had legitimate grievances and that these grievances should be met.
- Chamberlain believed that once German grievances were met, grievances such as the territorial claims the Reich made in Austria and Czechoslovakia, that Hitler would become “contented and pacific”.
Chamberlain devised the policy of appeasement himself. He “assumed that Germany, and Hitler in particular—would be grateful for concessions willingly made”. The infamous Munich conference was where Chamberlain met Hitler, assuming he could rationally deal with the dictator. Chamberlain’s programs were seen as weaknesses. “All these remarks strengthened Hitler’ conviction that he would meet little opposition from Great Britain and France”. In Munich, Chamberlain’s policies met the evil purposes of the Third Reich. “What was meant as appeasement had turned into capitulation, on Chamberlain’s own showing”.