Neville Chamberlain Did The Right Thing

Appeasement of Hitler was the best policy for the British government in the 1930s

Wednesday 5 June 2013, 5.29pm | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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If ever a politician got a bum rap it’s Neville Chamberlain. He has gone down in history as the British prime minster whose policy of appeasement in the 1930s allowed the Nazis to flourish unopposed. He has never been forgiven for ceding part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of September 1938, and for returning home triumphantly declaring “peace for our time”. The very word “appeasement” is now synonymous with him, signifying a craven refusal to stand up to bullies and aggressors. What a contrast to Winston Churchill, the man who took over as prime minister and who has ever since been credited with restoring Britain’s backbone.

But is the standard verdict on Chamberlain a fair one? After all, memories of the slaughter of the First World War were still fresh in the minds of the British, who were desperate to avoid another conflagration. And anyway what choice did Chamberlain have in 1938? There’s a good case for arguing that the delay in hostilities engineered at Munich allowed time for military and air power to be strengthened.

Speakers for the motion

John CharmleyJohn Charmley

Professor of Modern History at the University of East Anglia, and author of Chamberlain and the Lost Peace and Churchill: the End of Glory

Professor Glyn StoneGlyn Stone

Professor of International History at the University of the West of England, whose latest book is Spain, Portugal and the Great Powers, 1931-1941



Speakers against the motion

Piers BrendonPiers Brendon

Former Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre and Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and author of The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s

Sir Richard EvansSir Richard Evans

Regius Professor of History and President of Wolfson College, Cambridge University whose books include The Third Reich in Power, and The Third Reich at War


Anne ApplebaumAnne Applebaum

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist for the Washington Post and Slate. She holds the Philippe Roman Chair in history and international affairs at the LSE for 2012-13 and is the Director of Political Studies at the Legatum Institute in London