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History

Chamberlain and appeasement

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Revision tip

Read this famous statement by Neville Chamberlain broadcast on the radio on 27 September 1938. Looking at the reasons for appeasement in this section (page 3), which do you think weighed heaviest on Chamberlain's mind as he spoke?

How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is, that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here, because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing...

However much we may sympathise with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbour, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight, it must be on larger issues than that. I am myself a man of peace to the depths of my soul; armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me... War is a fearful thing, and we must be very clear before we embark on it, that it is really the great issues that are at stake.

Neville Chamberlain

There is often no right or wrong answer to questions about appeasement, which is very much a matter of opinion. However, when you consider what is known for sure about Chamberlain's position, remember:

  • Britain's armed forces could not have helped Czechoslovakia. Notice how Chamberlain calls Czechoslovakia "a faraway country" (point 4 in list of reasons for appeasement).
  • Chamberlain remembered the slaughter of the First World War (6). This is the main point of the quote, especially "I am myself a man of peace to the depths of my soul; armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me... War is a fearful thing".
  • It could be argued that he was empathising with the reluctance of the British people to go to war (1), when he called digging trenches and trying on gas masks "horrible, fantastic, incredible" and said: "...we must be very clear before we embark on it, that it is really the great issues that are at stake".

However, there is NO evidence that Chamberlain thought Hitler was reasonable (2), or that he wanted a strong Germany (3), or that he admired Hitler (5). In fact, the tone towards Hitler is hostile: "...we may sympathise with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbour".

Page:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  1. Back
  2. Next

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