What was appeasement
The definition of appeasement is to pacify someone, to avoid war at nearly all costs. It is more famously recognised as the policy implemented by Neville Chamberlain, following Hitler’s attempts at taking over territory in Europe, prior to War World 2. Indications of appeasement could be witnessed during the 20s and early 30s. After World War 1, Britain definitely did not want another war. It was always looking to avoid military opposition with Hitler. In early 1938 when Hitler condemned what he called, the persecution of Germans by Czechs in the Sudetenland, Chamberlain searched for a way to resolve potential conflict peacefully.
The attempted settlement of the Sudetenland crisis resulted in the Munich agreement. On 30 September 1938, Chamberlain established with Hitler that the ‘German’ parts of Czechoslovakia constituted Hitler’s territory. Both parties agreed to avoid war. Britain was financially unprepared for war and the Allies were in fear of Communism spreading in Europe if Germany became weak. Chamberlain realised that Hitler’s hunger for territory was unlimited, when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. Chamberlain consequently announced an end to appeasement on 6 April 1939, and officially declared that it would defend Poland if it was invaded.
This was not enough to stop Hitler invading Poland, commemorating the start of World War 2. Why have historians differed in their views of appeasement in the 1930s? It is important to realise that views have significantly changed over time. Those who lived through the events had an emotional attitude. Later, hindsight increased along with the declassification of related information. Information that was secret at the time was later revealed, which has altered views since. Contemporaries, who wrote about their experiences during the time of appeasement, were unaware of the consequences that were to follow, so they mainly supported appeasement.
Examples include speeches delivered by Neville Chamberlain himself: “What we had to consider was the method, the conditions and the time of the transfer of the territory. “1 Chamberlain is explaining the real reasons for implementing this agreement and how serious it was to strategically map out his actions. An argument against appeasement, is a speech by Winston Churchill: “A firm stand by France and Britain, under the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland. 2 Churchill blames the British authority for not being strong from the start, which otherwise would not have invited trouble. This suggests that some Contemporaries supported appeasement while others did not.
Historians who lived through World War 2 wrote about their experiences with an emotional response. After suffering a war, they were looking for people to blame for the catastrophic consequences of appeasement. Such historians use the “Guilty Men” theory, which labelled certain figures as those responsible for the war. ” . . . Austria has now been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack.
Churchill emphasises the unpredictability of Hitler’s actions and that it is likely he will attack Czechoslovakia. Churchill is laying the blame for this on Britain. Revisionists primarily wrote about appeasement during the 50s/60s, with a more rational approach. “His motive throughout was the general pacification of Europe. He was driven on by hope, not fear. “4 Taylor is backing Chamberlain and his decision to implement the policy in 1938. He explains that Chamberlain was always searching for ways to make settlements in Europe.
He states that Chamberlain was optimistic due to hope, and not pessimistic due to fear. This means that his efforts continued until the end, and he did not implement appeasement because of scare from Nazi power. Counter Revisionists too had plenty of hindsight. They looked at the views of previous historians, and often made judgements based on those thoughts. They had the opportunity to read declassified information.
“Chamberlain’s willingness to negotiate with Hitler was thus more than a result of a sense of military weakness and a refusal to regard the German minority in Czechoslovakia as worth fighting over . . it sprang from a passionate desire to avert the horror of war . . . “5 This shows how insignificant it was that Britain was militarily weak and did not want to fight over the Czechs. Chamberlain’s intentions are expressed as wanting to turn away from war. “War meant ruin, the decline and collapse of the old order; victory risked the spread of communism . . . “Carley has emphasised the devastating consequences of war, which Britain always feared. Overall, I believe that historians have differed in their views of appeasement because of when they wrote the sources.
It also depends on the type of historian and whether they belong to a political party. ” . . . it looked as if he might be succeeded by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, one of Michael Foot’s ‘Guilty Men’. “7 Barbara Castle, a Labour politician portrays the negative outlook to Halifax, a Conservative politician who was labelled as one of the ‘Guilty Men. ‘ So ultimately, historians have differed as they have written at different times, with different perspectives and with different amounts of information available to them.