Neville Chamberlain is one of the most reviled figures of the 20th Century. His story is fondly repeated, and is treated as if it is universally applicable. Every foreign policy challenge is related back to his failure to be tough. This week we let the man himself explain why this is crazy.
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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.
THE RIDDLE OF RUDOLPH HESS
On May 10, 1941 Rudolph Hess, former deputy Fuhrer of the third Reich, made an
extraordinary lone flight to Britain. Was Hess attempting to make peace with the Britain
before the German invasion of the Soviet Union? Was the duke of Hamilton, on whose Scottish estate Hess attempted to land, an intermediary between the British aristocracy
and high ranking Nazis? Why did the British Government, instead of treating the incident as propaganda coup, shroud the Hess affair in a web of official secrecy?