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Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War

Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War

Tim Bouverie


The history of the not-out-finest-hour that preceded our finest hour.

This is a very balanced treatment of a period that it's difficult to treat fairly. It manages this by keeping a clear focus on what the protagonists know and believe at the time, without losing sight of whether those beliefs were reasonable: often they weren't, and in the final analysis the idea that appeasement could ever have succeeded is well and truly exploded.

The use of extensive quotes from private correspondence is extremely revealing of the inner motivations of many, not least Chamberlain. But it also reveals something that I'd not noticed before: the subtle change in the meaning of the word appeasement over the course of the period. In the early years it comes across as simply a way of re-introducing equity into international relations, and only later acquires the sub-text of surrender and cowardice that it now has.

My only minor criticism is that there are a few places where a little more clarity as to the deceptions going on could have been welcome. The "Polish provocations" used by the Nazis to ramp-up the tensions prior to the attack, for example, were almost entirely imagined propaganda, culminating in the staged "incidents" used as the final justification.

5/5. Finished 30 January 2022.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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