A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • SUNDAY TIMES (UK) BESTSELLER • A gripping new history of the British appeasement of Hitler on the eve of World War II
“An eye-opening narrative that makes for exciting but at times uncomfortable reading as one reflects on possible lessons for the present.”—Antonia Fraser, author of Mary Queen of Scots
On a wet afternoon in September 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off an airplane and announced that his visit to Hitler had averted the greatest crisis in recent memory. It was, he later assured the crowd in Downing Street, "peace for our time." Less than a year later, Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War began.
Appeasement is a groundbreaking history of the disastrous years of indecision, failed diplomacy and parliamentary infighting that enabled Hitler's domination of Europe. Drawing on deep archival research and sources not previously seen by historians, Tim Bouverie has created an unforgettable portrait of the ministers, aristocrats, and amateur diplomats who, through their actions and inaction, shaped their country's policy and determined the fate of Europe.
Beginning with the advent of Hitler in 1933, we embark on a fascinating journey from the early days of the Third Reich to the beaches of Dunkirk. Bouverie takes us not only into the backrooms of Parliament and 10 Downing Street but also into the drawing rooms and dining clubs of fading imperial Britain, where Hitler enjoyed surprising support among the ruling class and even some members of the royal family.
Both sweeping and intimate, Appeasement is not only an eye-opening history but a timeless lesson on the challenges of standing up to aggression and authoritarianism--and the calamity that results from failing to do so.
In this meticulous work, British journalist Bouverie provides a blow-by-blow recounting of Britain's accommodation to Nazi Germany's rearmament, beginning with the obvious observation that "the desire to avoid a second world war was perhaps the most understandable and universal wish in human history." He convincingly argues that the failure of strong, consistent diplomatic efforts greatly contributed to the century's great conflagration. Many British establishment figures of the time come in for fair and sometimes harsh criticism as Bouverie charts the descent toward war. Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Foreign Secretary John Simon, and, of course, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, architect of the 1938 Munich agreement that caved to Hitler's expansionism because it promised "peace for our time," receive deserved criticism. So do the many upper-class, right-leaning "amateur diplomats" who tried to build relations with Hitler. According to Bouverie, they wanted to believe that Hitler's objectives were modest and feared that rearmament was unaffordable and would escalate tensions. Bouverie manages to convey how outside the mainstream Churchill's anti-Hitler views were for much of the mid-1930s, and how dimly his WWI record was viewed by his foes in the Conservative Party. His reconstruction is both clear-eyed and well-paced. This intelligent study of British prewar diplomacy will keep readers rapt.
good reading if you like 20th cen history!
Read it twice already! The A word is considered a negative word now, but at the time (as we learn in this book) there were large swaths of people who were willing to give up a lot for the sake of preventing terrible war, again. As the book states, one of Chamberlain’s mistakes was treating the soon to be enemies of Britain as if they were local reasonable Birmingham businessmen. You give a bit here, I give a bit there, we all end up ahead and move on. This doesn’t work in some cases, it turns out, when your opponents are not well-fed Englishmen merely trying to make a bit more money. It is telling when some of those opponents even get insulted when they are offered monetary type benefits or guarantees. Forces greater than economics are involved in shaping history, the Lord Mayor came to learn.