Was Appeasement Justified? Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 September 2017

Was Appeasement Justified?

Appeasement is defined as to make calm or quiet, especially conciliate (a potential aggressor) by making concessions. Appeasement is basically avoiding a war at all costs.

When the decision was made to appease Hitler the main character involved was Neville Chamberlain. He urgently wanted to negotiate with Hitler and Mussolini but the author of source A believes that this did not come from pacifism. After 1934 he was a strong supporter of rearmament and supported sanctions of Mussolini’s invasion on what is now Ethiopia. Chamberlain envisaged rearmament as a support for negotiations that would eventually lead to general peace. He hoped that by rearmament the dictators would see that there was no resolution except negotiation. This policy was ‘negotiation through strength’. The policy had its faults though, as rearming would make it look like the desire for general peace was not sincere and talking about the desire for peace would make rearmament as a deterrent less credible. Chamberlain’s policy failed when the British declared war on Germany and the armaments that were supposed to be a deterrent were used.1

Although Hitler made many demands in the late 30s, the Munich Agreement was actually suggested by Britain and France. The agreement gave Hitler parts of Czechoslovakia and was actually a very popular proposal with the public. In earlier years many powers settled differences by dividing up smaller powers so the Munich Agreement was a ‘continuation of traditional diplomacy’. It is easy to criticise Chamberlain now but he had a terrible problem facing him and did not want a repeat of the horrific WW1 (that he had experienced) and the Munich Agreement was his way of avoiding this. 2 France also did not want a repeat of WW1 as they had suffered greatly.

Churchill also factored and recognised (with others) the Nazi party’s danger from the outset. His grand alliance was set up and was a coalition of states based on an Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance. Fear of war was equalled by fear of revolution though. If the alliance did fight the Nazi’s then they would win but victory would risk the spread of communism and so the alliance had no chance of survival. 3

I think source A is quite a strong source and can be judged to be fairly reliable. A.J. Beattie from the London School of Economics wrote it so he is going to be interested in Chamberlain’s policies and how he went about them and the errors he made so its going to be fairly facts based. I think he writes it quite fairly but states if he thinks Chamberlain made mistakes. He defends Chamberlain as well though in the last paragraph when he talks about the critics having the huge advantage of hindsight.

The source is about Chamberlain and the reasons he appeased Hitler (mentioned previously). The author doesn’t believe that Chamberlain was a pacifist but that he didn’t want a horrific war. He believes that the ‘negotiation through strength’ policy was quite a bad one as it meant Chamberlain would be subject to criticism and in fact he couldn’t win as he was promoting peace and rearmament at the same time.4

Source B talks about the Munich Agreement and as it was written as advice for conscientious objectors it is going to be for anything that will avoid a war and is therefore pro Chamberlain. This doesn’t necessarily mean the source is weak as there are some factual aspects but as I have said it will be vary pro Chamberlain. It makes the point that the Munich Agreement was very popular with the public and that Chamberlain was carrying on ‘traditional diplomacy’. It then defends him by saying that it is easy to criticise him now with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time he was facing a terrible dilemma and he was just trying to avoid a rerun of the bloodiest war in history that had occurred relatively recently. The source does state that the Munich Settlement didn’t result in a war being avoided though which gives it some credibility.5

Source E is about other possible options for appeasement that were not used at the time when negotiations were occurring with Hitler. The author doesn’t mention the policies used such as the Munich Agreement and so doesn’t really criticise or compare etc. All he does is states other options (Churchill’s grand alliance – previously mentioned). He says what they would have undoubtedly achieved (the deterrence of Nazi Germany of its defeat in war) and also why they were not implemented. So this is a fairly strong source as it was written with the benefit of hindsight and is not really pro or anti anything, just states the facts.6

Source L is about when Hitler started the bombing of France and Labour refused to serve under Chamberlain because of the delayed war effort. The source was written by a Labour politician so is pro labour and anti conservative it is therefore judged to be unreliable. Barbara Castle describes Chamberlain’s attempt at a coalition government as ‘pathetic’ and describes Labour as ‘foiling’ Chamberlain’s attempt by refusing to serve under him. She describes the spell during which it looked as if Lord Halifax may have come to power. He was an appeaser and there would have been an outcry in the labour ranks if he did come to power but luckily Churchill came to power.7

1 Source A – An argument for Chamberlain not being a pacifist.

2 Source B – Chamberlain was not really an appeaser.

3 Source E – The Communist Factor.

4 Source A – An argument for Chamberlain not being a pacifist.

5 Source B – Chamberlain was not really an appeaser.

6 Source E – The Communist Factor.

7 Source L – Memories of Lord Halifax by a Labour politician.

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  • Date: 3 September 2017

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