Arthur Neville Chamberlain

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When studying Arthur Neville Chamberlain, it is at least as important to understand his personality, as well as his political achievement. The Prime Minister of Great Britain between 1937 and 1940, he was an intensely idealistic man, one who believed that he alone could bridge the gap between Germany and the rest of the World. His subsequent policies of appeasement towards Nazi Germany, a policy based upon pragmatism, fear of war, or moral conviction that lead to the acceptance of diplomatically imposed conditions in lieu of warfare, forever characterized Chamberlain as a most central figure at the diplomatic crossroads leading towards World War II.
Chamberlain’s father, Joseph, had been the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, so young Neville found himself subjected to strong political opinions throughout his youth. He worked his way through the ranks of British government, becoming a Member of Parliament in 1918, and going on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the National Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald for much of the 1920’s. Chamberlain finally rose to the office of Prime Minister in 1937. His lifetime dedication to politics made him a shrewd politician, but his relatively rapid success could also be viewed as a contributing factor towards his developing overconfidence.
Chamberlain’s impact on foreign affairs was vast and direct upon his rise to power. He changed the foreign policy dynamic from a slow and passive policy of non-intervention, to a much more pro-active policy of appeasement. Chamberlain believed that Germany had been badly treated by the Allies after it was defeated in World War I. Therefore, he thought that the German government had legitimate grievances, and that these needed to be addressed. By agreeing to some of the demands being made by Adolph Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy, he earnestly believed that he could avoid a European war.
Chamberlain’s enthusiasm, conviction in his beliefs, and the fact that he would not listen to criticism, led him to pursue appeasement with a nearly unlimited spirit. This would have been noble had it not been for another problem which was also caused, in part, by Chamberlain’s enthusiasm to pursue appeasement. In his rush to stamp his name on the appeasement process, Chamberlain was too eager to foster good relations with Germany and her allies. To this ...

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...ain’s decision to actively pursue appeasement were, initially, his own expectations of himself, and his need to be the man seen as responsible for appeasing Germany. Secondly, Chamberlain’s believed that Britain needed time to recover, both economically and militarily from the last war. Thirdly, his own views of war and his naivety in foreign affairs certainly affected his decision, though not to the extent commonly believed. In any event, he certainly allowed Hitler more input than he should have had when it came to the Sudetenland, and he badly misjudged the threat posed by both Hitler and Mussolini. That cannot be denied. What can also not be denied is that the extra year that Chamberlain gave the democracies to prepare may well have been the difference between victory and defeat for the Allies.


Chamberlain and appeasement : British policy and the coming of the Second World War. by R. A. C. Parker, (Robert Alexander Clarke), 1927-
Basingstoke : Macmillan, 1993.

Neville Chamberlain. by Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Neville Chamberlain. by Sparticus Educational.
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