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“Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement” by Frank McDonough Essay (Book Review)

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Introduction

Appeasement is a term used in political and social spheres when dealing with diplomatic policies. The strategies involved in appeasement undertakings encompass political concessions with regards to an enemy in an attempt to avert potential conflicts. The term is widely used when referring to the foreign policy that defined the interaction between Neville Chamberlain of Britain and Adolf Hitler of German. It is especially used in reference to their engagements between 1937 and 1939. Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement was intentionally intended to avoid war with Germany. The strategy has triggered a series of debates for over seven decades among many scholars. It has attracted the attention of academicians, politicians, and diplomatic personnel.1

In their evaluation, historians have adopted varied arguments, which range from condemnation to positive judgment of this strategy. There are those who have condemned Chamberlain for permitting Hitler to grow too strong. However, others have adopted a different perspective, congratulating him on the view that he did not have any other option. In addition, they believe that the policy served Britain’s interests very well. During the time, this diplomatic and political strategy was viewed by many as a positive move, especially with the signing of the Munich pact.

In this paper, the author is going to analyze the book Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement. The book is written by Frank McDonough. A critical review of the text reveals that the strategy may have triggered World War II and the associated holocausts. McDonough reveals that the appeasement altered the course of the war itself. Hitler imagined that through war, he would achieve his ambitions to rule the region and the world. In this book review, this author will analyze how McDonough creates a link between the policy and the war. The book is well written and provides an in-depth assessment of the issues taking place at the time.

Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement: Summary of the Book

As already indicated, the book is written by Franklin McDonough. He makes efforts to critically review the positive and negative aspects of the appeasement policy. He utilizes a post revisionist theory by expounding on the works of other historians in this field. In addition, he counters the arguments made by those condemning this political strategy. In the book, he argues that the policy was good, but its implementation was the problem. For example, McDonough argues that Chamberlain made several errors in his judgments and decisions during the war. Such scenarios are what resulted in the failure of the policy.2

McDonough argues that the policy of appeasement collapsed because Hitler was unappeasable. He was reluctant to adjust to the European balance of power that favored Germany. His desire, which may have been unguided, was to overthrow Britain and France. The two were the most powerful European nations at the time. In addition, McDonough argues that Hitler was undeterred. He wanted to engage in war, which he believed will help him achieve what he always desired. As such, the two democracies could do nothing to deter him from engaging in war. As long as Hitler was in power, war could not be prevented.3 That is the position put across by McDonough in the book.

Almost the entire conservative bench of politicians was in support of this policy. However, there existed a huge rift among those who were in support of the same. For example, the majority of those involved in the foreign policies were in favor of an appeasement strategy to avoid physical confrontations. The partitioning of Czechoslovakia under the influence of the British and France was an implication that they surrendered or gave in to the Nazi threat. The collapse of the peace deal could benefit neither Britain nor France as far as security was concerned. The understanding of this misjudgment gave Hitler an upper hand in consolidating his strategy in war.4 He appeared to be ahead of the others.

As a political issue during the war, Czechoslovakia did not bother many people involved in the confrontation. However, in September 1938, Britain voiced its objection to the bullying of small democratic states. In response to this, the country played a critical role in the formulation of the Munich pact. The House of Commons cheered Chamberlain as he made for the Munich agreement. He returned with a famous speech dubbed “peace of our time”. The press was impressed with this deal, but Reynolds’s news and Daily Worker, however, were in dissent of the agreement. The labor party objected to the agreement, and they furiously questioned why Chamberlain opted for this agreement. Duff Cooper, a conservative member of parliament, was in favor of war with Hitler at an early stage and opted to resign as a sign of protest against this policy.5

The war broke out later, and the policy was blamed for its inability to halt dictators. Some members of parliament associated the policy with wealthy and influential people in the city of London who described them as conservatives lenient to Hitler’s dictatorship. In Winston Churchill’s premiership, the appeasement policy was not condoled, and those who supported it were asked to take responsibility.6

A Critical Analysis of the Book

In a thorough analysis of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement, McDonough embarked on the historical work of various authors like Parker 1994.7 He expanded on their work by including post revisionist theories and appeasement in the society. In society, McDonough took note of appeasement in various forms, including the mass media, economic, and opponents as well.8

In his book, McDonough agrees that appeasement was the only option for Britain’s government in dealing with foreign policies in the 1930s. However, revisionists argued that the policy was not necessary since it compromised the British government by allowing World War II and its holocaust to take effect. To counter this argument, McDonough content that the policy was a crisis management strategy but was poorly implemented as many government officials did not take it seriously. In addition, he asserts that the policy was implemented too late without a strong force that would counter Hitler.9

McDonough, in his book, was of the opinion that appeasement must be analyzed as the only policy at the time of operation, “the only usable policy.” For instance, he argues that the Chamberlain’s personality in the execution of the policy provides an important avenue for evaluation. The evaluation is particularly based on the errors of judgment, failure to cooperate with his opponents, and unwillingness to try an alternative way. Failing to assess these options, the events subjected Chamberlain to enter into war with France in early 1939 while in a feeble position. British had missed an advantage of hitting Hitler’s regime, which meant that German had only one stumbling block on its way; Britain, which eventually happened in 1944. In his opinion, McDonough affirms that Chamberlain’s erred judgment contributed to the course of the war itself.10

The book brings it out well on how Britain manipulated mass media to avoid public scrutiny of Chamberlain’s appeasement policy and attempted to convey an impression that all was well with overwhelming assistance. Chamberlain’s worst misjudgment was to believe that Hitler was giving in with his appeasement deal but was mistaken since Hitler was not only preparing for war but was also consolidating his strategy.11

After World War II, historians, as well as politicians, have expressed chamberlain action in different ways. They assert that Hitler’s options were limited, and the grievances would be sorted out through a peace deal, which would shield the world from potential war. Many scholars, including the Prime Minister (Winston Churchill) who took over from Chamberlain, described the approach as fallacious. In his book, The Gathering Storm, Churchill described Hitler as a dictator whose demands were not limited, and the policy of appeasement offered time to consolidate his strength.12

McDonough also reviews the works of A.J.P. Taylor, an English historian that ventured on European diplomacy between the 19th and 20th century, and he affirms that Hitler did not possess even a blueprint for war and was just acting like any other German leader would have behaved. McDonough considered the policy as an active one as opposed to passive. Letting Hitler gain strength was a policy initiated by people faced with real problems and doing what they can be based on the circumstance of their time. In response, Taylor asserts that the policy was supposed to be viewed as a rational act towards an unappeasable leader and was worth it at the time both diplomatically and politically as well.13

McDonough has criticized historians, especially the revisionists, for dwelling on what motivated chamberlain instead of examining how the policy worked practically as a “usable policy to face Hitler.” He condemns those lashing out to Chamberlain’s policy. “Understanding what Hitler did afterward,” he writes, “the condemnation of men who attempted to restore peace in the 1930s, who knew nothing on the aftermath……..The appeasement makers erred in many ways. Nevertheless, they were not blameless. However, what they tried was logical, rational, and humane.14

McDonough argues in his book that Chamberlain’s appeasement policy in some context was a continuation of what had conspired after World War I. Until the failure of the Munich pact that was thought to stop Hitler from invading Czechoslovakia, appeasement was a policy that flourished between 1919 and 1937. The policy was meant to pursue peace on the assertion that the First World War was mistakenly initiated. Many who uphold this assertion were sure that the League of nation would avert it. Others believed that the conflict was caused by large-scale armaments and remedial for this cause was disarmament. Likewise, national grievances were expected to be solved peacefully other than through war.15

The historical event of Chamberlain appeasement which led to the World War II has influenced many foreign policies across the world. Politicians have argued that force should have been exerted in advance to avert the eminent security threats. Some leaders have made decisions by comparing some of their counterparts to Hitler. The Munich analogy was a good avenue to stop Hitler militarily prior to 1939 but the untimed and poor implementation led to its adversaries.

The book is well written and has received vast congratulatory messages from historians and politicians on settling the issue of appeasement policy. The book reviews appeasement in the society where the public was kept in the dark on what was going on. The book has also received positive reviews in academic journal as well as in diplomatic avenues. Andrew Thorpre once quoted saying “a cogent and stimulating view of appeasement policy that will elevate the debate even further”.16

Conclusion

In summary, the author of this paper has elaborated and expounded on appeasement policy. In the analysis, the author has also noted that the more time chamberlain took to initiate the policy, the more Hitler became stronger. Even though the time of implementation was late as McDonough suggests, the policy would have contributed to conflict between German and Czechoslovakia which was not beneficial to either Britain or France. However, the book does not provide an elaborate strategy in carrying out an appeasement process.

The assessment of the policy was also triggered by the aftermath of the First World War At this time; the appeasement policy was the only way to prevent another world war. However, the manner in which the policy was handled has discouraged another appeasement policy from being implemented. For instance, the politicians and world leaders are running away from this policy and any Hitler like characters are handled with speed. For example, the Saddam Hussein issues is not different form Hitler and actions to counter his threat was hurriedly initiated.

Bibliography

Faber, David. Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II. New York: Sage Publishers, 2009.

McDonough, Frank. Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement. London: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

McDonough, Frank. Neville, Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War. London: Manchester University Press, 1998.

Weinberg, Gerhard. The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany Starting World War II. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Footnotes

  1. David Faber, Munich, 1938: Appeasement and World War II (New York: Sage Publishers, 2009.), 33-45.
  2. Frank McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement (London: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 9-12.
  3. McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement, 29.
  4. McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement, 46.
  5. McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement, 69.
  6. McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain, and Appeasement, 72.
  7. Frank McDonough, Neville, Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War (London: Manchester University Press, 1998), 32-56.
  8. McDonough, Neville, Chamberlain, Appeasement, 32.
  9. McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, 41.
  10. Gerhard Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany Starting World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 59-76.
  11. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy, 74.
  12. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy, 76.
  13. McDonough, Neville, Chamberlain, Appeasement, 91.
  14. McDonough, Neville, Chamberlain, Appeasement, 93.
  15. Faber, Munich, 1938, 46.
  16. Faber, Munich, 1938, 47.
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IvyPanda. ""Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement" by Frank McDonough." February 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hitler-chamberlain-and-appeasement-by-frank-mcdonough/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement" by Frank McDonough." February 21, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hitler-chamberlain-and-appeasement-by-frank-mcdonough/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement" by Frank McDonough'. 21 February.

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