Friday, June 23, 2006

The Reputation of Neville Chamberlain: Speaker Meeting

The next speaker meeting of the Conservative History Group will be held on Tuesday 18 July at 6.30pm in the Boothroyd Room of the House of Commons. The subject will be "The Reputation of Neville Chamberlain". Speakers are Robert Self and Professor John Charmley. If you;d like to attend please email If you're not a CHG member you'll be expected to join! For the £15 membership you get invited to all speaker events and receive two copies of our Journal. Visit the Conservative History Blog HERE or the Conservative History Group website HERE. You can find details of how to join on the website.


Anonymous said...

I understand that Prof Charmley is quite a fan of Chamberlain, with the view that appeasement was merely a delaying tactic to get Britain prepared for war.

That labour under Attlee forced a vote of no confidence at the end of the Norway debate can't have helped Chamberlain recover his reputation, and he really shot himself in the foot by turning the vote into a personal issue by appealing to his "friends" in the House to support him.

Anonymous said...

Actually there is an excellent book by Graham Stewart called "Burying Caesar" about the rivalry between Chamberlain and Churchill and including the rivalry of their fathers.

It is an excellent book.

In Charmley's favour I point out that the USA passed Neutrality Act after Neutrality Act throughout the 1930s at a time when Britain faced war with Germany, Italy and Japan..................and frankly did not have the ability to fight all three simultaneously.

Without either the USSR or USA as ally, Chamberlain had no guarantee Britain would last long in a global war.

Anonymous said...

There is indeed an intelligent intellectual case to be made for appeasement: that ultimately, Hitler had no designs on the British Empire or even France, and that he would have invaded Russia and Russia and Germany would have fought each other to a standstill. In fact, it rests on too many ifs, and a triumphant German (or Russian) Empire based on slavery and probably armed with nuclear weapons would have been deeply dangerous to the Empire - probably too dangerous to live with.

But as a case it's not completely stupid.

Bob Piper said...

Conservatives. History. Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

The flaw in the idea that appeasement was merely a delaying tactic to get Britain prepared for war was that Britain was not really preparing for war.

Anonymous said...

Sums up my thoughts entirely anonymous. But a very interesting theory anyway.

What is certainly true is that we fought for the wrong country. It is hard to just British grenadiers being made to die for Danzig, considering the people had expressed their preference to be German. The policy of Appeasement managed a crisis that already existed. German grievances should have been dealt with much earlier, on the grounds of fairness, rather than later when it was rightly perceived as weakness.

Anonymous said...

for war was that Britain was not really preparing for war.

Wrong ! From 1935 onwards Rolls-Royce was setting up Shadow Factories with Govt funds - one at Barnoldswick for example and subcontractors around the country.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Chamberlain who had a much tighter control than Gordo was funding Fighter Command and putting in orders for Hurricanes and Spitfires which is why Britain had monoplanes in 1939 but not strength until 1940.

Do some basic research. Hitler had a German war machine being constructed in Russia since 1919 with Luftwaffe training and Panzer construction - Britain did not suddenly develop an Air Force in May 1940.

Anonymous said...

Correction: it was Crewe - Barnoldswick was the Rover plant acquired when Rolls-Royce swapped tank production for Rover's jet-engine facility in 1942.

Baldwin fought the 1935 Election without mentioning rearmament because the public would not go for it. Chamberlain was the driving force in funding rearmament after 1935 otherwise how did Dowding build up the RAF Fighter Command and Trenchard Bomber Command - also R-R Project PV-12 for the Merlin engine received Govt funding after 1935.

In fact the first flight of the Bf109 took place with a R-R Griffin engine in Sept 1935. In fact Germany was outproduced in war equipment after 1941 by Britain using 24hr working.

In Aug 1949 Britain was not short of fighter aircraft but pilots and had very fast turnaround on repairs. That did not all happen after Winston Churchill took charge in May 1940.

We should perhaps recall that people in 1938 were not as gung-ho for war as they are nowadays over Iraq and if possible Iran and had they lost a mere 150 soldiers noone would have been too worried after losing 19.000 dead and 55.000 wounded on 1st July 1916 alone.

Anonymous said...

August 1940 oif course (no wonder I lost my job as a typist !)

Anonymous said...

Once again the debate gets bogged down in the Churchill - Chamberlain divide. This is the Churchill who seconded Chamberlain's accession to beome leader of the Party, was a pallbearer at Chamberlain's funeral and happily worked under him and gave him authority over vital government committees after Chamberlain resigned as PM. Churchill has recreated History in his own interests.

Britain was prepared for war in so much as it could survive but not to eradicate Nazism for Europe, also bear in mind Britain's significant global commitments and the Japanese threat to Empire in Asia. Britain got hammered in WWI and could never again be considered a great power after the losses sustained, the inter-war period was one of maintaining the trappings of greatness rather than actually being able to wield it. In this light, Chamberlain's dual policy of hoping for the best but fearing the worst seems much more understandable.

I have done it myself rambling on about the war, what about Chamberlain the municipal pioneer with his Savings Bank and Symphony Orchestra for Birmingham, the social reformed on health, housing and abolishing the poor law, or as the Iron Chancellor steering Britain to a softer landing in the depression.

Consider these and Chamberlain stands up as much more than the man of Munich.

Did you know there is no statue of the man in Birmingham even though he is the city's most famous political son.