The Great Debate UK
- Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School and a co-author of “Verdict on the Crash” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Suppose that, instead of appeasing Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, Neville Chamberlain had taken Britain to war, what would today’s history books say about the episode?
It is of course impossible to know. Perhaps something along the lines: “the British prime minister’s stubborn refusal to compromise resulted in a war which dragged on for 6 months at a cost of over 300,000 lives…..” Make up your own scenario.
We can never know. But we can be 100 percent certain the history books would NOT now say anything like: “by refusing to appease the dictators, Neville Chamberlain saved more than 30 million lives, prevented the division of Europe and saved the world from 40 years of Cold War”.
- Terry Charman is Senior Historian at the Imperial War Museum in London. He studied Modern History and Politics at the University of Reading and while there interviewed Adolf Hitler’s architect Albert Speer. He specializes in the political, diplomatic, social and cultural aspects of the World Wars, and wrote “The German Home Front 1939-1945″ and “Outbreak 1939: The World Goes To War“. He is curator of the exhibition Outbreak 1939 at the museum. The opinions expressed are his own. -
In September 1939, in marked contrast to August 1914, Britain went to war in a sombre mood of resigned acceptance of the inevitable. There was no Union Jack waving “hurrah” patriotism as there had been twenty-five years before. After Adolf Hitler had torn up the Munich Agreement in March 1939 and invaded the Czech lands, the British people recognized that appeasement had failed and that the German leader’s aggressive plans would have to be stopped, and if necessary by force of arms.