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Friday, 10 June 2016

Midsummer Dawn Of Appeasement

Wednesday 10th June 1936



The Chancellor of the Exchequer Neville Chamberlain made an unheralded, high profile  foray into the world of foreign policy. He was setting down markers on a number of points. He was the most likely successor as Prime Minister to Stanley Baldwin, who was widely recognised as tired and expected to give up his post before too long. Chamberlain's work had been overwhelmingly on home affairs (with a brief excursion into Imperial trade policy) so his speech marked his intention to move into the realms of high diplomacy. Family questions added a particular flavour to the step. His earlier career had been far overshadowed by his elder half-brother Sir Austen Chamberlain, who had been rewarded for his efforts in negotiating the Locarno Treaty with the unique double of a Knighthood of the Garter and a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Chamberlain was also setting out the stall for what was to become his policy of appeasing the dictators, although in modern parlance he would doubtless have referred to it as establishing a constructive dialogue. He was especially hostile to the League of Nations which had so conspicuously failed to protect Abyssinia from Italy. He castigated as "the very midsummer of madness" the proposition that League of Nations economic sanctions against Italy should have been pursued vigorously. This would have been the antithesis of how "practical men" would seek "other and better solutions." It did not take much imagination to recognize whom he had in mind as a practical man and when he he became Prime Minister it was very soon clear that what he proposed was to identify the dictators' (reasonable) wishes and to grant them.

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