“Peace Without Honour”: The British Press and the Appeasement of Nazi Germany, 1935-39

During my final year of university last year, I researched for and wrote a 15,000 word dissertation regarding the British Press and their developing attitudes between 1935 and 1939 towards the appeasement policy of the British government. To date, it is by far the longest thing I have ever written, and without doubt is the most work I have ever done for one assignment.

During the 1930s, successive British governments chose not to enter conflict with the fascist powers in Europe, instead deciding to appease their expansionist demands with concessions with the aim of avoiding war on the continent. This is a policy with which Neville Chamberlain – British Prime Minister between 1937 and 1940 – has become unavoidably and eternally linked due to his passionate belief that appeasement would work. It’s failure left Chamberlain’s political reputation in tatters. The prevailing view of historians is that until late-1938, this policy was widely supported by the British Press. The research I underwent revealed that this was not the case; roots of press opposition to appeasement can be traced back earlier to the beginning of the final year of peace.

Chamberlain's 'victory' of peace at Munich was short-lived.
Chamberlain’s ‘victory’ of peace at Munich was short-lived.

For those interested in inter-war Britain, British political history and the origins of the Second World War, this should be of some use and interest. I welcome any comments you might have – my view is by no means the only (if at all) correct argument.

My dissertation was graded first class, and although history is always debated, it certainly offers an alternative view on the contemporary attitudes towards appeasement in Britain during the 1930s.

Here’s the abstract for those interested:

This dissertation studies the development of anti-appeasement opinion in the British press between 1935 and 1939. The aim of the research is to highlight when and why the newspapers decided to oppose the appeasement policy of the successive National Governments of the late-1930s. Four newspapers, The Times, Economist, Scotsman and Daily Herald are examined in order to achieve this aim. Particular attention is given to the significant events in Europe during the period, including the Rhineland crisis of March 1936, the Austrian Anschluss of March 1938, the Munich Agreement of September 1938, the invasion of Prague and subsequent British guarantee to Poland in March 1939 and finally the invasion of Poland and declaration of war on Germany in September 1939. Attention is also given to Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister from 1937, as the chief protagonist and champion of appeasement. The existing work on appeasement tends to focus on both Chamberlain and Munich excessively, excluding the role of the press to an extent. Only three significant contributions focus on the press in the period, those written by Gannon, Cockett and Morris. Of these, none conclude that the Austrian Anschluss was in fact the first occasion met with reactionary opposition to appeasement in the press, yet this study reveals this to be the case. It is argued that Austrian Anschluss began a gradual disillusionment with appeasement that would result eventually in the policy’s collapse following the Prague coup a year later.

You can read the full dissertation here

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