Email, David Dutton, professor, Twentieth-Century British political history, University of Liverpool School of History, Oct. 4, 2013
Dear Mr Selby,
I think the Senator's comments are superficial and misleading. Certainly, Neville Chamberlain did not think the Nazis could be left to get on with what they wanted to do in continental Europe. If this had been the case, he would never have got involved in the 1938 Czechoslovakian crisis in the first place. We should remember that initiatives like the Runciman mission to seek a settlement and the events that led to the Munich agreement in September resulted from Chamberlain's conviction that what the Germans were doing could not be ignored. And it was Chamberlain who issued the guarantee to Poland in March 1939 which took Britain to war six months later - and this in relation to a region of Europe where Britain, as a naval rather than a land power, had never been able to exert influence throughout her long history. What Chamberlain did understand was that Britain was in no position to resist Germany in the 1930s, not least because we could not look to reliable allies. I'm afraid the USA has nothing to be proud of here. Chamberlain once said that it was always safest to expect nothing from America except words. The mood of isolationism was so strong in the USA that Chamberlain could not see how America could ever be persuaded to line up with Britain against Germany. Remember, it took a direct Japanese attack on American territory - something no-one could have predicted in the late 1930s - to bring the US into the war. Chamberlain was faced with a no-win situation. He justly feared war, especially from the air (something the USA has never had to endure), but he knew that it might eventually come and that Britain had to prepare for it as best she could. But in 1938 we certainly weren't ready: no Hurricanes, no Spitfires, no radar -the things that won the Battle of Britain. Most people thought war against Germany would be suicidal. It very nearly was in 1940! Was it worth a world war in 1938 to resist the right of 3 million Germans living in Czechoslovakia to join the Reich? I wonder what the Senator would have done in Chamberlain's situation.
I hope this helps you.