Volume I – Number 1

Michael H. Dougherty

AbstractThis article evaluates the causes that compelled Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937-1940, to adopt a policy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler before the start of the Second World War. Chamberlain’s lackluster responses to Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy in pre-WWII Europe perpetuated the rise and power of Nazi Germany. Chamberlain’s biography provides some insight into his foreign policy choices. By lacking sufficient experience in global affairs, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister was limited, both in ideology and comprehension, in his ability to evaluate the costs and benefits of the U.K.’s options in responding to a rapidly resurgent Germany. However, various other elements, beyond the control of Chamberlain, preceding the start of the Second World War somewhat excuse the Prime Minister’s policy of appeasement. By analyzing the international status quo following the events of the First World War and the Great Depression, four factors are identified as contributing to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany: the lethargic enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the inefficacy of the League of Nations in maintaining peace and security, and the Locarno Pact. The aforementioned variables shared a common objective: to ensure and maintain a state of peace throughout both Europe and the global community. Resultantly, these conventions instilled the necessity, and preference, for peaceful, diplomatic solutions to disputes. Therefore, Chamberlain cannot bear all of the blame for his policy of appeasement. Moreover, the heavy emphasis on pacific conflict resolution provided Hitler with the necessary leverage to bolster German military capabilities. Thus, Chamberlain’s decisions towards Germany before the start of WWII were a product both of his personal dogma and experiences and of a diplomatic environment that so heavily favored passivity.

Keywords: Arthur Neville Chamberlain, United Kingdom, Germany, Treaty of Versailles, Hitler

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