Who Started Appeasement?

Was Chamberlain to blame?


Chamberlain always gets the blame for appeasement, but there are many other people and factors who might be held just much - if not more -responsible:



Baldwin was Prime Minster from 1935 to 1937, and he really set the policy of appeasement which Chamberlain followed.

  1. Baldwin did nothing about German rearmament (nb Hitler's big rally 1935)

  2. He did nothing when Hitler invaded the Rhineland (March 1936)

  3. Baldwin was sympathetic to the fascists in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 – he persuaded 27 countries to sign a Non-Intervention Pact (and then stood by and watched as Hitler and Mussolini ignored it and sent military support to Franco).

  4. He openly said that he would not go to war: "With two lunatics like Mussolini and Hitler you can never be sure of anything. But I am determined to keep the country out of war." (April 1936)


Baldwin seems to have had four reasons for his appeasement.   Like Chamberlain:

  1. he did not think Britain was militarily strong enough to fight a war.

  2. he did not want to spend the sums necessary to rearm.

  3. like many Conservatives, he feared Communism, and rather hoped Hitler would stop the advance of Communist Russia.

  4. he knew that the British people would not accept war.   Later, he said: "Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming, and that we must rearm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to that cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain."


So there are good grounds for saying that Baldwin set the British policy of appeasement on course – though (of course) it was Chamberlain gave it full expression in 1938 (Anschluss and Munich ).




The modern folk-singer Al Stewart, in his song ‘Three Mules’, blames THREE British politicians for appeasement:


"Ramsey and Stanley and Neville were the names of the mules
Each wore a bridle encrusted with jewels
And though a murmur of voices was rising behind
Each laboured on and they paid it no mind"


It is easy to forget that Ramsey MacDonald was Prime Minister until 1935 and that – although he was a Labour Party member – he ignored Hitler’s rearmament 1933–1935, despite being warned about it by British intelligence.




must bear a lot of the blame.  


remember that, when Hitler marched into the Rhineland , his generals had orders to retreat if the French army did anything at all to prevent it – but the French did nothing.  


remember also that Daladier was VERY happy to sell Czechoslovakia down the river in 1938 – although Czechoslovakia was an ally of France , not Britain , Daladier did nothing to help them.   (It is strange that it is Chamberlain who gets all the blame for appeasement.)



4.   What about the Americans?


the Senate was determined to remain isolated from Europe


American industrialists such as Henry Ford and Irenee du Pont actively financed Hitler


America didn’t even go to war when it broke out – how’s that for appeasement?



5.   The Treaty of Versailles

At the end of the day, perhaps the Treaty of Versailles was primarily to blame:


it was too harsh – it made western politicians feel that Germany had been badly treated, and so they made allowances for Hitler who, until March 1939, was arguably merely righting the wrongs of the Treaty.


it was supposed to be the Treaty to end all wars – and created in the victorious countries a massive peace movement which really didn’t want to go to war at all, whAtever.


it set up the League of Nations, which was supposed to be a place to talk out problems without the need to go to war – it gave western politicians a way out: wasn’t the League there to sort these problems out without the need for war?