infamous for attempting to appease Hitlerby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Born in 1869 to Joseph Chamberlain, Arthur Neville Chamberlain would quickly be recognized in the political and social circles of London, England, and the world. After seven years of school, he traveled to the Bahamas and managed his father’s plantations. When he came back home to England in 1897, he went into the copper-brass business. In just a few short years, Neville started to get involved in politics. He was elected Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1915 – and with that, Neville was launched into the world of politics.
In the General Election of 1918, he was elected as the conservative MP for Ladywood.  He served as an MP as Conservative backbencher and rejected a junior post in the Ministry of Health. The Prime Minister at the time was a liberal named David Lloyd George, whom Chamberlain had served at Lloyd George's invitation in late 1916 as Director of National Services and quit in 1917.
The Liberal Party was a moderate party between the Conservatives and Labour. While Lloyd-George was technically a "Liberal" in the party since, he never headed a Liberal Party government. The last Liberal Party government ended in 1915 when WWI led to creation of a coalition government. At the end of the war, with the active help of Conservative Arthur Bonar Law, Lloyd -George led a Liberal-Conservative coalition to an election win over the Herbert Asquith Liberals and the emerging Labour party. Conservatives dominated the coalition and they split off and forced an election.
When Stanley Baldwin, a more conservative politician became Prime Minister, Chamberlain accepted posts Postmaster General (1923-24)and Minister of Health(1924-29).  In 1931, he took the post of Chancellor of Exchequer under Ramsey MacDonald. Showing his administrative capabilities, he reorganized unemployment services that were based on Poor laws dated to Elizabethan times, thus becoming known as the father of Britain's modern welfare state.
Chamberlain became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of Stanley Baldwin in the 20s briefly. He returned to the job in 1931 in a coalition National Government, headed by Labour's Ramsey MacDonald, but dominated by the Conservative Party. Chamberlain became Conservative Party leader before he went back into the government and he and/or Stanley Baldwin effectively ran the Conservative Party until late 1940 when Chamberlain died.
Although partly based on forged documents, when the Conservative Government saw the threat that Socialist Russia posed to the rest of Europe, they took a course of action much like that of Ronald Reagan. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Sun Tzu. They supported the revolutionaries fighting against the leftist government in Spain. And yet, 27 countries signed a non-intervention treaty, saying that they wouldn’t interfere in the Spanish Civil War . Hitler and Mussolini even signed it – but then they ignored it and continued to send weapons, aircraft, and monetary support to the Nationalist Government.
Most historians consider the Spanish Civil War as either a precursor or part of WWII. The Conservative Party largely supported the Fascists in Spain, Germany and Italy. The non-intervention treaty was the product of a continent devastated by a world war and death on a scale that Americans have never seen. The signatories hoped to confine the war to Spain. General Francisco Franco had been involved in War Crimes in North Africa and freely committed them in Spain. Italy and Germany openly violated the treaty and were supported by conservatives in Britain and France. The American conservatives had intimate ties with the Germans and violated the treaty. Republican Spain was offered and given military aid from the Soviet Union, not because it was commnistic, but because the conservatives stopped them from getting weapons or anything else they needed to defend themselves. The Conservatives never wavered in appeasement. It was the Labour Party that was split over resisting the fascists, between minding own business or supporting the government of spain. By 1939 when Neville Chamberlain declared a state of war with the Germans, who had invaded a country, Poland, on false pretenses, much as Bush did, Labor fully recognized the danger of the fascist states on the continent and were apprehensive about the Soviets. It was conservatives who were asleep. "Even Italy and Germany" signed it? Of course they did. If they had not signed, Spain could have received aid because the other countries had assumed a belligerent status. Signing it allowed them to cheat and also control what others did. With Conservative help.
Chamberlain replaced Baldwin as the Prime Minister, and with it brought his policy of appeasement. Many people who opposed Chamberlain's policy of detente were destroyed through effective use of press and political pressure – people such as Blum and Anthony Eden. Chamberlain wanted to discredit Blum because he was the head of a popular front government that wanted to prepare for resistance, while British and French conservatives wanted to be collaborators. These leaders were replaced with people who thought along the same wavelength as Chamberlain. The time of appeasement was upon England. Because he had seen the terror modern war in WWI , he fervently believed in peace at any price. Many theories at that time postulated that war could be avoided best with negotiation, concession, and compromise. They also came up with an idea that dictatorships arise from the grievances of the plebeians – and if the plebeians could be satisfied, the dictatorship would relax its hold.
Soon into Chamberlain’s stint as Prime Minister, Nazi Germany attempted to annex Austria with the assassination of one Austrian ruler and heavy political pressure on the other. Chamberlain decided that events were out of his hands and conceded. This concession is known as Anschluss.  But yet again, Hitler toed the line. He wanted to annex part of Czechoslovakia that contained a German minority, or the Sudentenland. Once again, Neville Chamberlain believed that if he gave Hitler what he needed, Hitler would not go to war. But by signing the Munich agreement, he put Hitler’s Werhmacht within a day’s distance of the industrial and economic center of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain declared that it was “peace in our time.”  When Hitler predictably invaded and captured Czechoslovakia and Poland, Chamberlain felt betrayed and declared war on Germany.
Chamberlain is unjustly targeted for allowing Germany to start WWII. Chamberlain ruled over the implosion of European affairs, didn’t act on military information, downplayed the strength of Nazi Germany, quashed people who attempted to inform the populace that they must prepare for war, and failed to use the months leading up to war to prepare. However, they often neglect to see that it was his predecessor, Baldwin that did not confront Germany. Baldwin and conservatives dominated the government during all of the pre-war years. During Baldwin’s years, Hitler conscripted a huge army, built up a U-Boat fleet, and constructed a large air presence. And yet, Chamberlain was dealt a bad hand from the start. His country was just coming out of a depression, his abhorrence for war, and the dictator of Germany that would have war at any cost – all of these caused the present blame of Chamberlain for WWII – when the root cause was at the Versailles Treaty of 1919. 
Churchill became Prime Minister because after months of war, British disasters had disheartened some. Conservatives, who had wanted appeasement, now wanted to surrender or negotiate with Hitler. It was Chamberlain, a failure as a negotiator, who approached Churchill about becoming Prime Minister for the first time. Churchill would not have survived the challenges of his own party in Parliament. Chamberlain kept the Conservatives in line until he died in late 1940. Churchill received most of his support from the British left and middle. And the aircraft that fought the Battle of Britain just after Churchill became pm were developed and built during Chamberlain's government. Churchill wanted to build ships. Chamberlain understood the country needed aircraft. Churchill was one of only two candidates to lead a war cabinet. He had already been brought in as civilian navy chief. But Chamberlain never ceased being active until his terminal illness made it impossible. He mustered support for Churchill among the mostly faint-hearted conservatives to go with the Labour Lions. He approached Labour about the government and Labour's Clement Atlee was effectively deputy Prime Minister with great powers.
Chamberlain was not entirely inactive. In the final months of Chamberlain's term as Prime Minister, he funneled money to complete the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter craft. He also funded the completion of the radar net around Britain. Both of these activities were crucial in the Battle of Britain.  While he wanted to preserve peace, he also wanted to allow Britain to defend itself. These two policies guided his political career. Churchill replaced him in 1940 because Chamberlain was not deemed a strong enough war leader. He died of abdominal cancer in six months – but he stands as a stark reminder of the time we thought that war could be avoided through concession.
1. NA. Neville Chamberlain. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRchamberlain.htm. Dec 9 2004. World History.
2. NA. Neville Chamberlain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neville_Chamberlain. Dec 10 2004. World History.
3. NA. Neville Chamberlain. http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/page135.asp. Dec 10 2004. World History.
4. NA. Neville Chamberlain. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/neville_chamberlain.htm. Dec 10 2004. World History.
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