10. Many blame World War II on Neville Chamberlain’s policies of appeasement in the 1930s
As Nazi Germany grew in strength during the 1930s, its territorial ambitions were on display. Hitler demanded the expansion of Germany’s borders to include those territories of Europe where Germans resided prior to the treaty of Versailles. Such lands included the Alsace-Lorraine region, the Sudetenland, Austria, and others. His bloodless expansion of Germany reached a peak during the Czech crisis. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated a settlement which avoided war in Munich in September, 1938. He had little choice in the matter. Britain remained unprepared for war, though Chamberlain had already initiated rearmament policies strengthening the army, the Royal Navy, and most importantly, the Royal Air Force. By the late winter of 1939, when Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, thereby violating the Munich agreement, Chamberlain responded more forcefully.
The Royal Air Force and Britain’s chain of radar stations that allowed it to respond to attacks efficiently were built under Chamberlain. Later, Winston Churchill used both to enhance his own reputation and effectiveness as a war leader in his memoirs of World War II. In the same volumes, Churchill disparaged his predecessor with faint praise and outright omissions of fact. Chamberlain enjoyed wide popularity during his tenure as Prime Minister, including 68% approval ratings at the time of Munich. When he left office after Britain’s disastrous campaign in Norway, it remained above 60%. Subsequently the writings of right-wing journalists and those of Churchill himself presented Chamberlain as weak, frightened, and fearful of war with Germany, utterly dominated by Adolf Hitler. In truth, Chamberlain bought badly needed time for the British and its Empire to prepare for the conflict which ensued.