After 1940, and particularly after 1945, Neville Chamberlain became one of the most reviled figures in British political history. Condemned as craven, cowardly and negligent of Britain's defences, he was stigmatized as the man of Munich who betrayed both Czechoslovakia and his country's honour. More than that, he was perceived as the representative of the ruthless and reactionary ruling classes who governed in their own interests and were determined to halt the march of progress and democracy. This book, however, argues that to the last Neville Chamberlain remained true to the radical tradition in which he was reared, and that he was one of the most progressive and enlightened statesmen ever to hold the office of prime minister in Britain. The social reforms instituted by Chamberlain in the various ministerial offices he held were in many respects the precursors of the post-1945 Attlee revolution. Furthermore, this book contends that Chamberlain did not foist upon an unwilling country the policy of appeasing or pacifying Germany through a general and European settlement, but rather that this policy was evolved consensually among the British policy-making elite. Finally, it argues that under Chamberlain's prudent governance, and with a little luck, Britain was as well placed as she could have been to fight the war she was called upon to fight in 1939.
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Andrew Crozier is Senior Lecturer and Jean Monnet Lecturer in the History of Contemporary Europe at Queen Mary, University of London.
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