Facing Fascism: The Conservative Party and the European Dictators, 1935-1940

By N. J. Crowson | Go to book overview

Introduction

On 3 September 1939 Britain declared war upon Germany for the second time in twenty-five years. Neville Chamberlain, who had been Prime Minister since May 1937, presided over the British declaration. For him the commencement of war was a bitter personal blow, after his attempts to negotiate and conciliate with the European dictators. When he spoke to the House of Commons about the declaration, he made no attempt to disguise his feelings: ‘Everything that I have worked for, everything that I have hoped for, everything that I have believed in during my public life, has crashed into ruins’. 1 The fact that Chamberlain persisted as Prime Minister and was determined to see the war through says much for his tenacity. But he hated war and it took its toll. Nevertheless, he did draw some comfort from the morality of Britain’s position. As he explained to the Archbishop of Canterbury,

It was of course a grievous disappointment that peace could not be saved, but I know that my persistent efforts have convinced the world that no part of blame can lie here. That consciousness of moral right, which it is impossible for the Germans to feel, must be a tremendous force on our side. 2

However, it became apparent that elements within the Conservative party were less than satisfied with the National government’s prosecution of the war effort, and were inclined to suggest that had an alternative foreign policy been adopted in the last years of peace then war might have been avoided altogether. Eight months into the war effort, after a parliamentary revolt following reverses in Finland and Norway, Chamberlain resigned. The following day the Second World War in western Europe began in earnest when German forces invaded

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Facing Fascism: The Conservative Party and the European Dictators, 1935-1940
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I 17
  • 1 - Facing the Dictators 19
  • Part II 49
  • 2 - Abyssinia to Guernica, 1935-7 51
  • 3 - Berchtesgaden to Poland, 1937-9 82
  • 4 - The Rearmament Debate, 1935-8 121
  • 5 - The Call for National Service, 1937-9 147
  • 6 - The Prosecution of the War, September 1939 to May 1940 168
  • Conclusion 198
  • Appendix I 205
  • Appendix Ii: 210
  • Notes 212
  • Bibliography 254
  • Index 259
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