It is said that knowledge is power. Evidently if one is in possession of the facts then deciding upon a particular course of action can be made easier. For Conservatives in the 1930s, resident in a parliamentary democracy with the benefits of security derived from Britain’s island status, understanding and appreciating the transformation that was taking place on the continent was not necessarily an easy task. How did they acquire knowledge of the dictators? As the international situation deteriorated one would expect the emergence of a general distrust of the dictators. Other factors were operating that played upon the prejudices, fears and expectations of the party. Although many of these influences are difficult to quantify, it has nevertheless been possible to identify a number of potential factors such as religion, personal experience, history and culture. The importance of understanding these motivations rests with enabling a greater appreciation of how and why foreign and defence policy evolved in the late 1930s. With a greater knowledge of European affairs came a determination either to conciliate the dictators, or to oppose with every means possible.
Personal visits to the dictator countries played a significant role in formulating assessments of the threat posed. It was a feature of the period, rather reminiscent of the eighteenth—and nineteenth-century ‘grand tours’, for Conservatives to travel the continent over a period of weeks, with Germany and Italy considered to be fashionable destinations. The summer of 1933 saw Duff Cooper and his wife motoring through Germany en route for Austria, whilst ‘Chips’ and Honor Channon toured Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia during August and September 1936, ensuring that they were in Berlin for the Olympics.