On a wet afternoon in September 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off an airplane and announced that his visit to Hitler had averted the greatest crisis in recent memory. Less than a year later, Germany invaded Poland and the Second World War began. Drawing on deep archival research and sources not previously seen by historians, Tim Bouverie has created a portrait of the ministers, aristocrats, and amateur diplomats who, through their actions and inaction, shaped their country's policy and determined the fate of Europe.
Bouverie, a young British journalist, is aware that he’s entering well-worn ground. Unlike other books about the prelude to World War II, Appeasement avoids narrowing in on a single event (Munich) or individual (Chamberlain) in favor of a more comprehensive and immersive account ... This is well-paced narrative history: intelligent, lucid, riveting — even while possessing the terrible knowledge of what happened next.
...a well-argued, lucid case for the prosecution of the appeasers, ranging from Ramsay MacDonald — prime minister when Hitler came to power in 1933 — to the Tories who opposed Winston Churchill becoming prime minister seven years later... What Bouverie re-establishes, through deft use of original sources, is that at almost every point from Hitler’s appointment as chancellor to war being declared, the policy of appeasement strengthened Nazi Germany and the Axis far more than it helped Britain or its allies.
The story has relevance in our own age as dictatorships once again confront the democracies. So it is timely to take a fresh look at what happened in the 1930s. The tale is a complex one, with many moving parts and personalities. To this tricky challenge, Tim Bouverie rises superbly. His narrative is well constructed and fluently written. He excels at capturing the atmosphere and conveying the debates in the dining clubs, drawing rooms and society playgrounds of interwar Britain. He addresses the issues with clarity of expression and judgment. There are convincing sketches of the principals along with a seasoning of entertainment from a cast of eccentric and gruesome secondary characters in the plot. The author is unsparing about the guilty parties while always careful to put them in context ... this gripping book is additionally valuable because it illuminates some eternal truths. Bad leaders hide behind public opinion; great ones lead it.