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Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

Source 2

A letter to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain from a man called Scott Bayliss, 27 September 1938


CHAR 7/107/43

Simplified Transcript

Dear Sir,

I’ve listened to your speech. I’m sure you’re committed to peace and justice but I don’t agree that any attempt by Germany to dominate the world can be stopped by war. The present problem we have proves this because it’s a result of the last war we fought.

I therefore appeal to you to make concessions when you meet with Hitler rather than plunge us into war. Any war will fail to achieve its aim.

The German people don’t wish to dominate their neighbours. I believe that if we appeal to them and explain the situation using radio broadcasts in their own language they’ll overthrow their leader.

Original Transcript

31 Epping New Road,
Buckhurst, Essex

The Rt. Hon. Neville Chamberlain

Dear Sir,

I have listened to your broadcast speech with gratitude. But, while I am sure you have the cause of Peace and Justice at heart, I cannot agree that an attempt at world domination can for long be defeated by war, any more than the Czechs can be saved by it. The present situation, the outcome of the last war, proves that up to the hilt.

I therefore appeal to you to make every concession rather than plunge us into war, for war will inevitably cost more than any concession and will as little achieve its objective as the war of 1914-18.

The German people [underlined by hand] do not want to dominate their neighbours, whatever their leaders may wish. Continued appeals to them, as by the excellent broadcasts in German and Italian tonight, may yet cause them to disown those leaders. I know Germany well and have good grounds for believing so.
I am

Yours respectfully,

What is this source?

This is a copy of a letter from a man called Scott Bayliss written to the British Prime Minister (Neville Chamberlain) in September 1938.

Background to this source

This letter was written immediately before the Munich Conference in which British Prime Minister Chamberlain met with German leader Adolf Hitler to try to resolve Hitler’s claims to the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. Scott Bayliss also sent a copy of his letter to Chamberlain to his MP, Winston Churchill, urging him to use his influence to avoid war and also stressing the importance of broadcasting to the German people.

In the years 1935–38 the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been pursuing aggressive policies such as building up German arms and demanding territories. In 1936 he marched troops into the Rhineland and there’d been no resistance. In 1938 Hitler annexed Austria, making it part of Germany. In September 1938 he was demanding that the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia should also become part of Germany. France had effectively guaranteed the security of Czechoslovakia and both Britain and France were bound to preserve the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler’s demands would have broken that treaty and war looked very likely. Air raid shelters were being dug in British cities in preparation for war but British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to meet Hitler in Munich and effectively gave him what he wanted, assuming that this would satisfy Hitler and guarantee future peace.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far people agreed with Churchill’s views on appeasement in the 1930s. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What is concerning the writer of the letter?
  2. What arguments are put forward against war?
  3. What does the letter say about the German people?
  4. What is the attitude of the writer towards the radio broadcasts he mentions?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
There’s widespread support for appeasement.

The British people don’t want to go to war.

The German people fully support Hitler.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • Britain had been very badly scarred by the First World War. The war had exhausted Britain financially and caused around a million dead. This fact seems to have influenced the author of the letter.
  • It’s difficult to be certain how far this letter was representative of the mass of the British population so it must be taken in conjunction with other source material.
  • The fact that the letter was copied to Churchill is an indication that Churchill had become a prominent figure in the debate about how to deal with Hitler.

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

Source 3

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