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Did people agree with Churchill's stand on appeasement?

Source 3

A letter from Miss M. Akhurst, one of Churchill’s constituents, 27 September 1938


CHAR 7/107/38

Simplified Transcript


In this serious situation we’re facing, my sister and I hope you’ll consider our views.

In the first place we believe that war will not help the people of Czechoslovakia. It is far better to avoid wars. We should offer the Germans some territory from the empire or some other economic concession. The Czechs should also offer something.

We believe the Germans have suffered since the war and have genuine complaints.

We beg you to consider our views and fight for justice and truth.

Miss M Akhurst

Original Transcript

67 Rokeby Gardens,
Woodford Green

The Right Hon. Winston Churchill
In the serious position in which, as a nation, we find ourselves, my sister and I, as two of your constituents, beg of you to ponder our contentions.

In the first place, war in support of Czechoslovakia cannot really help any of the people there. We saw in the Great War what fighting on one’s territory meant.

Far better avoid war, and, to this end, we suggest offering up some national or imperial interests. The German folk hunger for a comfortable place in the world, and, we who have seen their sufferings, and repressions, during the post-war years, must admit that they have a genuine grievance. We believe our plain duty, as a Xtian [Christian] nation, is to join with the Czechs in giving, to the point of great economic sacrifice.

May we beg of you to consider all the facts of political and economic justice and truth, and consider them again and again; so, we believe, you will be able to supply the needed solution.

Many thanks for your consideration of this letter.
Yours faithfully,
(Miss) M. Akhurst.

What is this source?

The source above is a handwritten letter to Winston Churchill, in September 1938, from one of his concerned constituents, advising him on how they need to avoid war at all costs.

Background to this source

The letter was written to Winston Churchill immediately before the Munich Conference, in which British PM Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler in attempt to resolve Hitler’s claims to the Sudetenland (an area of Czechoslovakia).

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 he joined Austria to Germany. In September 1938 he was demanding the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia should 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’s worrying 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 suggestions are made for resolving the crisis?

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.

British people have some sympathy for the Germans.

The writer is concerned about the Czechs.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • It’s very clear from this source how far the writers consider war to be a realistic possibility. It’s also clear why they think this. What is less clear is how far their attitudes represent the norm at this time. This can only be assessed in conjunction with other sources.

Explore the guide to interpreting letters

Source 4

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