Seminar Discussion Questions, Week of 14 September

Seminar Week 2 – Appeasement
As soon as WWII ended, people had to make some sort of sense out of it. For
Europeans the pressing question was whether all of the suffering and loss of life
endured during the war had been necessary, or if they could have been minimized
drastically, or altogether avoided, if leaders had acted differently. Almost
immediately, historians looked back to the diplomatic settlement reached at Munich
in September 1938, in which the leaders of France and Britain agreed to the German
occupation of the western portion of Czechoslovakia, the so-called Sudentenland. To
some, the Munich Agreement was a necessary step by France and Britain
unprepared for war against Germany. To others, it was an outright betrayal of
Czechoslovakia, a lost opportunity to destroy Hitler before Germany’s military
became too strong, and ultimately a moral failure. In other words, some saw
appeasement as a necessary evil, while others saw it as a grave tactical mistake by
weak and dishonorable leaders. In this week’s seminar we look at some arguments
that have been made on this question, with a view to deciding which case you think
is more convincing.
Document 1, “The Gathering Storm”
On what grounds does Churchill condemn the British Prime Minister Neville
Why did he think appeasement would not work?
Document 2, “Appeasement: The Art of the Possible”
On what grounds does Butler defend appeasement?
According to Butler, what advantages did appeasement bring?
Document 3, “Appeasement: A Study in Political Decline”
To what does the author attribute the failure of appeasement?
What is the author’s assessment of the character of the men around Neville
Overall question: What is your overall assessment of the policy of
appeasement? Was it a success, failure, or necessary evil?