The Lasting Legacy of Munich: British Public Perceptions of Neville Chamberlain During the Phoney War
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History remembers Neville Chamberlain as the personification of Britain's shame over the 1938 Munich Agreement. Literature that discusses contemporary attitudes towards Chamberlain relies on the misleading satisfaction ratings gathered by BIPO and, therefore, concludes that his popularity did not begin to wane until the evacuation of British forces from Norway and the German invasion of the Low Countries in May 1940. Yet my analysis of Mass Observation diaries shows that much of Chamberlain’s legacy is rooted in contemporary public opinions. During the Phoney War, many Britons thought Chamberlain was untrustworthy, ineffectual, and weak, and a majority of their condemnations were rooted in his actions at Munich. While displaying a spectrum of opinions, diarists show that perceptions of Chamberlain had been worsening since September 1938. The spring of 1940 was not the sudden end of Chamberlain’s popularity but the public recognition of long-held private thoughts that gained strength with Allied defeats.