Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain and the Defence of Empire

  • George C. Peden

Abstract

In his study of British grand strategy before the Second World War, Norman Gibbs was careful to note that the limitations of military power included finance and the productive capacity of industry.1 He also dismissed the myth that British weakness in the 1930s was simply the result of ‘supposed dictatorial obstinacy’ on the part of Neville Chamberlain.2 However, Gibbs was inhibited, as the author of an official history, when dealing with political personalities, and, in particular, he could not directly confront the legend of Winston Churchill as the Cassandra of the period.3 What follows may be seen as a footnote to Gibbs, in that this chapter is an attempt to compare how Churchill and Chamberlain coped with the limitations of military power. The focus is on their attitudes to the defence of Britain’s widely scattered Empire, for it was there that the imbalance between limited military power and extensive commitments was greatest.

Keywords

Depression Europe Egypt Defend Omic 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    History of the Second World War, U.K. Military Series, N. H. Gibbs, Grand Strategy, vol. 1, Rearmament Policy (London: HMSO, 1976) esp. ch. 8.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Churchill himself gave powerful expression of the legend in his The Second World War, vol. 1, The Gathering Storm (London: Cassell, 1948).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    For the scale of defence preparations in relation to national resources before 1914 see David French, British Economic and Strategic Planning 1905–1915 (London: Allen and Unwin, 1982).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    G. C. Peden, ‘A Matter of Timing: The Economic Background to British Foreign Policy, 1937–1939’, History, vol. LXIX (1984) pp. 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, vol. V 1922–1939 (London: Heinemann, 1976) pp. 99–100, 115, 120, 237–43;Google Scholar
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  7. 7.
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    G. C. Peden, British Rearmament and the Treasury: 1932–1939 (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1979) p. 7.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    See John Ferris, ‘Treasury Control, the Ten Year Rule and British Service Policies, 1919–24’, Historical Journal, vol. XXX (1987) pp. 859–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 17.
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  13. 24.
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  14. 25.
    Churchill, Second World War, vol. III, The Grand Alliance (London: Cassell, 1950) p. 403.Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    G. C. Peden, ‘The Burden of Imperial Defence and the Continental Commitment Reconsidered’, Historical Journal, vol. XXVII (1984) p. 408.Google Scholar
  16. 36.
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Copyright information

© John B. Hattendorf and Malcolm H. Murfett 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • George C. Peden

There are no affiliations available

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