HST2030: Appeasement, the Munich Crisis and the British People (1938)

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Julie Gottlieb



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.


Module Summary

The conduct of foreign policy in Britain in the late 1930s and the policy of appeasement in particular have been matters of sustained historiographical debate since 1945. This unit introduces students to some of the key sources pertinent to the discussion through a series of linked lecture workshops and seminars. These highlight the shifting debates between the ‘Guilty Men’ and the anti-appeasers, and the diplomatic perspective, but we also consider how the Press, the British public, men and women, and various political parties and interests responded to the Crisis and understood their position as the Second World War loomed.


Module Aims

  • To introduce students to the in-depth study of the debates on appeasement in the late 1930s.
  • To develop students’ understanding of source criticism, with regard to textual, visual, and material culture sources.
  • To familiarise students with a variety of historiographical approaches (including political, social, gender and cultural history).
  • Promote students’ ability to write informed and cogent essays in clear and grammatical prose.
  • Promote collaborative learning among students and develop team-work skills.
  • Encourage students to develop their confidence and competence in presenting their ideas orally.


Teaching and Assessment

The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce students to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime students on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding students' private study. Seminars will provide opportunities for students to present their ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving students in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism.

Topics will include:

  • The evolution of the politics of appeasement
  • Who were the ‘Guilty Men’?
  • Britain’s Peace Movement and the coming of war
  • The British Press and the Crisis
  • Public Opinion, Polling and the Munich Agreement
  • Mass-Observation’s study of ‘Crisis Week’
  • Churchill and co.: anti-appeasers and the history written by the victors
  • What did the post-Munich by-elections reveal about popular attitudes to war?
  • ‘Guilty Women: Gender and Appeasement
  • Mass hysteria and mass relief: a psycho-history of the Munich Crisis

 Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Selected Reading

  • ‘Cato’, Guilty Men (1940)
  • Martin Ceadle, Semi-Detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945 (2000)
  • Nicolas Crowson, Facing Fascism: The Conservative Party and the European Dictators 1935-40 (1997)
  • Daniel Hucker, Public Opinion and the End of Appeasement in Britain and France (2011)
  • Finney, Patrick (2000) The romance of decline: the historiography of appeasement and British national identity. Electronic Journal of International History (1). ISSN 1471-1443
  • Charles Madge and Tom Harrisson, Britain by Mass-Observation (1939)
  • Frank McDonough, Hitler, Chamberlain and Appeasement (2003)
  • R.A.C. Parker, Churchill and Appeasement (2012)
  • Keith Robbins, Appeasement (2004)


Intended Learning Outcomes
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