Neville Chamberlain began his public career in 1915 in Birmingham, where he was born, as its lord mayor. In 1918 he became a member of Parliament. He served as minister of health in the ministry of Law (1923) and in Baldwin's government from (1924-29). He was chancellor of the Exchequer (1931-37) and followed Baldwin as prime minister in May 1937.
Prime minister at the outbreak of World War II, he attempted to establish peaceful relations with Hitler and Mussolini through a policy of appeasement. His approach was not without support, but it resulted in Eden's resignation as foreign secretary and generated bitter opposition from Winston Churchill.
Chamberlain engineered the Munich Pact in September 1938, negotiating with Hitler to settle the question of Czechoslovakia. The agreement signed by Britain, France, Italy and Germany gave the Sudeten, a resource rich area of Czechoslovakia, (one-fifth of the country on the German speaking border) to Germany with other areas going to Hungary and Poland. Returning in triumph to Britain at Heston Airport on September 30th, Chamberlain told a cheering crowd "I believe it is peace in our time." The peace did not last long. Germany took the rest of Czechoslovakia in March of 1938 and Chamberlain was cornered into guaranteeing Poland against attack. When Germany invaded Poland Britain declared war.
The handwriting was on the wall. Chamberlain's own party rebelled against him, forcing his resignation after British forces suffered defeat in Norway. Churchill was named prime minister in May of 1940. Chamberlain joined his cabinet briefly, resigned in October and died on 9 November 1940.
1937 - German bombers under Franco attack civilians in Guernica in The Spanish Civil War. Mussolini visits Libya and Berlin. Franklin D. Roosevelt signs U.S. Neutrality Act. Japanese take Peking, Tienstsin, Shanghai, Nanking and Hangchow. Lord Halifax visits Hitler marking the begin of a policy of appeasement. Italy withdraws from the League of Nations; passes anti-Jewish legislation. Mao Tse-tung and Chaing Kai-shek unite to form a Chinese government. Amelia Earhart is lost somewhere in the Pacific. San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge opens. The Duke of Windsor marries Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Joe Lewis regains the heavyweight boxing title defeating James Braddock.
1938 - Japanese install puppet government in China. Hitler becomes self-appointed War Minister of Germany. Foreign secretary Eden resigns in protest of policy of appeasement. Roosevelt appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to find peaceful solution to European problems. He recalls American ambassador to Germany. Germany reciprocates. Pearl S. Buck wins the Nobel Prize for literature. The 40-hour work week established in America. S. S. "Queen Elizabeth" is launched. Gas masks are issued to British civilians.
1939 - World War II begins. Germany invades Poland. Their blitzkrieg method of "lightening war" proves effective. Britain and France declare war on Germany. The Russians invade Finland. A bomb explodes in the Buergerbraukeller in Munich, shortly after Hitler has left the building where he was giving a speech. Imperial Airways and British Airways merge to form BOAC (British Oversees Airways Corporation). Nylon yarn is produced commercially in Delaware by the DuPont Company. In New York, Billie Holliday records "The Man I Love."
1940 - In the Spring, Germany blitzkriegs Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. Britain rations butter, sugar and bacon. RAF begins night bombings of Germany. The Battle of Britain begins in August. The London "Blitz" begins. In America the Selective Service Act is passed and the U.S. military begins to prepare for war. Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico, hit in the head with an axe. Hitler names Hermann Goering as "Reichs-Marshall." Franklin D. Roosevelt is re-elected for a 3rd term as U. S. president. Hemingway publishes "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Graham Greene publishes "The Power and the Glory."
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