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Neville Chamberlain's Legacy (Hardback)

Hitler, Munich and the Path to War

P&S History > British History WWII > Hitler & the Third Reich

By Nicholas Milton
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 279
Illustrations: 40
ISBN: 9781526732255
Published: 16th October 2019


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Neville Chamberlain has gone down in history as the architect of appeasement, the Prime Minister who by sacrificing Czechoslovakia at Munich in September 1938 put Britain on an inevitable path to war.

In this radical new appraisal of the most vilified politician of the twentieth century, historian Nicholas Milton claims that by placating Hitler and Mussolini, Chamberlain not only reflected the zeitgeist of the time but also bought Britain vital time to rearm when Germany’s military machine was at its zenith. In doing so he helped create the Air Raid Precautions organisation, the Women’s Land Army and the Special Operations Executive charter.

Yet Chamberlain’s legacy is far more complex than just Hitler, Munich and the path to war. He was also a pioneer of the nature conservation movement and remains the only serving Prime Minister to have had a species named after him, the Chamberlain’s Yellow butterfly Pyrisitia chamberlaini, following his time in the Bahamas as a young man. During his Downing Street years he corresponded with a birdwatcher called Gilbert Collett and visited St James’s Park nearly every day looking for birds. As a result birdwatching became more than just a hobby, it was Chamberlain’s way of dealing with the nightmare which was Adolf Hitler and the Second World War.

His story is revealed through his own words in his diary letters to his two sisters, Hilda and Ida. They shed new light on his complex character and enable us to consider Chamberlain the private man, not just the public statesman. The letters show how helped to build houses for the poor, improved midwifery services and championed the introduction of a widow’s pension. It is a reminder that there is often more to political figures, even well-known Tory Prime Ministers, than many a quick judgment allows.

Article feature: Plaque to honour Chamberlain

Chamberlink (Birmingham)

Article: City to finally salute our man of history

Birmingham Mail

As featured in the article: 'Birmingham set to finally honour PM Chamberlain'

Birmingham Post

There really is a lot more to him than his, at the time, extremely popular policy of appeasement. Historical TV drama producers ought to contact Nicholas Milton as soon as possible.

Read the full review here

Lars Gyllenhaal

An important read for anyone with an interest in the prelude to World War II.

The NYMAS Review, Spring 2020

‘A list of ten books set in our county – Hampshire’

Hampshire Chronicle, 30th April 2020

‘Hampshire books: Non-Fiction’

Hampshire Life, May 2020

Neville Chamberlain was a complex individual who acted from what he thought was a reasonable position, but could be considered an architect of WWII. Chamberlain was applauded when he returned from Hitler claiming Peace in Our Time, a claim that did not age well. – Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


Through Chamberlain's direct account of the events from archives and letters, Milton is able to offer a complex portrayal of the man himself, and of a skilled politician who was pursuing peace while at the re-arming of the country.

Co-operative News

This biographical portrait addresses some of the untruths about him, and sets the record straight on his pioneering policies, now altogether forgotten.

Books Monthly

In a new biography, Nicholas Milton gives us a more rounded picture of Chamberlain. His private letters to family and friends provide an insight into his thinking and reveal much about him as a politician.

Read the full review here

Balkan Wargamer

This book is very well written and it is clear that a lot of research has gone into the book by the author. The book isn’t all about a life in politics it also shows the more human side of Chamberlain, a man very much in touch with helping people, nature and his love of birdlife. Something you wouldn’t think a man in his position would have time for. Overall this is a well-informed book, unusual character but a good book I found intriguing.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

The author's research cannot be faulted. He spent countless hours poring through letters, diary entries, newspaper cuttings and other material in the vaults of a unversity library in Birmingham - Chamberlain's home city.

He has uncovered much - not just about his subject's career as a farmer, industrialist and politician (both local and national), but also about his recreational interests, including his lifelong love of nature across its whole spectrum from bugs to butterflies to birds.

Milton is himself a naturalist, so he is keenly aware of the significance of Chamberlain's sightings of such species as red-backed shrike, scaup and grey wagtail, sometimes in unexpected locations.

This highly-readable biography is sympathetic without being reverential or adulatory.

The tone is matter-of-fact. The author says it how it and allows the reader to reach her/ his conclusions about a highly complex and much-vilified individual who always did the very best that he could.

A word too, for the excellent illustrations and for the imaginative front cover featuring an all-to-rare photograph of Chamberlain smiling.

Plaudits to the author, the publishers (Pen and Sword) and all involved in the production of an important and highly impressive book.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Merganser

Article 'Neville Chamberlain: bird and Bard champ' as featured by

Stratford Herald

Eighty years after his death, a campaign is launched to restore Neville Chamberlain's reputation.

Daily Telegraph 12/11/19

As featured in

The Daily Telegraph 11/11/19

A short look into the life and legacy of Neville Chamberlain, this was a good book for someone who knows nothing about him, as a way to see him as both a politician and as a man.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

Radical reassessment of the life and work of Chamberlain, offering a fresh perspective on the history of Appeasement.

Bookseller Buyers Guide

Neville Chamberlain will always be remembered primarily as the man who was duped by Hitler in 1938 over the Munich negotiations to settle the matter of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. In the end (and to paraphrase Churchill) Chamberlain was a man ‘who knew nothing of war, Europe and foreign policy’ who was ‘deceived and cheated by a wicked man’. He has been forever associated with that failure. However this book seeks to test if it was a simple failure, or a studied attempt to buy time to allow Britain to prepare for a war that was coming. It also looks at the character of Chamberlain to find a man who had many positives and indeed some endearing personal interests that show the wider value of the man. Does that change the perceived memory of the man? Probably not, but it is a well constructed book that is an interesting read.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Nicholas Milton

Nicholas Milton is an ornithologist, historian and a journalist. He has worked for The BBC Natural History Unit, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Wildlife Trusts and Greenpeace and has also written extensively about the Second World War for The Daily TelegraphThe GuardianThe Daily Mail and The Independent. His first book, Neville Chamberlain's Legacy, was published by Pen and Sword in 2019.

Neville Chamberlain is born

18th March 1869

Neville Chamberlain was born in Birmingham on 18 March 1869 to a political family. He was the youngest son of Joseph Chamberlain, a Victorian Cabinet minister, and the half-brother of Austen, a Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was educated at Rugby and Mason College, Birmingham.

Treaty of Munich signed by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Édouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain, forces Czechoslovakia to give territory to Germany.

30th September 1938

Chamberlain infamously declares "Peace for our time" on his return to London.

View all events View all anniversaries

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