Abstracts (Saturday, 30th June)


Tom Dowling (University of Sheffield), “One of ‘internationalism’s foot soldiers’: An Introduction to the Diaries of Frank Mortimer Grimes”

This paper will draw on the recently unearthed diaries of Frank Mortimer Grimes (1900 – 1947), an organising secretary in the Stepney and Nottingham branches of the League of Nations Union (LNU) during the interwar period. Through his involvement with the LNU, and his work as a local newspaper journalist on the Nottingham Post and Nottingham Journal, Grimes worked diligently, throughout the 1930s, to promote the work of the League of the Nations and the principles of internationalism to what he perceived as a largely insouciant and inward-looking British public. In 1937, he was instrumental in organising the Nottingham Peace Week, securing the participation of ‘celebrity’ figures such as Dame Sybil Thorndike and the cartoonist David Low. As Joe Moran and Virginia Nicholson have recently observed, the diaries of private citizens ‘can both elucidate and usefully complicate the wider social and cultural histories of which they form a part’; indeed, ‘the personal and the idiosyncratic [often reveals] more about the past than the generic and comprehensive’. This paper will suggest how, amongst other things, the Grimes’ diaries offer a moving and compelling insight into how deeply the policy of ‘appeasement’ and ‘the shameful Munich settlement’ served to affect an ‘ordinary’ British citizen and campaigner of the 1930s.


Barry Doyle (University of Huddersfield) & Rosemary Wall (University of Hull), “First Aid, Civil Defence and Preparation for War in England and France in the 1930s”

Over the course of the later 1930s, both national and local government and civil society organisations were mobilised to prepare the population for the possibility of war and its likely impact. Drawing on the experience of the First World War and conflicts in Manchuria, Abyssinia and Spain, planners anticipated enemies would bomb and use gas and chemicals against both military and civilian populations. In both England and France voluntary bodies like the Red Cross, St John Ambulance, Croix Rouge and l’Association des dames françaises produced handbooks, pamphlets and courses to train their own members and increasing volumes of propaganda to alert the public to potential dangers and encourage them to take action. While historians like Lindsey Dodd have examined the development of civil defence/defence passive in an Anglo-French context, this has focused mainly on the preparations of the state.

Drawing on archives in England and France, including those of the British Red Cross, the Order of St John, the National Archives, local repositories in East Yorkshire and Sussex, the Croix Rouge and Archives Departmentale de Seine Maritime along with journals like First Aid and the monthly bulletin of the Union Femmes de France and handbooks and pamphlets, this paper will explore the growing body of information, advice and training. It will offer a comparison of civil society approaches in England and France, focusing especially on the role of first aid preparations for expected bombing and gas attacks. It will consider whether differing traditions of voluntary/state relations and the respective levels of prospective threat from bombing and/or invasion led to diverse responses in the two countries in the run up to the Munich crisis and its aftermath.


Jakub Drábik (Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava), “A very long shadow: The Munich agreement in post-war Czechoslovak communist propaganda and dissident discourse”

The Munich agreement, signed in September 1938, was undoubtedly a defining moment in Czechoslovak history. However, as I argue in this paper, this was not simply because it led to the dismantling of a republic prior to World War II. “Munich” was also invoked extensively in the years following the war in Czechoslovak communist and dissident discourse alike. The paper focuses on two main areas. First, using Czech and Slovak primary sources, it describes and analyses how “Munich” was used as a weapon of propaganda, especially by the communist authorities, who sought (successfully, to some degree) to manipulate public opinion by using the Munich Treaty as evidence of the treachery and deceit of Western (democratic) states. The Communists exploited this failure of the “West” to defend its ally, and also used the Treaty to legitimise both their rule and the Soviet Union’s involvement in Czechoslovak politics (especially after 1968). Secondly, the paper examines the perspective of the dissidents and what they called the “Munich complex”, a term coined by Czech historian Jan Tesař in his book of the same name, which was the culmination of extensive samizdat discussion on the topic. Tesař claimed that Czechoslovak dissidents, democrats and exiles used the Munich Treaty as an “excuse” for their inability to act against the Communist party and prevent its surge to power in 1948, and secondly that the Treaty was a major factor in the moral decline of the Czech nation. His ideas were naturally quite controversial. Using Tesař’s book and those of other dissidents, the paper explores the question, Why was the “Munich complex” so significant a part of dissident discourse during the post-war years?


George Giannakopoulos (Junior Research Fellow at the  Centre for Political Thought, School of Government and International Affairs,  Durham University), “The death of a New Europe: British liberalism, East-Central Europe and the politics of appeasement”

The coming 80th anniversary of the Munich Crisis offers an opportunity to revisit key aspects of Britain’s involvement with Eastern Europe, broadly defined. The paper will discuss the impact that the Partition of Czechoslovakia and the re-ordering of East-Central Europe had for British liberals with an interest in the history and politics of the region. The paper has two aims. First, it will focus on the reactions of those scholars and experts who were instrumental in crafting an image of Czechoslovakia as the bastion of liberalism in post-1919 East-Central Europe. Second, it will offer a more nuanced understanding of the public debate on the partition of Czechoslovakia in the British press. By taking Czechoslovakia as a case in point, the paper investigates the trajectory of interwar British liberal internationalism and offers a reappraisal of the politics of appeasement.


Rebecca Gill (University of Huddersfield), “The 1938 Conference of the International Red Cross Committee: humanitarian diplomacy and the Red Cross ideal of internationalism”

In June 1938, London played host to the 75th anniversary Conference of the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC].  The aim of this paper is to tease out the relationship between the ideals of Red Cross internationalism (and what this meant at this time and place) and the politics of appeasement and of ‘war mindedness’ in Britain.  The focus will be the British Red Cross’ advocacy at this conference for international protocols on civilian protection in war, and its role as a broker and facilitator between movements for civil defence and (territorial) military planning and government departments.  Women, and the titled ladies who headed many of the county branches, will feature prominently in this analysis.  They include Chairwoman of the Durham Red Cross branch, Lady Londonderry.

More broadly of interest are the levels of humanitarian diplomacy and forms of internationalism at work at this conference.  These ranged from the tabled discussions (with the President of the German Red Cross, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, conveying Hitler’s endorsement of the red cross ideal of humanity!) , social functions (Coburg was presented in full Nazi uniform to the King and Queen at a Buckingham Palace garden party), and behind the scenes (Austria had been scored off the list of delegates, representatives from both the Spanish Red Cross and its rival Nationalist Spanish Red Cross being politely managed, and ICRC officials attempting to raise the question of the concentration camps in Germany).

This slice of local, national and international British Red Cross history will be studied the better to place the discourse on civilian protection, and civil defence at home, within a study of how the international Red Cross movement as a whole operated and avoided segmentation at this juncture, and the extent to which this particular rendering of internationalism functioned within a culture of appeasement.


Helen Goethals (Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès), “News that STAYS news? Some poets’ perspectives on the Munich crisis”

“News of Munich” is the title of the first of no less than twenty-eight poems that Timothy Corsellis (1921-1941) wrote in response to Neville Chamberlain’s notorious visits to Germany in September 1938. A small selection of the unpublished poems, letters and essays written by a precocious 17-year-old poet at Winchester will serve as a means of opening out onto a wider view of poets’ responses to what William Empson was the first to call The Gathering Storm. In bringing the point of view of a literary historian to bear on the Munich Crisis, my ambition is to enrich our understanding both of the poetry and of the history of that troubled time and to suggest what might be made to happen when the timely and the timeless are read side-by-side.


Lori Helene Gronich (Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, USA), “Psychology and Choice in British Foreign Policy: Explaining Appeasement and the Munich Crisis of 1938”

From the Anschluss to Munich, Britain pursued a policy of appeasement. The Chamberlain government responded to German advances in Central Europe by selecting policies of peace rather than policies of war. What prompted British decision-makers to choose a path of diplomacy rather than a path of military confrontation?  Why did Britain accommodate German expansion?

This paper explores the psychological dynamics of British decision-making from March to September 1938.  It employs the cognitive calculus theory, and draws attention to deliberations at multiple levels of the government, including Cabinet and sub-Cabinet echelons, and consultations with non-governmental actors, too.  It highlights the influence of decision role, decision stage, and substantive knowledge in framing problems and selecting solutions, and underscores the impact of military and non-military expertise in crafting foreign policy judgments.

By presenting a new understanding of British decision-making in this crucial period, this paper underscores the importance of the Prime Minister and his associates in their efforts to keep the peace, and discusses the implications of this case for contemporary foreign policy efforts, including nuclear and non-nuclear scenarios.


Dr. Paul Horsler (London School of Economics), “Prayer and Praise during the Munich Crisis: a story of church attendance”

Recent scholarship by Julie Gottlieb has begun to tell the private and emotional history of the Munich Crisis upon ordinary people.  Part of this history includes church attendance, a subject mentioned in existing scholarship by Chandler (1994) and Wilkinson (1989) concerning religious views of the Munich Crisis focus primarily upon the leaders of the Anglican Church with particular reference to the morality of the Munich Agreement.  Both articles refer to large church attendances but fail to provide any actual figures or engage in discussion about the behaviour or emotions of ordinary people during and after the crisis.  Using research conducted as part of a recently completed doctoral thesis, this paper will use a three area (Bedfordshire, Bolton and the London boroughs of Fulham and Hammersmith) case study approach using local newspapers, Mass Observation, and Anglican service registers to substantiate the claims made by existing scholarship.  The last of these records the number of communicants, which will be used as a proxy for service attendance.  The core of the paper will focus upon the two weeks either side of the crisis, though some mention of references to the crisis as part of Armistice Day observation will be made as way of contextualising the impact of the crisis.


Liam J. Liburd (University of Sheffield),Munich, Mosley & the Meaning of a ‘Fascist Peace’

Days before the signing of the Munich Agreement on 30 September, 1938, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) declared in their newspaper that Chamberlain’s appeasement represented ‘the normal National Socialist form of diplomatic action – direct approach.’[1] This paper will argue that the BUF’s support for appeasement was rooted in their own ideas of fascist diplomacy. The BUF was the largest of Britain’s fascist movements, both in terms of membership and public profile. They had campaigned against war with other fascist nations since 1935 and one can detect anti-war sentiments in their books and periodicals from the early days of the group’s existence. Despite their anti-war stance, they hated pacifists and derided international peace-keeping bodies like the League of Nations, regarding them as ineffective and unmanly. Instead, the BUF, the self-proclaimed ‘new movement of British manhood’, argued for their own fascist diplomacy.[2] This was a diplomatic strategy that stressed the importance of two powerful, decisive leaders meeting man to man and thrashing out a peace settlement. For them it represented fascist masculinity in action, the ‘Leader’ intuitively carrying out the will of the people without the need for parliamentary ‘talking shops’. This paper will chart the development of the BUF’s idea of fascist diplomacy, rooted in a mythologised experience of the First World War and formulated in response to the diplomatic crises of the thirties such as Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia.


Dr Tommaso Milani (London School of Economics), “A Neutralist Alternative? Hendrik de Man, the Munich Conference, and the Oslo Group, 1936-1940”

The paper sets out to investigate the strategy envisaged by the Belgian socialist intellectual and politician Hendrik de Man (1885-1953) to address the international crisis which unfolded between the occupation of the Rhineland (March 1936) and the invasion of Belgium (May 1940). A thoroughgoing pacifist as well as staunch critic of the Versailles Treaty, de Man began championing a policy of active neutralism, by which he hoped that Nazi Germany could be constrained as well as persuaded to agree with a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in Western Europe. Unlike many orthodox advocates of appeasement, de Man had little faith in French and British elites but pinned high hopes on the ‘Oslo Group’, a coalition of non-aligned states (Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and – to an extent – Switzerland) which weresupposed to mediate between fascist regimes and bourgeois democracies, strengtheningthe achievements of the Munich conference. Having found a close ally in King LeopoldIII and in its politique d’indépendance, de Man turned into an unofficial diplomat for hiscountry and travelled to Paris, London, Rome, and Berlin in Winter 1938-39. However,despite meeting key figures such as Neville Chamberlain and Galeazzo Ciano, his plansfor a New Munich – named Conférence Générale de Paix – promoted by the OsloGroup were shattered by Germany’s and Italy’s negative responses.

Although politically sterile, de Man’s efforts are intellectually significant as they highlighted the existence of strong neutralist sentiments within the interwar Left. In June 1940, de Man embraced collaboration with the Nazis, and so did other French socialists – most famously, Marcel Déat – who also shared the myth of “the Oslo Group”. These turnabouts are inexplicable without giving proper consideration to these socialists’ living memories of the Great War, disenchantment with the League of Nations, hostility to collective security, and deep-seated mistrust towards France’s and Britain’s conservative politicians. This paper contends that left-wing neutralism, bolstered by the Munich Agreement, turned out to be one of the most powerful drivers towards collaboration.


Connor Schonta (Liberty University, Virginia), “Observing Crisis: George Kennan’s Interpretations of Munich”

Studies of the Munich Agreement abound. This is true even of American perspectives and involvement, which is telling considering the U.S. maintained only a periphery presence throughout the entire affair. However, very little has been said about the U.S.’s immediate post-Munich presence in Prague. From October 1938 to March 1939, the U.S. legation in Prague, headed by Wilbur J. Carr, continued to operate. After the Nazi invasion and subsequent occupation, George Kennan and Irving Lanell remained in Czechoslovakia, sending political reports to the State Department throughout the spring and summer. These efforts by U.S. Foreign Service Officers in Prague constitute the rawest and most informed of American responses to the Munich debacle.

The most significant American observer of post-Munich Czechoslovakia was George Kennan. Noted today for his nuanced insights into the USSR, Kennan spent an entire year in Prague, devoting almost all of his time to close political analysis. He arrived on the day of Munich, witnessed the March invasion, traveled extensively, read Czech and Slovak sources, and thoughtfully considered the future of the embattled state. A staunch realist, Kennan’s perspectives on Czechoslovakia stand as a fascinating example of a struggle many Americans felt—how should one best balance genuine sympathy with the cold realities of geopolitics? Kennan’s memoirs and reports articulate the complexities of Czechoslovakia’s situation from a knowledgeable, dispassionate, yet dedicated point-of-view. By understanding Kennan’s reaction to the Munich crisis, as well as the reactions of other American diplomats, one gains a fuller picture of the difficulties inherent to responding to international crises in real time.


Rowan G.E. Thompson (Northumbria University), “The Munich Crisis, the Air League of the British Empire and the Preparation for War”

In October 1938, Air Review, the Air League of the British Empire’s journal, declared that ‘[w]e can no longer put any faith in princes, proletariats, pacts or pacifists . . . We cannot get peace by wishing for it, or even by praying for it. We must be prepared, and well prepared, to fight for it’. The response of the Air League to the Munich Crisis is, perhaps, unsurprising. Since its formation in 1909, the League’s raison d’être was the political promotion of British aerial supremacy. In order to achieve this goal, the League carried out a resolute programme of public education and political lobbying. Central to this programme was the promotion of an ‘airmindedness’ which revolved around not only national defence, but also national might and prestige. Much has been written on the shadow of the bomber surrounding Munich, and on the military, political and diplomatic aspects of aviation in the prelude to the Second World War. Yet, the work of the Air League has received curiously little attention.

This paper will focus on Empire Air Day, an aerial pageant and military spectacle which ran from 1934 to 1939. It represented an important illustration of the often conflicting, contested and overlapping relationship between civil and military spheres of society in interwar Britain. An examination of Empire Air Day – its content, development, character and reception – provides an important insight into key issues of the late 1930s: national defence, national identity, militarism and modernity. There were, of course, a range of emotional responses to the Munich Crisis. In exploring Empire Air Day, this paper will suggest that, while fear and anxiety undoubtedly characterised immediate responses to the Crisis, there was still a place for ‘airmindedness’ and aerial enthusiasm in British society. As this paper will reveal, through Empire Air Day, the aeroplane increasingly came to the British public in new, dramatic and often distinctly militaristic ways.


[1] Michael Goulding, ‘Chamberlain’s “Direct Approach”:  Democracy Driven to Fascist Technique’, Action, 136 (24 September, 1938), p. 7.

[2] ‘Mosley’s Great Peace Speeches – “Not One Drop of British Blood Shall Be Spent Except in Defence of Britain”’, Blackshirt, 124 (6 September, 1935), p. 1, 2.





Adrian Bingham is Professor of Modern British History at the University of Sheffield. His main research interests are in the political, social and cultural history of twentieth-century Britain. He has worked extensively on the national popular press in the decades after 1918, and has written three books examining the ways in which newspapers both reflected and shaped British society and culture. He is currently working on a project entitled ‘Everyday Politics, Ordinary Lives: Democratic Engagement in Britain, 1918-1992’, supported by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship (2017-18). He is Co-Editor of Twentieth Century British History, a Senior Editor for History and Policy, and Co-Director, with Professor Conboy, of the Centre for the Study of Journalism and History.


Jakub Drábik (1986) obtained his Ph.D. from the Charles University Prague in 2014. Since 2016 he works at the Institute of History of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava. His recent publications include a book on BUF propaganda in 2014 (in Czech) and Oswald Mosley´s biography in 2017 (also in Czech) as well as several scholarly articles on BUF. His current research focuses on Czech/Czechoslovak fascism, which has been much overlooked in Western Historiography as well as on 1970s and 1980s Czechoslovakia. In general, his research interests are the history of fascism and 20th Century Central and Eastern European history.


Tom Dowling is a Research Associate at the University of Sheffield where he is currently employed on the AHRC-funded project ‘Everyday Politics, Ordinary Lives: Democratic Engagement in Britain, 1918-1992’. He previously held a post as a Cultural Engagement Fellow on a project exploring ideological splits and tension in the British Labour Party, also funded by the AHRC. His PhD thesis, ‘In Spite of History? New Leftism in Britain’ (Sheffield, 2015), challenged existing historiographical framings of the so-called British ‘new left experience’ between 1956 and 1979. He is currently writing a book about changing left-wing sensibilities in Britain during the twentieth century.


Barry Doyle is Professor of Health History at the University of Huddersfield. His research is focused on health and the urban environment and especially the provision of hospitals in Britain and Europe 1900-1950. His research has been funded by th Wellcome Trust, South Tees Hospitals Trust and the AHRC and his publications include articles in Historical Journal, Urban History and Social History of Medicine along with a recent book, The Politics of Hospital Provision in Early Twentieth Century Britain. He is currently Co-Investigator on the AHRC funded project ‘Crossing Boundaries: The History of First Aid in Britain and France, 1909-1989’ led by Dr Rosemary Wall of the University of Hull.


George Giannakopoulos holds a PhD in History from QMUL. He is currently also working on his first book monograph provisionally titled ‘Weather Men: British Intellectuals, National Questions and Imperial Order in Europe (1880-1930)’. He has published in Modern Intellectual History, History of European Ideas and The Journal of Modern Greek Studies and has held visiting fellowships in the University of Copenhagen and NYU. More about his work here:  www.geogian.com.


Rebecca Gill is a senior lecturer in Modern History at the University of Huddersfield.  She has written on the origins and early years of the Red Cross as part of a history of humanitarian organisations in Britain (published as Calculating Compassion: humanity and relief in war, 1870-1914) and is currently working on an AHRC project on Emily Hobhouse, with a particular focus on her relief work in South Africa and Europe and the development of her liberal internationalism.


Lori Helene Gronich is a Professorial Lecturer in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. She has held research appointments at Harvard University, Princeton University, the Brookings Institution, Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, USC, and UCLA; and received the Best Faculty Paper Award fromm the Foreign Policy Analysis Section of the American Political Science Association. She is the author of several studies, including “Expertise and Naïveté in Decision-Making: Theory, History, and the Trump Administration,” in H-Diplo/International Security Studies Forum Policy Series, America and the World—2017 and Beyond, May 3, 2017, http://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5AH-expertise; and “Psychology” (with Richard H. Immerman) in Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations 3rd edition, eds. Michael Hogan and Frank Costigliola (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). She is currently working on a comparative study of classic and contemporary foreign policy decisions (including the appeasement case), Choosing Force or Diplomacy: The Cognitive Calculus Theory and Foreign Policy Decision-Making.


Paul Horsler has recently completed his PhD in International History at the London School of Economics on the topic of local-level public opinion and the coming of the Second World War.  He has previously presented papers at the British International History Group conference.  Paul currently works as an Academic Support Librarian for LSE Library supporting a number of departments including International History and International Relations.


Liam J. Liburd is in the second year of his PhD studies with the University of Sheffield. His thesis is titled “Constructions of Race, Gender and Empire on the British Fascist and Radical Right, 1920s to 1960s”. His research focuses on the relationship between the British Radical Right, including British fascism, and the British Empire. He has broader interests in gender and cultural historical approaches to British political history in the twentieth century.


Tommaso Milani (1987) has recently obtained a PhD in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His thesis, entitled “Les belles annés du Plan”? : Hendrik de Man and the Reinvention of Western European Socialism, 1914-1936ca.”, was supervised by Dr N. Piers Ludlow and Dr Heather Jones. Tommaso has studied in Italy, Australia, Belgium, Britain, and France, where he was visiting PhD student at the Centre d’Histoire in Sciences Po Paris during the 2015-16 academic year.

His main research interests include the history of interwar social democracy, competing models of economic planning, and the role of international institutions (the ILO in particular) in promoting transnational cooperation during the Great Depression. His most recent publications are ‘Rediscovering Democracy and the Nation: Hendrik de Man and the Legacy of the Great War’ in New Political Ideas in the Aftermath of the Great War, A. Salvador and A. G. Kjøstvedt (eds.), Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan 2017, 1-23, and ‘From laissez-faire to supranational planning: the economic debate within Federal Union (1938-1945)’, European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire, 23, 4, 2016, 664-685.


Connor Schonta is working on his History MA at Liberty University, to be completed in May 2018. He developed an interest in Central Europe when researching for his undergraduate honors thesis, for which he won the university’s top award. He earned Liberty’s first Provost’s Award for Research Excellence in April 2017, which included a $2500 grant. He used those funds to do archival research at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, JFK and FDR Libraries, and the National Archives, focusing on U.S.-Czechoslovak relations in the aftermath of Munich. He is currently working on his MA thesis, to be completed in April 2018, focusing on the efforts of the U.S. legation in Prague from Munich to the Nazi invasion of Poland. He is hoping to teach English in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program in 2018-2019, and he desires to one day teach at the university level, where he would love to offer a course titled, “Czechoslovakia: A Twentieth-Century Case Study.”


Rowan G.E. Thompson is a second year history PhD candidate who is currently working on a thesis entitled: ‘The Peculiarities of British Militarism: The Air and Navy Leagues in Interwar Britain’. His thesis examines the role of the Air League of the British Empire and the Navy League in the re-militarisation of state and civil society in interwar Britain. His thesis engages with the militaristic associational culture of the period and explores how susceptible British popular and political culture was to militarism as expounded by these two organisations. His research interests include: British political and associational culture, militarism, political activism and the impact of war on British society and politics.


Rosemary Wall is a Senior Lecturer in Global History at the University of Hull. She is the Principal Investigator for a new project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council: ‘Crossing Boundaries: The History of First Aid in Britain and France, 1909-1989’, working in collaboration with Barry Doyle. She is writing the 150th anniversary history of the British Red Cross, and was awarded a Bodleian Libraries Sassoon Visiting Fellowship in 2017 in order to research sections relating to war, health and humanitarianism. Rosemary has also published research relating to the history of colonial nursing. Her first book, Bacteria in Britain, 1880-1939 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2013; Routledge 2015, paperback 2016), investigated the use of bacteriology in hospitals, workplaces and local communities. She has held postdoctoral research roles at the University of Oxford and at King’s College London, and a temporary lectureship in History of Medicine at Imperial College London.