chapter  7
33 Pages

The path to European war, 1930–39

For Churchill, the prime mover in world affairs was human agency. The war occurred because statesmen made certain choices – either maliciously calculated or from naively optimistic motives. World war might have been prevented had alternative courses been taken. British and French leaders could have stopped Hitler had they armed more rapidly, stood firm in March 1936 over the Rhineland or in September 1938 over Czechoslovakia, and forged a coalition with Soviet Russia to deter war or, if deterrence failed, to wage it successfully from the start. What is compelling about Churchill’s account is that it appeals to our urge to frame the past in the form of a clear-cut narrative that places human agency at the centre of the story.