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A clinical archive, 1938
Michal Shapira

This chapter analyses the hitherto unexamined contribution of Melanie Klein – a true pioneer of British psychoanalysis and beyond – to the historical thinking about war, violence, the self and the child in the twentieth century. It examines, for the first time, Melanie Klein’s extensive and never-before-used 1938 clinical records of her British patients’ dreams and thoughts about the Nazis, Hitler and the coming of the Second World War. The chapter interrogates and analyses the different reactions of her patients to both the Nazi invasion of Austria in March 1938 and the Sudeten crisis as it unfolded over the summer, while simultaneously providing an historical overview in order to contextualise these specific case studies within both the broader history of psychology and the history of total war.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Emotional inflammation, mental health and shame in Britain during the September crisis
Julie V. Gottlieb

The dramatic unfolding of the Sudeten crisis, followed by the months of political and diplomatic aftershocks, received blanket coverage at the time and prompted much contemporary political commentary and fictional and non-fictional writing. The historiography of appeasement has been dominated by diplomatic historians and international relations specialists who fixate on geopolitical manoeuvring, the political leaders and opinion formers, and the media rendering of the crisis. Insofar as public opinion has been considered, it has been the ways in which politicians perceived the popular mood and sought to manage, manufacture and manipulate it. More recently, cultural, material culture, and gender historians have thought more elastically about the crisis, either as a history from below and/or a history of mentalities. But what of private opinion and intimate experience? This dimension barely features in the existing scholarship despite its undoubted value. In myriad ways and forms, the international crisis was personalised and subjectified – by rich and poor, by women and men, by urbanites and country folk, by young and old, the healthy and the ill, and equally by those who were actors in the drama as well as by those who were powerless. How can we access and record the ethereal, emotional, psychological and visceral experience of the Munich Crisis? This chapter is interested in how those on the peripheries of power – the silenced vast majority – lived through the crisis, drawing on private diaries and correspondence, Mass-Observation, and press representations of the ‘war of nerves’, including a spate of crisis-triggered suicides.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Andrew Preston

Anglo-French appeasement at Munich had a transformative effect on the United States. This is something of a paradox: the proceedings at Munich were far from American shores, American public opinion was at the high point of ‘isolationism’, there was no large immigrant constituency of Czech-Americans to rally other Americans to their cause and US foreign policy had previously had little interest in Czechoslovakia. Before autumn 1938, American interests in Europe were peripheral. Yet even though the Roosevelt administration was a bystander, Munich brought the United States deep into the heart of European affairs, and the reason had everything to do with fear. Appeasement may have averted war in the short term, but it raised the spectre of longer-term and perpetual war. Americans began to fear not so much for their physical safety and their territorial integrity – although those fears were certainly amplified – but for the fate of ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’ and the ‘American way of life’, themselves new cultural constructions, because Hitler had taken international society outside civilised norms. Though they did not yet use the term, Americans acutely felt the pressures of globalisation, of a shrinking world that made possible new types of threats to their ‘national security’. These new fears resonated throughout American society, from elite politics to ordinary churches. The response to Munich eventually saw the repudiation of ‘isolationism’ and an enthusiastic embrace of a militarised, globalist role for the United States. Munich, in other words, inadvertently conceived the ‘American Century’ three years before Henry Luce coined the term.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
International, transnational and comparative perspectives

The turbulent diplomatic events of September 1938 aroused substantial public excitement, yet the ‘public’, the ‘people’, the ‘material’ and the ‘popular’ have hitherto been marginalised within a vast historiography dominated by traditional perspectives. Indeed, the most neglected aspects of this ‘model’ crisis – despite the abundance of sources – are the social, cultural, material and emotional, as well as public opinion, an oversight addressed in this collection. The book will also internationalise the original ‘Munich moment’, as existing studies are overwhelmingly Anglo- and Western-centric. It provides a corrective to the long-standing proclivity to consider the Munich Crisis almost exclusively from the viewpoint of politicians and diplomats. The original ‘moment’ will thus be analysed from a variety of relatively unchartered perspectives. Popular responses to the crisis will be prominent, comparing collective responses to individual ones, teasing out its psychological and emotional dimensions, allowing a more holistic and ‘emotional’ history to emerge. The variety of contributions provides an international breadth that is unprecedented in the existing literature, with chapters focusing not only on Britain but also Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the United States, Italy, Germany, France and the Soviet Union. It also furnishes a broader reflection on the status of our discipline, accentuating the benefits of exploring many of the hitherto under-scrutinised issues exposed by the ‘cultural’ and ‘emotional’ turns. The Munich Crisis will thus receive a thorough re-examination that moves beyond those formulaic and Anglo-centric analyses that fixate on positioning the (overwhelmingly male) practitioners of ‘high’ politics as either ‘appeasers’ or ‘anti-appeasers’.

Christian Goeschel

In late September 1938, Benito Mussolini celebrated one of the greatest triumphs of his life. After his return from the Munich Conference, Italian people from different classes and generations, men and women, celebrated the Duce as the saviour of European peace. While Mussolini took credit for Munich and basked in a public triumph, he deeply resented how the Italian people had largely favoured peace rather than war. For Mussolini, like many Italian statesmen before him, war had a transformative quality, turning Italy into a Great Power and a nation of warriors. This chapter highlights the centrality of Italy in the Munich Crisis, rather than rehashing debates on appeasement that largely concentrate on France, Britain and Germany. More specifically, it examines the impact of imagined and real attitudes of ordinary Italians on Italian decision making during the crisis. Since the Fascist regime sought to rest upon unanimous popular support, Mussolini was extremely aware of the importance of popular opinion. Given the many epistemological problems surrounding the notion of ‘popular opinion’ in dictatorships, official reports will be compared to a large body of letters sent by ordinary Italians to the Duce around the time of the Munich Conference. These letters shed light on how Italians presented themselves to the Fascist authorities. Questioning recent interpretations of these letters as direct representations of the emotions of ordinary Italians, this chapter instead places them into a wider context of self-fashioning under the Fascist dictatorship.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
‘News that STAYS news’?
Helen Goethals

This chapter argues the need for emotional history to include the poet’s perspective. A brief reading of a short lyrical poem by Timothy Corsellis (1921–41) is sufficient to show the ways in which certain emotional truths about Munich are communicated through the effects of sound. The insights of the philosophers most widely read at the time – I.A. Richards, R.C. Collingwood, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre – are then briefly presented so as to bring out the connections between emotive language and ethical values. The emotions expressed by the poet, as opposed to those aroused by the journalist, teach us to listen to the hopes and fears of any given generation and direct our attention towards a transhistorical and interdisciplinary distinction between the false note and the true.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Adding emotion to international history
Daniel Hucker

This chapter explores responses to the 1938 Munich Crisis in London and Paris, focusing on the intersection of public opinion and foreign policy making. Rather than defining the public response to the crisis and its aftermath, it concentrates instead on elite understandings of popular responses and how these informed foreign policy choices. It engages with the ‘emotional turn’ in international history, acknowledging that foreign policy actors do not make decisions in an emotional vacuum. The two premiers, Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier, were subject to a barrage of letters, petitions and other voices clamouring to be heard, while newspapers, cinema newsreels and radio provided a constant stream of information often purporting to represent the vox populi. Throughout, the digging of shelters and distribution of gas masks provided deeply emotive representations of the stakes of their decisions. Newspapers and other media, Mass-Observation data, official and unofficial correspondence, diaries, memoirs and the like – all provide rich sources with which to reconstruct a portrait of the popular mood, at least in London and Paris. Juxtaposing such sources with character appraisals of the two premiers facilitates a more nuanced understanding of how policy makers internalised not just the immediate diplomatic crisis, but also the broader emotional crises being played out domestically. This approach sheds new light on the Munich Crisis, as well as bringing into sharper focus some of the broader conceptual and methodological debates affecting the discipline.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
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The Munich Agreement in post-war Czechoslovak communist propaganda, ideology and historiography, 1948–89
Jakub Drábik

The Munich Agreement is a highly emotional topic for the majority of Czechs and a considerable number of Slovaks. Yet knowledge of the events that led to Munich, and the Munich Conference itself, is characterised by a lack of understanding of its history and by black-and-white thinking. A key reason for the emotional reaction from a significant proportion of the Czech and Slovak population is both the forty years of use and misuse of the issue in communist propaganda, but also how the event has been treated by the mainstream media, within the historiography, and represented in politics and culture. Building on the previous historiography and using a wide range of primary sources, this chapter offers a brief description and analysis of the communist regime’s use of Munich in its historiography, ideology and propaganda. For the forty years of the communist regime, propaganda consistently portrayed Munich as follows: France and the United Kingdom were responsible for the Munich disaster, their treachery motivated by an imperialist desire to direct Hitler against the Soviet Union and let him destroy communism. They were helped in this by a Czechoslovak bourgeoisie who colluded with the foreign capitalists to make Munich possible. The Munich Agreement served as a legitimising tool throughout the four decades of communist rule. And, despite this regime collapsing in 1989, this narrative of Munich still affects Czechs and Slovaks today.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
Russia’s conspicuous absence from the Munich Conference
Gabriel Gorodetsky

This chapter challenges the common wisdom that appeasement was entrenched in the pragmatic, conciliatory and reasonable British approach to conflict resolution which assumes that unless national interests are deleteriously affected, the peaceful settlement of disputes is preferable to war. Instead, it focuses on the repercussions of the deliberate exclusion from the Munich Conference of the Soviet Union, arguably the key player in the events leading to war. It will contend that British policy reflected a priori principles and choices. Indeed, the existence of a viable Soviet alternative in 1938 is validated by the extensive Russian archival sources now available, sustained by the diary kept by Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London (1932–43). The diary reveals how the legacy of two centuries of imperial rivalry between the two countries, enhanced by anti-communism and the post-Russian Revolution ‘red scare,’ raised an insurmountable obstacle to an anti-Hitler alliance during and after the Munich Conference. The chapter will show how pessimistic assessments, writing off the Soviet Union as a potential ally against Germany, emanated from embedded and preconceived attitudes. It will also expose the pivotal role of human agency; indeed, Maisky’s diary reveals how much room for manoeuvre was left for diplomats, even under Stalin’s authoritarian regime. This is a facet of Soviet politics entirely missing in Western historiography, where personalities are largely anonymous and the impact of personal friendships, conflicts and rivalries within the Kremlin, even at the peak of Stalin’s terror and purges, are often overlooked.

in The Munich Crisis, politics and the people
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Displacement and the humanitarian response to suffering: reflections on aiding Armenia
Peter Gatrell
in Aid to Armenia