The Bell of Treason

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On 30 September 1938, after his agreement with Hitler on the carve-up of Czechoslovakia, Neville Chamberlain addressed the British crowds: ‘My good friends … I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.’ Winston Churchill commented: ‘You have chosen dishonour and you will have war.’

This history of the events leading to the Munich Agreement and its aftermath is told for the first time from the point of view of the peoples of Czechoslovakia. Basing its account on countless previously unexamined sources, including press, memoirs, private journals, army plans, cabinet records, and radio, The Bell of Treason presents one of the most shameful episodes in modern European history in a tragic new shape. Among its most explosive revelations is the strength of the French and Czechoslovak forces before Munich. Germany’s dominance turns out to have been an illusion. The case for appeasement never existed.

The Czechoslovak authorities were Cassandras in their own country, the only ones who could see Hitler’s threat for what it was. In The Bell of Treason, their doomed struggle against extinction and the complacency of their notional allies finally gets the memorial it deserves.

 

The Orient, the Liberal Movement, and the Eastern Crisis of 1839-41

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The indomitable Mehemet Ali, from tobacco merchant and soldier of fortune, had risen to become Pasha of Egypt. After a bitter war with his suzerain the Ottoman Sultan, he had subjugated Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine. When the Ottomans tried and failed to wrest back this acquisition, the European great powers took matters into their own hands. But while the French supported Mehemet Ali, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia favoured curbing the Egyptian rebel.

The Eastern Crisis shook Europe to the brink of a general war. It was the most dangerous diplomatic clash since 1815. Its by-product, the Rhine Crisis, was a landmark in Franco-German hostility and the German unification process. Until now, this story has been told in the staid terms of diplomatic histories. The Eastern Crisis, the book argues, marked the first of many modern-era attempts to “improve” the region by moulding it in a Western image. As the conflict between Pasha and Sultan became the object of great-power intervention, it was overridden by the European struggle between Liberalism and Reaction, with Whig reformism playing third party. And as the great powers jointly intervened on the Middle Eastern scene for the first time since the crusades, Jerusalem’s fate returned to the fore.