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Colvin, The Chamberlain Cabinet Assignment

In this extract Colvin talks of the effect that the Public Records Act of 1967 will have on the view of the actions of the Chamberlain government, and Chamberlain himself, in the lead up to war. When he talks of those the advantage of “human memory” he is talking about himself, as Colvin had been a Journalist for the News Chronicle reporting from Berlin in the lead up to the war.

Colvin believes that these papers will be of particular interest to those who experienced these events, as it will ive a fuller picture of the events to these people. Those who have the benefit of “human memory”, Colvin believes, have an advantage over the later historians who will study these papers, as they could not have as good an understanding of the events as they have not experienced them first hand. Although Colvin does not mention how this experience can cloud the vision of a critical analysis of the Chamberlain government.

In The Chamberlain Cabinet, Colvin uses the 1967 act to confirm the orthodox iew of Chamberlain and appeasement that had been put forward by Cato and many others. Namely, that appeasement was a misguided policy. Colvin believes that Czechoslovakia should never have been surrendered to Germany and that the government failed to rearm in time. He also accuses Chamberlain of being an autocrat, focusing on his domination over the cabinet and how he would repeatedly bypass the cabinet.

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According to Colvin, two and a half years of cabinet meetings ever altered his mind on the subject of appeasement. He would only take advice off those who shared his outlook. Colvin’s historical judgement can be limited by the fact he had close experience of the events he was writing about. Unlike many of the writers who were using the public records to write about the Chamberlain government, Colvin had lived through the 1930s and lacked the youth that freed the other writers of the prejudices that he had.

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