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In the Shadow of Munich: British Policy towards Czechoslovakia from the Endorsement to the Renunciation of the Munich Agreement (1938-1942)by Vit Smetana

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68
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english
Jurnal:
Slavic Review
DOI:
10.2307/25593807
Date:
January, 2009
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In the Shadow of Munich: British Policy towards Czechoslovakia from the Endorsement to
the Renunciation of the Munich Agreement (1938-1942) by Vit Smetana
Review by: Milan Hauner
Slavic Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (Winter, 2009), pp. 965-966
Published by:
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BookReviews 965
in Poland

fairs

in the

late

1950s

and

early

1960s.

Persak's

admirable

survey

of

the affair

will likelybe definitive.All those interested in Polish history and politics will find Sprawa
Henryka

Hollanda

well worth

reading.
Mark
Harvard

Kramer
University

In theShadow ofMunich: BritishPolicy towardsCzechoslovakiafrom theEndorsement to theRe
nunciation

Dist.

2008.

of theMunich
University

Agreement
of Chicago

(1938-1942).
By Vit
Press.
358 pp. Notes.

Smetana.

Prague:

Bibliography.

Karolinum,
Index.
$20.00,

paper.
in Czechoslovakia's
the most
the
epitomizes
tragic chapter
history.
Following
on
conference
Great Britain,
and Italy in Munich
involving France,
Germany,
four-power
30 September
the Czechoslovak
led by President
Edvard
1938,
Benes, was
government,
to surrender
of its territory and population
to Nazi Germany.
Had
one-quarter
compelled

Munich

have be; en
abandoned
have
they would
they resisted,
by the west, and Adolf Hitler would
their country without
invaded
much
ado. Thus
the breakup
of Czechoslovakia,
began
which was completed
six months
later by Hitler's
of
occupation
Prague.
ac
in British
and Czechoslovak
and having
archives,
spent over a decade
Having
access
to selected
in the United
archival
collections
States
and
Vit
Russia,
Smetana,
quired

is now offering us his accumulated
of what happened
historian,
knowledge
the British government
and the Czechoslovak
exiles, personified
by the former
President
the three years after Munich.
Smetana's
is the most
Benes,
during
monograph
on this
to date. The
archival
is
research
In ad
comprehensive
study
subject
exemplary.
a young
between

Czech

to archival

dition

he has extensively
used Robert
Bruce
Lockhart's
for
materials,
diaries,
for Benes
and the Foreign
Office. The biographi
go-between
important
are very useful. This
cal notes on individuals
to my
involved
is also the first Czech
book,
to
on British decision
to
attention
the
pay
knowledge,
impact of the Dominions
making
connected
with Munich.
Smetana
have
his subject by giving
it
might
slightly overstated

he was

the most

the title "British

in reality, except
the 1938-39
crises, there was no
Policy," when
during
at the cabinet
a
one
level but merely
of attitudes within
Policy"
disarray
were
a
of
the
Office.
there
with
small
Read
Thus,
many
department
Foreign
"policies"
"p."
one cannot
the minutes
of Foreign
Office meetings,
resist quoting
the head
ing through
of the Central
he sums up his attitude
when
toward Benes
Department,
Roger Makins,
"President
is to commit us, our
Benes's
is to avoid commitment"
(313).
policy
policy
is divided
The book
into six chapters, which
with the main
correspond
chronological
in the
war and
relations:
from the
stages
diplomatic
history of the
Anglo-Czechoslovak
crisis year of 1938 that climaxed
in the Munich
Hitler's
settlement,
through
occupation
of Prague,
the outbreak
of war, and thence
the two stages of the Czechoslovak
through
exile government
and "non-provisional,"
the British political
status, provisional
whereby
as the author
himself
The
exhausted.
of
initiative,
admits, was pretty much
repudiation
the Munich
summer
as a
of 1942 occurred
agreement
by the British government
by the
"Czechoslovak

tribute

to the
suffering of the Czech
law and the obliteration

terror
under Nazi
un
people
(e.g., daily executions
of the village Lidice)
rather than as the last bonus
to
to seek the admission
of western
of
guilt for the betrayal

der martial
Benes's

stubborn

Czechoslovakia
Such

interventions
in 1938.

gestures,

however,

impact,
geopolitically
took the British
What

as

as
have been,
important
morally
they might
on the reconstitution
of Czechoslovakia

speaking,
three years,

very little
the war.

lunch, as he
sign the treaty
matter
that would
in the future. The
to Moscow
to be
had
more
really
trip
postponed
by
than a year until December
1943. On his way back to
a
in
England,
stopover
during
Algiers,
Benes
as recorded
told General
de Gaulle,
in the latter's Memoires
that
(vol. 2, 1956, 249),
he understood
the harsh
realities
to choose
that forced him
perfectly well
geopolitical
boasted

in a letter

to his brother.

Benes

had
after

He

knew

could

settle with

that he had

the Russians

to turn eastward

This content downloaded from 188.72.126.88 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 08:59:11 AM
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

over
to

966

the Soviet
Carpathians
Red Army

to establish

Stalin

side over
but
which
here

..."

la carte, dit il . . .The Russians
will reach
the
"Regardez
will not yet be ready to disembark
in France.
It will be thus the
to liberate my country from the Germans.
if I want
Accordingly,

the British:

the Allies
is going
my

Slavic Review

administration,

it is imperative

that I must

an

have

agreement

with

a
to go to Moscow,
In the end, Benes,
realized
that he had
pre
pragmatic
politician,
to liberate
nor could
because
the
Czechs
and Slovaks were unable
he
themselves,
cisely
on British assistance
the conclusions
of British
rely
by air. Moreover,
strategists, embodied

in their report of 21 March 1938 (hinted at by Smetana), which stipulated thatGermany

must

was
to be restored,
if Czechoslovakia
still remained
valid.
defeated,
decisively
did not have
Britain
the requisite military
in either
1938 or 1942, nor was
strength
this goal among Britain's
Benes had to assume
that the Red Army alone
strategic priorities,
be

Since

could

do

the job.

Milan
University

Hauner

ofWisconsin-Madison

and Dreamers:
The Standoff Family
in Bulgarian
Diplomats
History.
By Mari A. Firkatian.
Md.: Rowman
and Littlefield,
Index.
2008. xvi, 362 pp. Notes.
Lanham,
Bibliography.
$45.00,
paper.
Maps.
out of fashion
In recent decades
among
history has fallen
diplomatic
Anglo-American
In part, this is the direct result of the
of east European
of
history.
softening
practitioners
new
on sources and
realities
still
Cold War
limitations
policy priorities,
though
geopolitical
on the other hand
to
directions.
scientists
Historians
analyze
diplomatic
political
provoke
come
to
recesses
have moved
toward
the murky
of cultural
and social history
that have

recent currents
into these
in the field. Diplomats
and Dreamers
does not fit neatly
or into the
In
that prevailed
the Cold War.
history
during
diplomatic
approaches
a window
in scope and
into diplomacy
and high politics,
stead it is rather unique
approach,
and experiences.
the lens of a family and itsweb of contacts
but through
Though
perhaps
a book
more
common
that
in other fields, for eastern Europe
this is a welcome
departure,
a colorful
and
it
inhabited.
of
the
worlds
offers a fascinating
family
biography
from
The
father Dimitur,
who
At the center of the story are the Standoffs.
emerged
was
in
of the Danubian
educated
milieu
merchant
the wealthy Bulgarian
Svishtov,
port city,
of his time?amassed
other elite Bulgarians
Vienna
among Habsburg
royalty. Dimitur?as
a
Anna
de Grenand,
it off, he married
could
all of the refinement
money
buy. To cap
A.
to Bulgarian
French
noblewoman
and a lady-in-waiting
royalty. In lustrous detail Mari
and their four surviv
of Dimitur,
and public,
Firkatian
tells the story, both personal
Anna,
in their own right.
and Ivan?become
of whom
two?Nadezhda
diplomats
ing children,
in
in
in great and absorbing
is relayed
The
detail;
interesting
story of Nadezhda
particular
In
as a woman
the Stan
in interwar diplomacy.
of her rare position
general,
part because
to Paris
lives carve a path from Petersburg
doff family, whose
posts and hence
diplomatic
of
critical moments
influence
to London,
in some cases wield
and
bear witness
during
as well
with the Bulgarian
interactions
have
intimate
family
royal
history. They
Bulgarian
the trials and disap
as
and leaders
Surviving
Europe.
throughout
diplomats
high-placed
or less ends after World War
their story more
of the world wars,
II, when
they
pointments
in communist
of a world no longer valued
exile as remnants
Bulgaria.
mostly go into
book
shine as a work
Firkatian's
makes
in a number
of languages
research
Exhaustive
of
nature
the entanglements
of the story and
The
transnational
of serious
scholarship.
is often
to the true nature
of history, which
across
borders
also
lives and worlds
speak
In the Stan
its true cosmopolitanism.
that belie
stuffed into ill-fitting national
garments
and is comfortable
and German
doff case, the family speaks Bulgarian,
French,
English,
or
cart in the Bulgarian
countryside.
traveling
by donkey
royalty
dining with Bulgarian
moves
of the Standoffs'
role in Bulgarian
Firkatian
politics
effortlessly from descriptions
are laid out in great detail
in Nadezhda's
to their everyday
and diplomacy
lives, which
dominate
newer

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