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Neville Chamberlain showing the piece of paper upon which the agreement was written to a crowd at Heston Aerodrome on 30 September 1938.

The phrase "peace for our time" was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement.[1] It is primarily remembered for its ironic value. The Munich Agreement gave the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in an attempt to satisfy his desire for Lebensraum ("living space") for Germany. The German occupation of the Sudetenland began on the next day, 1 October.

Less than a year after the agreement, following continued aggression from Germany and its invasion of Poland, Europe was plunged into World War II.

Often misquoted as "peace in our time", this had appeared long before in The Book of Common Prayer as "Give peace in our time, O Lord".[2] We cannot know how deliberate Chamberlain's use of such a similar term was, but anyone of his background would be familiar with the original.

Contents

The speeches

Chamberlain landed at Heston Aerodrome on 30 September 1938, and spoke to the crowds there:

"...the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine (waves paper to the crowd - receiving loud cheers and "Hear Hears"). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you (proceeds to read the agreement). [...] We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again."[3]

Later that day he stood outside Number 10 Downing Street and again read from the document and concluded:

"My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time [emphasis added]. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds."[3]

Cultural references

  • Peace In Our Time is also the title of a 1947 stage play by Noel Coward. Set in an alternative 1940, the Battle of Britain has been lost, the Germans have supremacy in the air and the British Isles are under Nazi occupation. Inspired to write this play in 1946 after seeing the effects of the occupation of France, the famously patriotic Coward wrote: "I began to suspect the physical effect of four years' intermittent bombing is far less damaging to the intrinsic character of a nation than the spiritual effect of four years of enemy occupation."
  • "Peace In Our Time" is a 1984 song by Elvis Costello which is critical of U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The lyric refers to Neville Chamberlain, imperialism, totalitarianism and social control, commenting on their relation to then current world politics and social conditions in Europe and the United States.
  • "Peace in Our Time" is also the title of Big Country's fourth studio album.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus made a reference to Peace for our time in their sketch The Funniest Joke in the World, where the treaty is referred to as "Britain's great pre-war joke".
  • Freeciv peace treaties are concluded with the quote "Yes, peace in our time."
  • The line was parodied in a controversial Daily Mirror front page during Euro 96 before England's semi-final game against Germany, as "Pearce in our time".
  • In the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Klingon general Chang shouts "no peace in our time!" when discussing the upcoming peace between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire.
  • The satirical paper The Onion's 1999 book Our Dumb Century features a phony 1938 issue headlining Chamberlain's promise of "London Laid Waste In Our Time."
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Fall of Night", an Earth Alliance diplomat named Frederick Lantz comes to the station to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the increasingly expansionist Centauri Republic. When confronted by Captain Sheridan, he says, "We will, at last, have peace in our time."
  • The Marvel Comics 2006 crossover event, "(Phunk Art Time)Planet Hulk", had a 4-part lead-in story called "Peace in our Time" [4].
  • Fred Thompson's Republican Party National Convention Speech used the phrase "peace in our time" on September 2, 2008.
  • A sketch in the 1980 series 'Peter Cook & Co' contains a sketch called 'out-takes from history' which features John Cleese taking endless takes to say the famous speech.

References

  1. ^ "Neville Chamberlain". UK government. http://www.number10.gov.uk/history-and-tour/prime-ministers-in-history/neville-chamberlain. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  2. ^ "Morning Prayer. Versicles". The Book of Common Prayer. 
  3. ^ a b The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations [1]
  4. ^ Incredible Hulk (volume 3) #88-91

External links

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