History Lessons: Beware a paper promise - Neville Chamberlain
Europe in 1938 was a wary continent, scarred by the first world war and fearful of new hostilities. Enter Adolf Hitler. His first move was on Sudetenland, a German-speaking province of Czechoslovakia of strategic interest to the Nazis. To avoid war, the Munich Conference was convened, where British, French and Italian leaders met the Fuhrer. In the absence of any Czech representation, Sudetenland became the first sacrificial lamb of the second world war, as delegates agreed to 'cede' it to Germany. UK leader Neville Chamberlain returned with an agreement signed by Hitler, who promised not to go to war with Britain. 'Peace for our time,' declared Chamberlain, brandishing the note as he landed at Heston airport. Six months later, Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia and later Poland - and Europe was at war. Chamberlain's mistake is pertinent to business: take nothing at face value. Beware of hearing what you want to hear, and your first option may not be the best one.