Peace for our time
Neville Chamberlain speaks to the crowd upon arrival at Heston Aerodrome, 30 September 1938.
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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 and the Anglo-German Declaration. The phrase echoed Benjamin Disraeli, who upon returning from the Congress of Berlin in 1878 stated "I have returned from Germany with peace for our time." It is primarily remembered for its ironic value: less than a year after the agreement, following continued aggression from Hitler and his invasion of Poland, Europe was plunged into World War II.
It is often misquoted as "peace in our time", which had appeared long before in The Book of Common Prayer as "Give peace in our time, O Lord", probably based on the 7th-century hymn 'Da pacem Domine! in diebus nostris, Alleluja'. It is unknown how deliberate Chamberlain's use of such a similar term was, but anyone of his background would have been familiar with the original.
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. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ' ... 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.'
Later that day he stood outside 10 Downing Street and again read from the document and concluded:
My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. 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.
Peace In Our Time is the title of a 1947 stage play by Noël 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."
US President John F Kennedy alluded to the speech in his 1963 American University Commencement Address, saying he sought "not merely peace in our time, but peace in all time." Kennedy had written his college thesis on Chamberlain's appeasement policy, which his father supported. As president, Kennedy struggled to distance himself from his father's image as an appeaser — an image which, despite Kennedy's best efforts, would stick with him for the rest of his life.
US President Barack Obama also referenced this phrase in his 2013 inaugural address.
- "Neville Chamberlain". UK government. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- "Morning Prayer. Versicles". The Book of Common Prayer.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
- Kennedy, John F. "A Strategy for Peace." American University Commencement Address. American University, Washington, D.C. 11 June 1963. Address.
- Kennedy, John F. Why England Slept. London, Melbourne: Hutchinson, 1940. Print.
- Davis, John H. (1993). The Kennedys: Dynasty and Disaster. S.P.I. Books. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-56171-060-7.
- Timothy Naftali and Philip Zelikow, eds., The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy, vol. 2 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001) pp.583-84.