A QUIET weekend coming up in Salisbury, then: with Armed Forces Day offering a weekend extravaganza of parades, air displays and the Kaiser Chiefs. Meanwhile, just outside the city sees the culmination of this year’s Chalke Valley History Festival, where the planes and weaponry on show are of a somewhat earlier vintage.

Chalke Valley is a festival that continues to grow and thrive, building on the ongoing renaissance of historical writing – bestselling authors such as Antony Beevor and Max Hastings championing a narrative-driven writing style to brilliantly bring the past back to life. Adding to these growing ranks is journalist and historian Tim Bouverie. Tim, who grew up near Salisbury, has previously appeared at Chalke Valley in an interviewing role, but this year turns interviewee with the publication of his excellent debut, Appeasing Hitler.

When I caught up with Tim last week, he explained how his book takes the reader back to the 1930s, and the establishment’s attempt to understand and placate the growing threat of Nazi Germany. With Churchill a Cassandra voice on the backbenches, the governments of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain followed a policy of appeasement: a combination of underestimating Hitler’s intentions, guiltily making amends for Versailles, and desperately trying to avoid the horrors of another Great War.

As drawn on in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, appeasement was reinforced by a number of aristocratic individuals, who took it upon themselves to forge links with their German counterparts to avoid conflict. As part of the new material behind this book, Tim gained access to a number of these private family archives, charting their unusual influence over foreign affairs.

With hindsight, it’s easy to look back on the approach as being flawed, but as Tim’s book shows, the approach had its plaudits at the time. Chamberlain’s return with his ‘piece of paper’ after the Munich Agreement led to him being invited onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace, where large crowds sang ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow’. It was only later, when relief at avoiding war gave way to misgivings about what Chamberlain had actually signed, did the public mood turn.

Appeasement has a far longer reach than just the 1930s. There’s an argument that this had been the (lack of?) backbone of British foreign policy since the mid-nineteenth century. Equally, foreign policy since the Second World War has sometimes been an (over?) reaction against such a policy: Eden and Suez, for example. But it’s a topic with continuing relevance for the modern world too: one can see echoes in Vladimir Putin’s justifications for his 2014 annexation of Crimea, and the limited way the West responded.

Tim Bouverie is at Chalke Valley History Festival on Saturday, June 29.