Edouard Daladier

Edouard Daladier

Edouard Daladier was born in Carpentras, France, on 18th June, 1884. Daladier studied at Lyons under Edouard Herriot and as a member of the Radical Party, he was elected as mayor of Carpentras in 1911.

In 1911 Daladier entered the Chamber of Deputies. Nicknamed the "Bull of Vaucluse", he eventually replaced Herriot as leader of the party. In June, 1924, Daladier was appointed as minister of the colonies. Over the next nine years he held several posts including minister of war.

Daladier became prime minister in January, 1933, but his government only survived for seven months. A second government, in 1934, only lasted for a few weeks.

Concerned by the emergence of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, a group of left-wing politicians, led by Leon Blum, Maurice Thorez, Edouard Herriot, Daniel Mayer formed the Popular Front in 1934. Parties involved in the agreement included the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and Daladier's Radical Party.

The parties involved in the Popular Front did well in the 1936 parliamentary elections and won a total of 376 seats. Leon Blum, leader of the Socialist Party, now become prime minister of France and Daladier became Minister of War.

Once in power the Popular Front government introduced the 40 hour week and other social reforms. It also nationalized the Bank of France and the armaments industry.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War Daladier supported Blum's attempt to provide military aid to the Popular Front government in Spain. However, after coming under pressure from Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden in Britain, and more right-wing members of the government, he changed his mind and began advocating a policy of neutrality.

In April, 1938, Daladier once again became prime minister. He was a supporter of appeasement and on 29th September, 1938, he joined with Adolf Hitler, Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini in signing the Munich Agreement which transferred to Germany the Sudetenland, a fortified frontier region that contained a large German-speaking population.

Primary Sources

(1) David Low, What, no chair for me? (30th September, 1938)

When Eduard Benes, Czechoslovakia's head of state, who had not been invited to Munich, protested at this decision, Daladier and Neville Chamberlain told him that their countries would be unwilling to go to war over the issue of the Sudetenland.

In March 1940 Paul Reynaud became France's new prime minister. Daladier was appointed war minister in Reynaud's government. When the German Army invaded France in May 1940, Daladier escaped to Morocco. Henri-Philippe Petain ordered his arrest and he was tried in February, 1942, with Leon Blum and Paul Reynaud for betraying his country. He was then handed over to the Germans who held him prisoner until 1945.

After the war Daladier was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1946. A strong opponent of Charles De Gaulle, Daladier retired from politics in 1958. Edouard Daladier died in Paris on 10th October, 1970.

(2) Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian foreign minister, witnessed the signing of the Munich Agreement. He wrote about the event in his diary (30th September, 1938)

At last, at one in the morning, the document is completed. Everybody is satisfied, even the French - even the Czechs, according to what Daladier tells me.

Ribbentrop has handed me a project for a tripartite alliance between Italy, Germany, and Japan. He says it is the "biggest thing in the world". He always exaggerates, Ribbentrop.