Neville Chamberlain

The Right Honourable
Neville Chamberlain
FRS
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain in 1921
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
28 May 1937 – 10 May 1940
MonarchGeorge VI
Preceded byStanley Baldwin
Succeeded byWinston Churchill
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
27 May 1937 – 9 October 1940
Preceded byStanley Baldwin
Succeeded byWinston Churchill
Ministerial positions
Lord President of the Council
In office
10 May 1940 – 3 October 1940
Prime MinisterWinston Churchill
Preceded byThe Earl Stanhope
Succeeded bySir John Anderson
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
5 November 1931 – 28 May 1937
Prime Minister
Preceded byPhilip Snowden
Succeeded bySir John Simon
In office
27 August 1923 – 22 January 1924
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byStanley Baldwin
Succeeded byPhilip Snowden
Minister of Health
In office
25 August 1931 – 5 November 1931
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byArthur Greenwood
Succeeded byEdward Hilton Young
In office
6 November 1924 – 4 June 1929
Prime MinisterStanley Baldwin
Preceded byJohn Wheatley
Succeeded byArthur Greenwood
In office
7 March 1923 – 27 August 1923
Prime Minister
Preceded bySir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen
Succeeded byWilliam Joynson-Hicks
Paymaster General
In office
5 February 1923 – 7 March 1923
Prime MinisterBonar Law
Preceded byTudor Walters
Succeeded byWilliam Joynson-Hicks
Postmaster General
In office
31 October 1922 – 5 February 1923
Prime MinisterBonar Law
Preceded byFrederick Kellaway
Succeeded byWilliam Joynson-Hicks
Member of Parliament
for Birmingham, Edgbaston
In office
30 May 1929 – 9 November 1940
Preceded bySir Francis Lowe
Succeeded bySir Peter Bennett
Member of Parliament
for Birmingham, Ladywood
In office
14 December 1918 – 30 May 1929
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byWilfrid Whiteley
Personal details
BornArthur Neville Chamberlain
(1869-03-18)18 March 1869
Edgbaston, Birmingham, England
Died9 November 1940(1940-11-09) (aged 71)
Heckfield, Hampshire, England
Resting placeWestminster Abbey
NationalityBritish
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
Children2
Parents
Alma materMason College (now the University of Birmingham)
ProfessionBusinessman
SignatureA neatly written "Neville Chamberlain"

Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS (n/; 18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940) was a British statesman of the Conservative Party who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his foreign policy of appeasement, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, the UK declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, and Chamberlain led Britain through the first eight months of the Second World War.

After working in business and local government, and after a short spell as Director of National Service in 1916 and 1917, Chamberlain followed his father, Joseph Chamberlain, and older half-brother, Austen Chamberlain, in becoming a Member of Parliament in the 1918 general election at the age of 49. He declined a junior ministerial position, remaining a backbencher until 1922. He was rapidly promoted in 1923 to Minister of Health and then Chancellor of the Exchequer. After a short-lived Labour-led government, he returned as Minister of Health, introducing a range of reform measures from 1924 to 1929. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the National Government in 1931.

When Stanley Baldwin retired in May 1937, Chamberlain took his place as Prime Minister. His premiership was dominated by the question of policy towards an increasingly aggressive Germany, and his actions at Munich were widely popular among the British at the time. When Hitler continued his aggression, Chamberlain pledged Britain to defend Poland's independence if the latter were attacked, an alliance that brought his country into war when Germany attacked Poland in 1939. Chamberlain resigned the premiership on 10 May 1940 as the Allies were being forced to retreat from Norway, as he believed that a government supported by all parties was essential, and the Labour and Liberal parties would not join a government headed by him. He was succeeded by Winston Churchill but remained very well-regarded in Parliament, especially among Conservatives. Before ill-health forced him to resign, he was an important member of Churchill's War Cabinet as Lord President of the Council, heading the Cabinet in the new premier's absence. Chamberlain died of cancer six months after leaving the premiership.

Chamberlain's reputation remains controversial among historians, with the initial high regard for him being entirely eroded by books such as Guilty Men, published in July 1940, which blamed Chamberlain and his associates for the Munich accord and for allegedly failing to prepare the country for war. Most historians in the generation following Chamberlain's death held similar views, which were led by Churchill in The Gathering Storm. However, some recent historians have taken a more favourable perspective of Chamberlain and his policies, citing government papers released under the Thirty Year Rule and arguing that going to war with Germany in 1938 would have been disastrous as the UK was not ready. Nevertheless, Chamberlain is still unfavourably ranked amongst British Prime Ministers.[1]

Early life and political career (1869–1918)

Childhood and businessman

Chamberlain was born on 18 March 1869 in a house called Southbourne in the Edgbaston district of Birmingham.[2] He was the only son of the second marriage of Joseph Chamberlain, who later became Mayor of Birmingham and a Cabinet minister. His mother was Florence Kenrick, cousin to William Kenrick MP; she died when he was a small boy. Joseph Chamberlain had had another son, Austen Chamberlain, by his first marriage.[3] Neville Chamberlain was educated at Rugby School.[4] Joseph Chamberlain then sent Neville to Mason College (the future University of Birmingham).[5] Neville Chamberlain had little interest in his studies there, and in 1889 his father apprenticed him to a firm of accountants.[6] Within six months he became a salaried employee.[7]

In an effort to recoup diminished family fortunes, Joseph Chamberlain sent his younger son to establish a sisal plantation on Andros Island in the Bahamas.[8] Neville Chamberlain spent six years there but the plantation was a failure, and Joseph Chamberlain lost £50,000.[a][9]

On his return to England, Neville Chamberlain entered business, purchasing (with assistance from his family) Hoskins & Company, a manufacturer of metal ship berths.[10] Chamberlain served as managing director of Hoskins for 17 years during which time the company prospered.[11] He also involved himself in civic activities in Birmingham. In 1906, as Governor of Birmingham's General Hospital, and along with "no more than fifteen" other dignitaries, Chamberlain became a founding member of the national United Hospitals Committee of the British Medical Association.[12] [13]

At forty, Chamberlain was expecting to remain a bachelor, but in 1910 he fell in love with Anne Cole, a distant relative by marriage, and married her the following year.[14] She encouraged and supported his entry into local politics and was to be his constant companion, helper and trusted colleague, and to share in full his interests in housing and other political and social activities after his election as an MP. The two had a son and a daughter.[14]

Entry into politics

Chamberlain initially showed little interest in politics though his father and half-brother were in Parliament. During the "Khaki election" of 1900 he made speeches in support of Joseph Chamberlain's Liberal Unionists. The Liberal Unionists were allied with the Conservatives and later merged with them[15] under the name "Unionist Party", which in 1925 became known as the "Conservative and Unionist Party". In 1911, Neville Chamberlain successfully stood as a Liberal Unionist for Birmingham City Council for the All Saints' Ward,[16] located within his father's parliamentary constituency.[17]

Chamberlain as Lord Mayor of Birmingham in May 1916, alongside Prime Minister Billy Hughes of Australia.

Chamberlain was made chairman of the Town Planning Committee.[18] Under his direction, Birmingham soon adopted one of the first town planning schemes in Britain. The start of war in 1914 prevented implementation of his plans.[19] In 1915, Chamberlain became Lord Mayor of Birmingham. Apart from his father Joseph, five of Chamberlain's uncles had also attained the chief Birmingham civic dignity: they were Joseph's brother Richard Chamberlain, William and George Kenrick, Charles Beale, who had been four times Lord Mayor and Sir Thomas Martineau. As a Lord Mayor in wartime, Chamberlain had a huge burden of work and he insisted that his councillors and officials work equally hard.[20] He halved the Lord Mayor's expense allowance and cut back on the number of civic functions expected of the incumbent.[21]

In 1915, Chamberlain was appointed a member of the Central Control Board on liquor traffic.[22] In December 1916 the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, offered Chamberlain the new position of Director of National Service with responsibility for co-ordinating conscription and ensuring that essential war industries were able to function with sufficient workforces.[23] His tenure was marked by conflict with Lloyd George; in August 1917, having received little support from the Prime Minister, Chamberlain resigned.[24] The relationship between Chamberlain and Lloyd George would be one thenceforth of hatred.[25]

Chamberlain decided to stand for the House of Commons,[26] and was adopted as Unionist candidate for Birmingham Ladywood.[27] After the war ended, a general election was called almost immediately.[27] He was elected with almost 70% of the vote and a majority of 6,833.[28] He was 49 years old, which remains to date the greatest age at which any future Prime Minister has first been elected to the Commons.[29]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Nevill Çemberlen
беларуская: Невіл Чэмберлен
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Нэвіл Чэмбэрлен
hornjoserbsce: Neville Chamberlain
Bahasa Indonesia: Arthur Neville Chamberlain
Bahasa Melayu: Neville Chamberlain
norsk nynorsk: Neville Chamberlain
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Neville Chamberlain
Simple English: Neville Chamberlain
slovenčina: Neville Chamberlain
slovenščina: Neville Chamberlain
српски / srpski: Невил Чемберлен
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Neville Chamberlain
татарча/tatarça: Невилл Чемберлен
українська: Невілл Чемберлен
Tiếng Việt: Neville Chamberlain