Chamberlain file photo

Neville Chamberlain

Born18 Mar 1869
Died9 Nov 1940
CountryUnited Kingdom
CategoryGovernment

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Arthur Neville Chamberlain was born to Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Mayor of Birmingham. He was educated at Rugby School; his classmates at Rugby remembered him as a shy boy. He then attended Mason Science College. After university education, he worked for an accounting firm. After some time as a failed plantation owner in the Bahamas, he returned to Britain and embarked on a successful career as a manager for several companies. In 1911, he entered politics at the Birmingham City Council, and in 1915 became the Lord Mayor. In 1916, he became the Director of National Service and managed the labor force in Britain during WW1, but he bumped heads with Prime Minister David Lloyd George; he resigned in 1917. He entered Parliament at the age of 49, where he refused a junior ministerial position and knighthood due to his protest of the Lloyd George government. In 1922, Andrew Bonar Law became the Prime Minister, and appointed Chamberlain as the Postmaster General, then later Minister of Health. In the latter position he introduced several programs that reformed housing laws. During Stanley Baldwin's term as Prime Minister, Chamberlain was promoted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for one term; at the completion of the term he returned to the role of Minister of Health. In 1930, amidst infighting within the Conservative Party, Chamberlain took leadership of the party as its chairman, but Baldwin eventually retained true leadership.

On 24 Aug 1931, at the formation of a unified National Government, he returned as the Minister of Health, then within the same year the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this second term as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he promoted protective tariffs that would mold the British Empire, containing the United Kingdom, the Dominions, and lesser colonies, into one economic community that would be self-sufficient. He also worked to improve the debt situation, a legacy of WW1. His efforts to reduce debt, however, were attacked by the likes of Winston Churchill who accused him of undermining the defense expenditure at a time when Adolf Hitler's Germany was undoubtedly preparing for war. In 1937, Chamberlain introduced the National Defense Contribution that taxed excessive profits in the industrial realm, which gathered much opposition against him. Another contribution of Chamberlain during his second term as Chancellor of the Exchequer was the nationalization of certain old factories and mines that were devastated during the Great Depression. While he meant to protect these industries, the long term effect of the nationalization actually turned out to be one that gave Britain a greater capacity for manufacturing for WW2.

On 28 May 1937, Chamberlain became the Prime Minister, and a few days later the leader of the Conservative Party. He appointed his ministers from those whose visions closely matched his, and did not fear from selecting those from the business world with little political experience. In fact, he ruled like a businessman. Sir John Simon noted Chamberlain as one who would "listen in a business-like fashion to what one had to say, and then state his conclusions with the finality of a General Manager conducting his company's affairs." Domestically, he introduced the Factory Act in 1937 that protected the work force, the Housing Act in 1938 that provided relief in urban overcrowding, and many others that aimed to improve the lives of the commoners; his domestic programs were credited for setting the foundation for Britain's prosperity during the post-WW2 years. He maintained the difficult relation with Ireland, which was in the process of becoming an independent republic. Chamberlain and his government stated that the transformation was to be allowed, given Ireland's status within the British Commonwealth remain unchanged. Although agreements were reached on many aspects of the Irish independence, the creation of a British-controlled Northern Ireland remained troublesome for many years to come. On the international front, the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine and the handling of a progressively aggressive Germany were his focus. With the latter subject, he believed war should be avoided at all costs. This led to the appeasement policy that, together with a similar policy from France, actually fueled Hitler's expansionism. He commented that "the longer the war is put off the less likely it is to come at all as we go on perfecting our defences and building up the defenses of our allies". As a politician, Chamberlain was not entirely to blame of this, for he was only delivering what the British people wanted; the popular sentiment in Western Europe at the time credited Germany as the shield against the spread of communist revolutionary sentiment from Russia. Thus, on Chamberlain's watch, Germany acquired Austria, Sudetenland, and then later the rest of Czechoslovakia without British intervention. With his businessman mindset, he thought he and Hitler had a mutual respect. "Hitler definitely liked me," he noted in a personal correspondence to his sister, "and thought he could do business with me." Hitler, however, was no businessman; Hitler "dealt with [Chamberlain] because he believed him to be infinitely malleable." Chamberlain finally declared war on Germany after the invasion of Poland on Sep 1939, but the realization by then was already too late to prevent the conflict from growing into a major war. Returning from Munich after the agreement to deliver Sudetenland into German hands, he was quoted in saying "for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor", and he was not able to see that war was by now imminent despite of the appeasement efforts. His respectable passion to maintain peace, however noble, became his biggest flaw. During the Germany invasion of Poland in Sep 1939, Chamberlain promoted defensive measures such as stepping up the defense at radar stations along the coast, but he largely hoped for a diplomatic end to the conflict. His hope for peace did not die until the German invasion of the Low Countries and France. William Manchester noted that

"[m]ore than any man except Hitler - and Hitler could not have done it without him - [Chamberlain] was responsible for the transformation of Germany into the most powerful military state in Europe, which had begun, with Teutonic efficiency, the destruction of all European Jews and had turned the Slavs in the vast lands it conquered into sklavenarbeiter - slave laborers."

On the evening of 10 May 1940, Chamberlain resigned. King George VI appointed Churchill as his successor. Chamberlain stayed in the Conservative Party and remained influential. Churchill wished to name Chamberlain the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons, but political pressures on Churchill prevented this from happening. Instead, Chamberlain became the Lord President of the Council in Churchill's government. Chamberlain's support among Britain's politicians varied; some wanted him out of government altogether for his inability to prevent war, while others deeply believed he would undoubtedly return to the role of Prime Minister. In Jul 1940, however, his health deteriorated very quickly and had an operation for stomach cancer. In Sep 1940, he resigned from his office as well as the Conservative Party, though Churchill did allow him to continue to receive classified information about the war in order to keep him informed of the situation.

Chamberlain died of cancer in Highfield Park, Hampshire, at the age of 71 in Nov 1940.

Sources: the Last Lion, Wikipedia.

Famous Quote(s)

Neville Chamberlain Timeline

18 Mar 1869 Neville Chamberlain was born in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom.
28 May 1937 Neville Chamberlain became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
24 Mar 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rejected the Soviet request to form an international bloc to contain German aggression.
30 Jul 1939 British Prime Minister Chamberlain wrote in regards to the German oppression of Jews "[n]o doubt Jews aren't a lovable people, I don't care about them myself. But that is not sufficient to explain the pogram."
9 Sep 1939 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's cabinet planned for a 3-year war.
9 Oct 1939 British Prime Minister Chamberlain announced a committee of ministers to coordinate the war time economy.
12 Oct 1939 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain rejected Adolf Hitler's proposal for a multi-power conference for peace made on 6 Oct 1939.
1 Feb 1940 In the British House of Commons, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declined to accept a suggestion by Herbert Morrison that a Minister of War Economy should be appointed on the grounds that such a post would do nothing which was not already being done.
24 Feb 1940 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain condemned Hitler's aggression but said that he was prepared to negotiate with an alternative German government.
19 Mar 1940 Members of the British House of Commons debated Britain's lack of action during the Winter War and criticized Prime Minister Chamberlain. Chamberlain noted that Finland never officially requested British military aid.
31 Mar 1940 British Prime Minister Chamberlain called off the mining of the Norwegian coast in protest of the French resistance to the mining of the Rhine River.
5 Apr 1940 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that a German invasion of Western Europe would not be successful.
7 May 1940 Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain faced criticism during the Norway Debate.
8 May 1940 The opposition party in the United Kingdom, the Labour Party, called for a vote of no confidence for Prime Minister Chamberlain's government. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister David Lloyd George called for Chamberlain to step down for the good of the country.
9 May 1940 British Prime Minister Chamberlain offered to form a coalition government with the opposition Labour Party, but the attempt was unsuccessful. In the afternoon, Chamberlain began to discuss with Halifax and Churchill, the two leading contenders to be his successor, about the possibility of his resignation.
3 Oct 1940 British politician Neville Chamberlain resigned as Lord President of the Council for health reasons.
9 Nov 1940 Neville Chamberlain passed away of cancer.
14 Nov 1940 Neville Chamberlain's funeral was held at Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, or Westminster Abbey, in London, England, United Kingdom.

Photographs

Chamberlain and ambassador to Germany Neville Henderson, circa late 1930sChamberlain and Hitler, circa 1938Chamberlain at Heston Airport, preparing to visit Germany, 1938Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain at Obersalzberg, Germany, 15 Sep 1938; note Joachim von Ribbentrop at right
See all 34 photographs of Neville Chamberlain



Share this article with your friends:

 Facebook  Reddit
 Twitter  Digg
 Google+  Delicious
 StumbleUpon  


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds
Advertisement                    Close







Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Heiro says:
    29 Apr 2010 12:14:41 PM

    He wanted to keep peace. Chamberlain was a British gentleman, Hitler a barbarian. Besides the Sudeten Germans were promised home rule after World War 1, but this was not granted in reality. So it was no problem for Chamberlain to sign the treaty of Munich 1938, in which the Sudetenland became part of the Third Reich
  2. Cheyenne says:
    6 Feb 2013 08:25:26 AM

    He was a very important man in British history.
  3. shirley edith rees says:
    19 Apr 2014 06:47:57 AM

    Neville chamberlain was my great grandmothers 1st cousin she was from Malvern and she was born on Christmas day her name was Christina she married Thomas Greenfield

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Your Comments
Security Code
 

 

Note: Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment.

Search WW2DB & Partner Sites
More on Neville Chamberlain
Event(s) Participated:
» Munich Conference and the Annexation of Sudetenland
» Dismemberment of Czechoslovakia

Document(s):
» No. 105: Speech by Chamberlain to the House of Commons
» No. 116: Speech by Chamberlain to the House of Commons
» No. 11: Question and the Prime Minister's answer in the House of Commons
» No. 120: Speech by Chamberlain to the House of Commons
» No. 144: Chamberlain's Message to the German People
» No. 17: Statement by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons
» No. 35: Chamberlain's Speech at the House of Commons
» No. 56, 60, 68, 74, 78, & 89: Messages Between Chamberlain/UK Government and Hitler
» No. 64: Speech by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons
» No. 77: Speech by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons
» No. 9: Speech by the Prime Minister at Birmingham
» The Munich Pact


Neville Chamberlain Photo Gallery
Chamberlain and ambassador to Germany Neville Henderson, circa late 1930s
See all 34 photographs of Neville Chamberlain



Site Sponsor


Current Site Statistics

Famous WW2 Quote
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill, on the RAF