110 Facts About Neville Chamberlain


Arthur Neville Chamberlain, was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940 and Leader of the Conservative Party from May 1937 to October 1940.


Neville Chamberlain is best known for his foreign policy of appeasement, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement on 30 September 1938, ceding the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.


Neville Chamberlain declined a junior ministerial position, remaining a backbencher until 1922.


Neville Chamberlain was rapidly promoted in 1923 to Minister of Health and then Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Neville Chamberlain was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the National Government in 1931.


Neville Chamberlain succeeded Stanley Baldwin as prime minister on 28 May 1937.


Neville Chamberlain's 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.


Until ill health forced him to resign on 22 September 1940, Neville Chamberlain was an important member of the war cabinet as Lord President of the Council, heading the government in Churchill's absence.


Neville Chamberlain died aged 71 on 9 November 1940 of cancer, six months after leaving the premiership.


Neville Chamberlain's reputation remains controversial among historians, the initial high regard for him being entirely eroded by books such as Guilty Men, published in July 1940, which blamed Neville Chamberlain and his associates for the Munich accord and for allegedly failing to prepare the country for war.


Nonetheless, Neville Chamberlain is still unfavourably ranked amongst British prime ministers.


Neville Chamberlain was born on 18 March 1869 in a house called Southbourne in the Edgbaston district of Birmingham.


Neville Chamberlain's mother was Florence Kenrick, a cousin of William Kenrick MP; she died when he was a small boy.


Joseph Neville Chamberlain had had another son, Austen Neville Chamberlain, by his first marriage.


The Chamberlain family were Unitarian, though Joseph lost personal religious faith by the time Neville was six years old and never required religious adherence of his children.


Neville Chamberlain was educated at home by his elder sister Beatrice Chamberlain and later at Rugby School.


Neville Chamberlain had little interest in his studies there, and in 1889 his father apprenticed him to a firm of accountants.


In 1906, as Governor of Birmingham General Hospital, and along with "no more than fifteen" other dignitaries, Neville Chamberlain became a founding member of the national United Hospitals Committee of the British Medical Association.


At forty, Neville Chamberlain was expecting to remain a bachelor, but in 1910 he fell in love with Anne Cole, a recent connection by marriage, and married her the following year.


Neville Chamberlain encouraged and supported his entry into local politics and was to be his constant companion, helper, and trusted colleague, fully sharing his interests in housing and other political and social activities after his election as an MP.


Neville Chamberlain initially showed little interest in politics, though his father and half-brother were in Parliament.


In 1911, Neville Chamberlain successfully stood as a Liberal Unionist for Birmingham City Council for the All Saints' Ward, located within his father's parliamentary constituency.


In 1915, Neville Chamberlain was appointed a member of the Central Control Board on liquor traffic.


Neville Chamberlain's tenure was marked by conflict with Lloyd George; in August 1917, having received little support from the Prime Minister, Chamberlain resigned.


Neville Chamberlain decided to stand for the House of Commons, and was adopted as Unionist candidate for Birmingham Ladywood.


Neville Chamberlain reacted to this intervention by being one of the few male candidates to specifically target women voters deploying his wife, issuing a special leaflet headed "A word to the Ladies" and holding two meetings in the afternoon.


Neville Chamberlain was 49 years old, which remains to date the greatest age at which any future prime minister has first been elected to the Commons.


Neville Chamberlain threw himself into parliamentary work, begrudging the times when he was unable to attend debates and spending much time on committee work.


Neville Chamberlain was chairman of the national Unhealthy Areas Committee and in that role, had visited the slums of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff.


Consequently, in March 1920, Bonar Law offered him a junior post at the Ministry of Health on behalf of the Prime Minister, but Neville Chamberlain was unwilling to serve under Lloyd George and was offered no further posts during Lloyd George's premiership.


When Law resigned as party leader, Austen Neville Chamberlain took his place as head of the Unionists in Parliament.


Many high-ranking Unionists refused to serve under Law to the benefit of Neville Chamberlain, who rose over the course of ten months from backbencher to Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Neville Chamberlain immediately resigned and was replaced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Stanley Baldwin.


Neville Chamberlain served only five months in the office before the Conservatives were defeated at the 1923 general election.


The Unionists won the election, but Neville Chamberlain declined to serve again as chancellor, preferring his former position as Minister of Health.


In 1929, Neville Chamberlain initiated the Local Government Act 1929 to abolish the Poor Law boards entirely.


Neville Chamberlain spoke in the Commons for two and-a-half hours on the second reading of the Bill, and when he concluded he was applauded by all parties.


Joseph Chamberlain had advocated a similar policy, "Imperial Preference"; Neville Chamberlain laid his bill before the House of Commons on 4 February 1932, and concluded his address by noting the appropriateness of his seeking to enact his father's proposal.


Neville Chamberlain maintained the severe budget cuts that had been agreed at the inception of the National Government.


Between 1932 and 1938, Neville Chamberlain halved the percentage of the budget devoted to interest on the war debt.


Neville Chamberlain hoped that a cancellation of the war debt owed to the United States could be negotiated.


Neville Chamberlain especially urged the strengthening of the Royal Air Force, realising that Britain's historical bulwark, the English Channel, was no defence against air power.


Neville Chamberlain is believed to have had a significant role in the 1936 abdication crisis.


Neville Chamberlain had disliked what he considered to be the overly sentimental attitude of both Baldwin and MacDonald on Cabinet appointments and reshuffles.


Neville Chamberlain thought Runciman, a member of the Liberal National Party, to be lazy.


At the time of his appointment, Neville Chamberlain's personality was not well known to the public, though he had made annual budget broadcasts for six years.


Neville Chamberlain had few friends among his parliamentary colleagues; an attempt by his parliamentary private secretary, Lord Dunglass, to bring him to the Commons Smoking Room to socialise with colleagues ended in embarrassing silence.


Neville Chamberlain compensated for these shortcomings by devising the most sophisticated press management system employed by a prime minister up to that time, with officials at Number 10, led by his chief of press George Steward, convincing members of the press that they were colleagues sharing power and insider knowledge, and should espouse the government line.


Neville Chamberlain saw his elevation to the premiership as the final glory in a career as a domestic reformer, not realising that he would be remembered for foreign policy decisions.


Neville Chamberlain sought to conciliate Germany and make the Nazi state a partner in a stable Europe.


Neville Chamberlain believed Germany could be satisfied by the restoration of some of its colonies, and during the Rhineland crisis of March 1936 he had stated that "if we were in sight of an all-round settlement the British government ought to consider the question" of restoration of colonies.


Neville Chamberlain bypassed Eden while the latter was on holiday by opening direct talks with Italy, an international pariah for its invasion and conquest of Ethiopia.


Eden believed that Neville Chamberlain was being too hasty in talking with Italy and holding out the prospect of de jure recognition of Italy's conquest of Ethiopia.


Neville Chamberlain concluded that Eden would have to accept his policy or resign.


Neville Chamberlain appointed Lord Halifax as foreign secretary in Eden's place.


Neville Chamberlain reported to an amenable House that he was unwilling to limit his government's discretion by giving commitments.


Later that month, the new French prime minister, Edouard Daladier, came to London for talks with Neville Chamberlain, and agreed to follow the British position on Czechoslovakia.


Nonetheless, the Neville Chamberlain government received strong and almost unanimous support from the British press.


In consultation with his close advisor Sir Horace Wilson, Neville Chamberlain set out "Plan Z".


Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich and then travelled by rail to Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden.


Hitler demanded the annexation of the Sudetenland, and through questioning him, Neville Chamberlain was able to obtain assurances that Hitler had no designs on the remainder of Czechoslovakia or on the areas in Eastern Europe which had German minorities.


Neville Chamberlain objected strenuously, telling Hitler that he had worked to bring the French and Czechoslovaks into line with Germany's demands, so much so that he had been accused of giving in to dictators and had been booed on his departure that morning.


That evening, Neville Chamberlain told Lord Halifax that the "meeting with Herr Hitler had been most unsatisfactory".


Neville Chamberlain replied by offering to act as an intermediary with the Czechoslovaks, and suggested that Hitler put his demands in a memorandum which could be circulated to the French and Czechoslovaks.


The meeting ended amicably, with Neville Chamberlain confiding to Hitler his hopes they would be able to work out other problems in Europe in the same spirit.


Neville Chamberlain issued a press statement calling on Germany to abandon the threat of force in exchange for British help in obtaining the concessions it sought.


The four leaders debated the draft and Neville Chamberlain raised the question of compensation for the Czechoslovak government and citizens, but Hitler refused to consider this.


Neville Chamberlain urged restraint in the implementation of the agreement and requested that the Germans not bomb Prague if the Czechs resisted, to which Hitler seemed agreeable.


Neville Chamberlain then went to Downing Street; both the street and the front hall of Number 10 were packed.


Neville Chamberlain hoped that the understanding he had signed with Hitler at Munich would lead toward a general settlement of European disputes, but Hitler expressed no public interest in following up on the accord.


Neville Chamberlain made trips to Paris and Rome, hoping to persuade the French to hasten their rearmament and Mussolini to be a positive influence on Hitler.


Public revulsion over the pogrom of Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938 made any attempt at a "rapprochement" with Hitler unacceptable, though Neville Chamberlain did not abandon his hopes.


Still hoping for reconciliation with Germany, Neville Chamberlain made a major speech in Birmingham on 28 January 1939, in which he expressed his desire for international peace, and had an advance copy sent to Hitler at Berchtesgaden.


Neville Chamberlain was confident that improvements in British defence since Munich would bring the dictator to the bargaining table.


Neville Chamberlain set out to build an interlocking series of defence pacts among the remaining European countries as a means of deterring Hitler from war.


Neville Chamberlain sought an agreement among Britain, France, the USSR, and Poland, whereby the first three would go to the assistance of Poland if her independence were threatened, but Polish mistrust of the Soviet Union caused those negotiations to fail.


Neville Chamberlain doubled the size of the Territorial Army, created a Ministry of Supply to expedite the provision of equipment to the armed forces, and instituted peacetime conscription.


Neville Chamberlain was reluctant to seek a military alliance with the Soviet Union; he distrusted Joseph Stalin ideologically and felt that there was little to gain, given the recent massive purges in the Red Army.


On 23 August 1939, Neville Chamberlain had Henderson deliver a letter to Hitler telling him that Britain was fully prepared to comply with its obligations to Poland.


Neville Chamberlain spoke emotionally, laying the blame for the conflict on Hitler.


Neville Chamberlain postponed the expiry of the ultimatum which had, in fact, not yet been served.


Neville Chamberlain replied that telephone difficulties were making it hard to communicate with Paris and tried to dispel fears that the French were weakening.


Neville Chamberlain had little success; too many members knew of Bonnet's efforts.


That afternoon Neville Chamberlain addressed the House of Commons' first Sunday session in over 120 years.


Neville Chamberlain spoke to a quiet House in a statement which even opponents termed "restrained and therefore effective":.


Neville Chamberlain instituted a War Cabinet and invited the Labour and Liberal parties to join his government, but they declined.


Neville Chamberlain restored Churchill to the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty, with a seat in the War Cabinet.


Neville Chamberlain gave Eden a government post but not a seat in the small War Cabinet.


Neville Chamberlain castigated Churchill for sending so many memos, as the two met in War Cabinet every day.


The initial speeches, including Neville Chamberlain's, were nondescript, but Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, member for Portsmouth North, in full uniform, delivered a withering attack on the conduct of the Norway campaign, though he excluded Churchill from criticism.


Neville Chamberlain decided that he would resign unless the Labour Party was willing to join his government, and so he met with Attlee later that day.


Neville Chamberlain favoured Halifax as the next prime minister, but Halifax proved reluctant to press his own claims thinking that his position in the House of Lords would limit his effectiveness in the House of Commons, and Churchill emerged as the choice.


Accordingly, Neville Chamberlain went to Buckingham Palace to resign and advise the King to send for Churchill.


Neville Chamberlain worked very hard and well: a good chairman, a good committeeman, always very businesslike.


Each time, Neville Chamberlain indicated that due to their longtime antipathy he would immediately retire if Lloyd George were appointed a minister.


Neville Chamberlain worked to bring his Conservative Party in line behind Churchill, working with the Chief Whip, David Margesson, to overcome members' suspicions and dislikes of the Prime Minister.


When criticisms of Neville Chamberlain appeared in the press, and when Neville Chamberlain learned that Labour intended to use an upcoming secret session of Parliament as a platform to attack him, he told Churchill that he could only defend himself by attacking Labour.


The Prime Minister intervened with the Labour Party and the press and the criticism ceased, according to Neville Chamberlain, "like turning off a tap".


Neville Chamberlain had long enjoyed excellent health, except for occasional attacks of gout, but by July 1940 he was in almost constant pain.


Neville Chamberlain sought treatment, and later that month entered hospital for surgery.


Neville Chamberlain offered his resignation to Churchill on 22 September 1940.


The Prime Minister asked if Neville Chamberlain would accept the highest order of British chivalry, the Order of the Garter, of which his brother had been a member.


Neville Chamberlain received hundreds of sympathetic letters from friends and supporters.


Neville Chamberlain wrote to John Simon, who had served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Chamberlain's government:.


Neville Chamberlain died of bowel cancer on 9 November 1940 at the age of 71.


Neville Chamberlain's reputation was devastated by these attacks from the left.


In 1948, with the publication of The Gathering Storm, the first volume of Churchill's six-volume set, The Second World War, Neville Chamberlain sustained an even more serious assault from the right.


Churchill depicted Neville Chamberlain as well-meaning but weak, blind to the threat posed by Hitler, and oblivious to the fact that Hitler could have been removed from power by a grand coalition of European states.


Conservative MP Iain Macleod's 1961 biography of Neville Chamberlain was the first major biography of a revisionist school of thought on Neville Chamberlain.


Parker argued that Neville Chamberlain could have forged a close alliance with France after the Anschluss, in early 1938, and begun a policy of containment of Germany under the auspices of the League of Nations.