Neville Chamberlain

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Arthur Neville Chamberlain (18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940) was a British Conservative Party politican, Member of Parliament, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937 to 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his signing, with the French and Italian Prime Ministers, of the Munich Agreement in 1938, detaching the Sudetenland region from Czechoslovakia in favour of Germany, and for his general policies towards Germany in 1939 that culminated in Britain declaring war on Germany on 3 September 1939.

After working in business and local government and a short spell as Director of National Service in 1916 and 1917, Chamberlain followed his father and older half-brother in becoming a Member of Parliament in the 1918 general election at the age of 49. He declined a junior ministerial position due to disagreements with Lloyd George, remaining a backbencher until he was appointed Postmaster General after the 1922 general election. He was promoted the following year to Minister of Health and then Chancellor of the Exchequer, but presented no budget before the government fell in 1924.

Re-elected, he was again appointed Minister of Health, introducing a range of reform measures from 1924 to 1929. He was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in the coalition National Government in 1931, and spent six years reducing the war debt and the tax burden, and managing Britain's way out of the Great Depression. When Stanley Baldwin retired after the abdication of King Edward VIII and the subsequent coronation of King George VI, Chamberlain took his place as Prime Minister in 1937. In 1938, he returned the so-called Treaty Ports to the Irish Free State.

A now seriously ill Chamberlain was forced to resign the premiership on 10 May 1940. He was succeeded by Winston Churchill but remained highly regarded in Parliament. Despite his ill health he remained an important member of Churchill's War Cabinet and had a key role in the formation of the Special Operations Executive.

Chamberlain died of cancer six months after leaving the premiership.

See also


  • Feiling, Keith, The Life of Neville Chamberlain, London, 1946.
  • Nicolson, Nigel (editor) Harold Nicolson Diaries and Letters 1930-1939, London, 1966.
  • Werth, Alexander, France and Munich, London, 1969.
  • Clark, Alan, The Tories 1922-1997, London, 1998, ISBN 0-297-81849.
  • Charmley, Professor John, Chamberlain and the Lost Peace, London, 1989, ISBN 0-340-50853-1.
  • Neville, Peter, Hitler and Appeasement, London, 2006, ISBN 1-85285-369-7.
  • Lamb, Richard, The Ghosts of Peace 1935-1945, London, 1987, ISBN 0-85955-140-7.
  • Taylor, A.J.P., English History 1914-1945, London, 1965/77/79/81.
  • Taylor, A.J.P., The Origins of the Second World War, London, 1961.
  • Baldwin, Stanley, Service of Our Lives, London, June 1937.