Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)NC
TitlePapers of Neville Chamberlain
Extent209 boxes
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DescriptionPersonal and political papers of Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), and his wife Anne. He is most famous for his term as Prime Minister (1937-1940) and role in the controversial policy of 'appeasement' in an attempt to prevent or delay war. The papers also relate to the rest of his interesting and varied career, including: managing a sisal plantation in the Bahamas; business and public activities in Birmingham; Lord Mayor of Birmingham; Director-General of National Service; Minister of Health; Chancellor of the Exchequer; and Lord President of the Council.

The collection includes: a large amount of correspondence (with politicians from Britain and abroad, family members, royalty and various other people); diaries, journals and other notes; photographs; reports; press cuttings; publications, ephemera and other printed items.

The papers connected with his premiership include correspondence, notes and other items relating to his foreign policy, the crisis over the threatened invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and his meetings with Hitler in September 1938 which resulted in the controversial Munich Agreement. Other papers relate to rearmament and preparations for war, Chamberlain's visits to Paris and Rome shortly after the signing of the Munich Agreement; the early months of the war and Neville's preparation for the debate (the 'Norway Debate') that precipitated his fall as Prime Minister. There is also a series of correspondence of congratulation and support, which he attracted as Prime Minister and following the Munich Agreement. The support came from all walks of life, from within Europe and around the world.

Much material about Chamberlain's involvement in national politics and government and foreign affairs (before, during and after his premiership) can be found in his correspondence with Cabinet members and other politicians, diplomats and foreign statesmen, civil servants, journalists and others. These include letters from Winston Churchill, Lord Halifax, Stanley Baldwin, Anthony Eden, Lord Beaverbrook, Samuel Hoare, Lord Londonderry, Leslie Hore-Belisha, Leopold Amery, S. M. Bruce, Lord Tweedsmuir and many others. Copies of some letters written by Chamberlain himself to others are also included.

Other material relating to national politics include papers dealing with the Tariff Commission originally set up by Joseph Chamberlain; papers relating to canals (which Chamberlain was keen to help develop); papers from Neville's first stint in national office as Director General of National Service, including his correspondence with Lloyd George; papers from his first Cabinet ministry, Health, and letters of congratulation on his first appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and later about the Rating Bill when he was back at the Ministry of Health; letters concerning the Conservative Party in the early 1930s; papers relating to the abdication of King Edward VIII; a large collection of letters on his main term as Chancellor of the Exchequer charting Britain's recovery from the Depression; and papers relating to his work as Lord President of the Council after his resignation as Prime Minister.

The collection also includes much material relating to his involvement in local Birmingham politics and activities and as a Birmingham MP. These include papers relating to the Birmingham and District Provident Dispensary (which Chamberlain helped form) and Birmingham General Hospital; papers relating to the Birmingham Municipal Bank (which Chamberlain established as Lord Mayor of Birmingham); papers relating to the University of Birmingham (he was a member of the University Council); correspondence with constituents (mostly requests for assistance); papers connected with the local Conservative and Unionist Party organization in Birmingham; and election leaflets.

A very large part of the collection is the correspondence of Neville with other family members, principally his father Joseph, his step mother Mary, his sisters Hilda, Ida, Beatrice and Ethel, his brother Austen, his wife Anne and their children Dorothy and Frank. There is also correspondence with other members of the extended Chamberlain family and associated families including members of the Kenrick, Maxwell, Nettlefold and Lloyd families. This correspondence relates not just to personal, family and domestic matters but also to contemporary domestic and foreign politics and Chamberlain's business activities. The 'diary' correspondence with his two younger sisters, Hilda and Ida is a particularly important resource - Neville would write to his sisters most weeks giving his opinions on political and other matters and about politicians and other people, and give an account of his recent activities in politics and his personal life. The sisters would also express their opinions on political and other matters; and discussed their activities including Ida's activities as a district and Hampshire county councillor, and Hilda's activities in the Women's Institute. There is also material relating to the Chamberlain family history, and official documents.

The collection also includes Neville's journals, diaries and notebooks. These comprise his political diaries and journals, 1913-40; journals in which he recorded his activities and observations on his widespread travels in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, 1889-1939; other personal notebooks and correspondence which document his interests in plants (particularly orchids), fishing and birds.

The collection contains material relating to Neville's business activities. This includes correspondence, a diary and other papers relating to his experience as a young man when he was placed in charge of his father's ill-fated venture growing sisal in the Bahamas, 1890-1901. These contain extensive details about Neville's life living on Andros Island, about the local area and the people he met. The collection also includes his notebooks relating to the business affairs of Elliott's Metal Company Ltd of Selly Oak, Birmingham (who also owned the Pembrey Copper Works in Burry Port, South Wales). He was also owner of Hoskins and Son Ltd (a company which made cabin berths for ships) in Bordesley, Birmingham and a Director of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA).

A wide variety of other types of material are included in the collection including press cuttings, scrapbooks, photographs, artefacts, published and other printed items and ephemera. The collection of photographs has a mixture of press photographs, personal and family photographs and portrait photographs. These include photographs of important political events such as of Neville's trips to meet Mussolini, and Hitler in 1938.

A large number of papers of his wife, Anne (known as Annie to family and friends) are also in the collection. These consist of notebooks and diaries, correspondence and scrap albums. The correspondence includes letters from various politicians and politicians wives from Britain and abroad, peers, foreign ambassadors and other notable persons. A large number of letters are included relating to her work connected with the historical legacy of Neville Chamberlain including letters regarding her requests for copies of letters written by Neville Chamberlain to various people; and letters connected with Keith Feiling's biography of Neville Chamberlain. Notes she kept of house calls on constituents are also included in the collection.

Reference: The Chamberlain Papers from University of Birmingham Library: The Papers of Neville Chamberlain (Primary Source Microfilm, Reading, 2000).
NotesThis collection was re-catalogued from October 2008 to April 2010. The existing structure and the numbering system was retained during this re-cataloguing project, except in the photographs series and except for some small modifications where these were necessary, mainly where there were numbering errors. These changes have been recorded in the catalogue - in the catalogue entry for the individual file or item. The titles of the series and files have been changed from those used in the original catalogue where it was felt these could be improved.
ArrangementThe collection is arranged in twenty-one series defined either by the type of record (eg Printed items), or by topic (eg Birmingham political, constituency and other series). This arrangement created shortly after the deposit of the collection (with some alterations following later deposits) is not entirely consistent and does not comply with current standards and practices of archival arrangement.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation at Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections.

The micropublication of the collection is accompanied by a paper catalogue to file and item level, with introduction (The Chamberlain Papers from University of Birmingham Library: The Papers of Neville Chamberlain, Primary Source Microfilm, Reading, 2000).
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionMost items in the collection have been mounted in fascicules. The main exceptions to this are the photographs, some volumes, artefacts, and some large items. As a result some items were folded to fit into the fascicules and some volumes have been split into individual pages. This has caused damage to some documents.
Administrative HistoryRight Honourable Arthur Neville Chamberlain, 1869-1940, son of the Right Honourable Joseph and Florence [née Kenrick] Chamberlain, married Anne Vere Cole in 1911; half brother of the Right Honourable Sir Austen Chamberlain; educated at Rugby and Mason College, Birmingham; unsuccessfully attempted to grow sisal on his father's estate in the Bahamas, 1890-1897. In 1911 he was elected to Birmingham City Council and became Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1915; established the only municipal savings bank, 1916; was appointed Director-General of National Service by Lloyd George in 1916 and resigned, 1917. From 1918-1940 he was Conservative MP for a Birmingham division; while in opposition (1920-1931), he reorganised Conservative Central Office; became Postmaster General, 1922; Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1931-1937 and was Prime Minister, 1937-1940.
Reference: The Concise Dictionary of National Biography, 1901-1950 (Oxford, 1967).
AcquisitionThe collection was presented as a gift by the family in 1974, with various additional deposits at later dates.
CopiesThe Papers of Neville Chamberlain have been microfilmed by Primary Source Media as part of a project to publish the entire Chamberlain collection in series arranged around the three statesmen: Neville, Austen and Joseph and other family members. Some, or all, of these units have been purchased by research libraries in this country and elsewhere. Facilities are available in Cadbury Research Library for researchers to make paper copies of individual items from these microfilms for their own private research purposes. Alternatively, digitized copies of the microfilms can be viewed online under 'Archives Unbound' at Members of the University of Birmingham may access the digital copies free of charge by signing in to FindIt@Bham and entering Gale (Primary Sources) as a search term.
Related MaterialThe papers of Austen, Joseph, Beatrice, Ida, Hilda and Ethel Chamberlain are also held at University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department. There is also a general family collection (reference C) which among a wide range of other items includes some photographs relating to Neville Chamberlain. Further artificial series of additional correspondence exist for each family member in the 'Letters Additional' series including the Neville Chamberlain Additional Letters.

Other collections held at University of Birmingham Special Collections which contain some material relating to Neville Chamberlain include papers of: the Midland Union of Conservative Associations (reference MUCA) and the Avon Papers (reference AP). Special Collections also has copies of various published books about Neville Chamberlain, and a book written by Neville Chamberlain 'Norman Chamberlain: A Memoir' (reference r CT 788.C5).
Associated MaterialsOther papers relating to Neville Chamberlain are included in various collections in a number of different archive repositories. These include official Government papers at the National Archives, and the papers of other contemporary politicians. For details
Publication NoteA large number of publications have made use of the material in this collection. These include the biographies of Chamberlain by: Keith Feiling (1946); Iain Macleod (1961); H. Montgomery Hyde (1976); David Dilks (1984); David Dutton (2001, a book regarding Chamberlain's reputation); Robert Self (2006); and Nick Smart (2009). There are also a large number of books and articles concerned with specific matters connected with Chamberlain which have used material in this collection, in particular there are various books and articles relating to the Munich Agreement and the policy of appeasement.


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