|Administrative History||(Arthur) Neville Chamberlain was Joseph Chamberlain's younger son and half-brother of Sir Austen Chamberlain. He was educated at Rugby and Mason College, Birmingham. He was originally destined for a commercial career and, at the age of 21, was sent to direct his father's sisal-growing venture on the family estate on the island of Andros in the Bahamas. The venture failed and he returned seven years later in 1897after which he became involved in Birmingham's industrial and commercial life. In 1911 he married Anne de Vere Cole. They had two children: Dorothy was born in the year of their marriage, their son Frank two years later. |
It was also in 1911, that he became active in local politics. He was elected to City Council in that year and, like his father, became Lord Mayor in 1915. During his time in local politics, he was responsible, for example, for the establishment of the Birmingham Savings Bank, the only municipal savings bank, in 1916. He was appointed director-general of national service by Lloyd George between 1916 and 1917 and in 1918 he entered national politics as firstly as Conservative MP for Ladywood and subsequently for the Edgbaston constituency. He served continuously as a Birmingham MP until his death in 1940. He held various offices during his political career, including Postmaster-General (1922); Chancellor of the Exchequer (1923-24); Minister of Health (1923, 1924-29); and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the National Government (1931-37). During his political career he initiated, supervised and was involved with a range of successful projects, including housing and slum clearance; the Local Government Act of 1920 which reformed the poor law; the reorganisation of Conservative Central Office; the adoption of general tariff, 1932; and, in 1934, took the chief political initiative in increasing air estimates.
He succeeded Baldwin as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party in May 1937. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to avert a war and his policy of appeasement toward the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and German Nazi Adolf Hitler. The dramatic events of 1938-39, including the German invasion of Austria and Czechoslovakia and the negotiation of the Munich Agreement with Hitler, which culminated in the Second World War, are well known. Chamberlain declared war on Germany on 3 Sep 1939 following the invasion of Poland and he resigned, as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940 after the defeat of the British forces in Norway. He became Lord President of the Council in Winston Churchill's subsequent government but resigned, owing to illness, on 1 Oct and died shortly afterwards on 9 Nov 1940.