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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Neville Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister (1937-40), supporter of appeasement, was born in Birmingham on March 18, 1869.

He was the son of Joseph Chamberlain, a Member of Parliament from 1876 to 1914, and Colonial Secretary from 1895 to 1903.

At 21 Chamberlain's father sent him to manage a sisal plantation in the Bahamas to try to recoup diminished family fortunes. He didn’t become an MP until the age of 49.

Neville Chamberlain in 1921

On May 28, 1937, Stanley Baldwin resigned as Prime Minister, advising the King to send for Chamberlain. At age 68, he was the second-eldest person in the 20th century (behind Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman) to become Prime Minister for the first time,

Arthur Neville Chamberlain was one of several UK prime ministers that chose to be known by their middle names, along with Ramsay MacDonald, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan and Gordon Brown.

In 1937, Neville Chamberlain's salary as Prime Minister was £10,000 - equivalent to £500,000 today.

Chamberlain determined to pursue a policy of appeasing Nazi Germany. When Hitler invaded Austria and the Sudetenland (a part of Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain tried to keep the peace. He flew to Munich to speak with the German Fuhrer and together with the French prime minister, Édouard Daladier and the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, he made an agreement with the Nazi leader. Hitler was allowed to control the Sudetenland, but had to agree not to use his military to solve future disputes. When Chamberlain returned home on September 30, 1938, he said that the agreement meant "peace for our time."

Chamberlain arrives in Munich, September 1938. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H12967 / Wikipedia Commons

The story is told that when Hitler saw Britain's Prime Minister alight from his plane fortified in Munich with an umbrella, he sneered loudly. A nation whose leader was so much concerned with protecting himself from rain, at a time when the existence of whole countries was in the balance, must lack power of resistance, he reasoned.

Chamberlain's policy of appeasement toward Hitler failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II. He resigned on May 10, 1940 following the defeat of the British forces in Norway.

When Neville Chamberlian moved out of 10 Downing Street, his successor, Winston Churchill's, cat Nelson kicked his cat, Munich, out of the house.

Chamberlain is mostly remembered for being the prime minister as Europe moved into the Second World War, but he also made some important changes in Britain. He passed laws that made working conditions better, limiting working hours for women and children and also introducing paid holiday for a large part of the population. He also introduced laws to try to make the population healthier by exercising and medical inspection.

Chamberlain died on November 9, 1940 of bowel cancer. He was 71 years old. The previous-but-one Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, had died exactly three years earlier on November 9, 1937 .

Source Europress Encyclopedia

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