Chamberlain, (Arthur) Neville


Chamberlain, (Arthur) Neville

biographical name

(born March 18, 1869, Birmingham, Warwickshire, Eng.—died Nov. 9, 1940, Heckfield, near Reading, Hampshire) British prime minister (1937–40). Son of Joseph Chamberlain and half brother of Austen Chamberlain, he prospered in the metalworking industry in Birmingham; as the city's lord mayor (1915–16) he organized England's first municipal bank. He was a member of the House of Commons (1918–40), during which he served in Conservative governments as minister of health and chancellor of the Exchequer. As prime minister (1937–40), he sought to prevent the outbreak of a general European war over Adolf Hitler's demand that Czechoslovakia cede the Sudetenland to Germany. In 1938 he and France's Édouard Daladier granted most of Hitler's demands in the Munich agreement, after which he returned to England a popular hero, speaking of “peace in our time.” He repudiated appeasement after Hitler seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, and when Germany attacked Poland, he declared war. He lost the support of many Conservatives after the failure of a British expedition to Norway and resigned in 1940.

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