Neville Chamberlain

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Arthur Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), British politician.

Chamberlain was the eldest son of the Birmingham mayor Joseph Chamberlain and also half-brother to Sir Austen Chamberlain. Became Lord Mayor of Birmingham himself in 1915 after a successful start in business.

Served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1923 - 1924, and was Minister of Health in 1923 and from 1924 to 1929.

He became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1937, succeeding Stanley Baldwin. His policy of appeasement culminated in the Munich Pact of 1938 which effectively allowed Adolf Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia, and delayed the onset of World War II by a year.

One popular view is that Chamberlain believed passionately in peace, and wanted to avoid war at virtually any cost, which seems to have contributed to his willingness to believe that satisfying each of Hitler's escalating demands for control of more and more territory would finally be the last, and that peace would be ensured. Eventually, although too late to prevent the war that arguably could have been ended by British military intervention when the Third Reich hadn't yet built its military strength, Chamberlain was able to see through Hitler's tactics and supported the declaration of war against Germany after the invasion of Poland.

However, this view has been criticized as being inconsistent with the historical facts. Under Chamberlain, Great Britain undertook a massive expansion of its military and war industry and instituted a peacetime draft. According to some historians, Chamberlain was under no illusions about that aims and goals of Nazi Germany, but was informed by his military advisers that Britain was in no condition to fight Germany over Czechslovakia. Seen from this vantage point, Chamberlain's actions in Munich were less a cowardly and ignorant cave-in, but rather a calculated and necessary tactic to buy time so that Britain could rearm against the Nazi menace.

He resigned from office in 1940, weeks before the evacuation of British and French troops at Dunkirk, and was succeeded by Winston Churchill. He died a month later. --- /Talk