Chamberlain the family name of a father and two sons who were important British statesmen.
(1836–1914), the father, was a successful Birmingham manufacturer who made a fortune and retired at the age of 38. As mayor of Birmingham (1873–76), Chamberlain worked for slum clearance and for public ownership of water and gas works, the sewage system, libraries, and parks. His program became a pattern for improving other industrial towns. He also urged separation of tax-supported schools from the Church of England.
Chamberlain entered Parliament in 1876. A Liberal at first, he was in Gladstone's second and third cabinets (1880–85, 1886). However, when Gladstone urged the Home Rule bill giving Ireland a separate parliament, Chamberlain helped drive the Liberal party from power. Later he allied himself with the Conservative party.
Appointed to the Colonial Office in 1895, Chamberlain became the most imperial-minded colonial secretary in British history. He energetically promoted imperial development and worked for improved business and living conditions in the colonies. Following the Boer War, he went to South Africa in 1902 and gave support to conciliation measures between South Africans of British and Boer descent. To strengthen the Empire, Chamberlain urged that Britain adopt a tariff policy favoring imperial products and abandon its long-standing free trade policy. In 1903, when his plan was not favored by the cabinet, he resigned to be free to campaign for it. After the Conservatives lost the election of 1906, Chamberlain, suffering from poor health, retired.
(1863–1937) was the eldest son of Joseph Chamberlain. His preparation for public life included studies at Rugby and Cambridge and, later, in France and Germany. He also served for a time as his father's secretary. In 1892 he entered Parliament. He was made chancellor of the exchequer in 1903 and became an important Conservative leader.
Chamberlain was secretary of state for India (1915–17), then chancellor of the exchequer (1919–21). As foreign secretary (1924–29), he helped restore good relations between Germany and the rest of Europe and was largely responsible for the Locarno Treaties of 1925. For this achievement he received half of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1925 and was knighted.
(1869–1940) was a son of Joseph Chamberlain and a half-brother of Austen. Like his father, he had a successful business career in Birmingham, became mayor, and was a reformer. World War I brought him into national politics and in 1918 he entered Parliament as a Conservative.
Neville Chamberlain rose from minister of health (1924–29) to chancellor of the exchequer (1931–37) and, succeeding Stanley Baldwin, to prime minister (1937–40). As prime minister, Chamberlain took chief responsibility for foreign affairs. At the time, Germany, headed by Adolf Hitler, was threatening the peace of Europe. Chamberlain sought to prevent war through a policy of appeasement—by yielding to what he called Germany's legitimate demands—in the hope that Hitler would then be satisfied. At Munich in 1938, he agreed to let Germany take over part of Czechoslovakia, saying that he had thus ensured “peace for our time.” War, however, broke out in 1939, and Chamberlain's leadership was neither vigorous nor popular enough for the emergency. He was replaced by Winston Churchill in 1940 and died soon after.