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Sir Austen Chamberlain

(1863—1937) politician


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(b. 16 Oct. 1863, d. 16 Mar. 1937).

British Foreign Secretary 1924–9

Early career

Born in Birmingham, he was the half‐brother of Neville Chamberlain, and the son of Joseph Chamberlain, who groomed him for a political career. He was educated at Rugby and studied at Cambridge before entering parliament in 1892 as Liberal Unionist (later Conservative) MP for East Worcestershire. As a loyal mouthpiece of his father, he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer (1903–5) to represent Joseph's views in government, from which Joseph had resigned in order to pursue his tariff‐reform campaign. Austen's identification with this deeply divisive issue, however, precluded him from the leadership in 1911, as he was seen by some as an unconventional upstart in the mould of his father. He served as Secretary of State for India (1915–17), but resigned over alleged blunders in the Mesopotamia campaign, for which he accepted ministerial responsibility. A minister without portfolio from 1918, he again became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1919 and leader of the Conservative Party in 1921, but loyalty to Lloyd George led to his refusal to replace him as Prime Minister. When the Conservative Party opposed the continuing of its coalition with Lloyd George in 1922, Chamberlain resigned as leader, thus becoming only one of three Conservative leaders in the twentieth century never to be Prime Minister.

Foreign Secretary

Chamberlain made peace with the party during 1923, for which Baldwin made him Foreign Secretary in 1924. His main aim was to encourage France to adopt a more conciliatory stance towards Germany, in order to assist Stresemann in his aim to revise by peaceful means the Treaty of Versailles. Together with Dawes, Chamberlain succeeded in rescheduling Germany's repatriation payments, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He also had an important role in securing the Locarno Treaties of 1925, which secured Germany's entry into the League of Nations and achieved some geopolitical stability in western Europe. Like his father, his political career was hampered by his adherence to fair trade and his mercantile Birmingham roots. Attempts to shake off these deficiencies also hindered him, leading him to an exaggerated sense of honour and loyalty.


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