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Neville Chamberlain

British Conservative Party politician

Arthur Neville Chamberlain (March 18, 1869 – November 9, 1940) was a British politician from a famous political dynasty. After being Mayor of Birmingham, he went into national politics and was Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1929 to 1931. During the National Government of Ramsay Macdonald, Chamberlain served as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He later succeeded Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1937; his government was marked by the build-up to war with Germany. Chamberlain negotiated an agreement with Adolf Hitler which Hitler never intended to honour; he declared war in September 1939 owing to a mutual defence pact with Poland, which Hitler's Germany had invaded.


  • Without underrating the hardships of our situation, the long tragedy of the unemployed, the grievous burden of taxation, the arduous and painful struggle of those engaged in trade and industry, at any rate we are free from that fear which besets so many less fortunately placed, the fear that things are going to get worse. We owe our freedom from that fear to the fact that we have balanced our budget.
    • Speech in the House of Commons as Chancellor of the Exchequer (25 April 1933)
  • The Labour Party, obviously intends to fasten upon our backs the accusation of being 'warmongers' and they are suggesting that we have 'hush hush' plans for rearmament which we are concealing from the people. As a matter of fact we are working on plans for rearmament at an early date for the situation in Europe is most alarming...We are not sufficiently advanced to reveal our ideas to the public, but of course we cannot deny the general charge of rearmament and no doubt if we try to keep our ideas secret till after the election, we should either fail, or if we succeeded, lay ourselves open to the far more damaging accusation that we had deliberately deceived the people...I have therefore suggested that we should take the bold course of actually appealing to the country on a defence programme, thus turning the Labour party's dishonest weapon into a boomerang.
    • Diary entry (2 August 1935), quoted in Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy. 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 92.
  • In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.
    • Speech at Kettering, (3 July 1938), The Times (4 July 1938)
  • How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. It seems still more impossible that a quarrel which has already been settled in principle should be the subject of war.
    • Broadcast (27 September 1938), quoted in "Prime Minister on the Issues", The Times (28 September 1938), p. 10
    • Referring to the Czechoslovakia crisis
  • Armed conflict between nations is a nightmare to me, but if I were convinced that any nation had made up its mind to dominate the world by fear of its force I should feel it should be resisted.
    • Speech (26 September 1938)
  • This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine.... We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
  • This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note, stating that, unless we heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and that consequently this country is at war with Germany. … It is evil things that we will be fighting against—brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution—and against them I am certain that the right will prevail.
    • Broadcast from the Cabinet Rooms at 10 Downing Street (3 September 1939)
  • I often think to myself that it's not I but someone else who is P.M. and is the recipient of those continuous marks of respect and affection from the general public who called in Downing Street or at the station to take off their hats and cheer. And then I go back to the House of Commons and listen to the unending stream of abuse of the P.M., his faithlessness, his weakness, his wickedness, his innate sympathy with Fascism and his obstinate hatred of the working classes.
    • Letter to Hilda Chamberlain (28 May 1939), quoted in Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy. 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 293.
  • No doubt the Jews aren't a lovable people; I don't care about them myself; but that is not sufficient to explain the Pogrom.
    • Letter to a sister, Chamberlain Papers (30 July 1939)
  • As you know I have always been more afraid of a peace offer than of an air raid.
    • Letter to Ida Chamberlain (8 October 1939), quoted in Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy. 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 355.
  • I stick to the view I have always held that Hitler missed the bus in September 1938. He could have dealt France and ourselves a terrible, perhaps a mortal, blow then. The opportunity will not recur.
    • Letter to Hilda Chamberlain (30 December 1939), quoted in Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy. 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 355.
  • The result was that when war did break out German preparations were far ahead of our own, and it was natural then to expect that the enemy would take advantage of his initial superiority to make an endeavour to overwhelm us and France before we had time to make good our deficiencies. Is it not a very extraordinary thing that no such attempt was made? Whatever may be the reason—whether it was that Hitler thought he might get away with what he had got without fighting for it, or whether it was that after all the preparations were not sufficiently complete—however, one thing is certain: he missed the bus.
    • Speech to the Central Council of the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations at Central Hall, Westminster (4 April 1940), quoted in "Confident of Victory," The Times (5 April 1940), p. 8.
    • Hitler began the 'Westfeldzug' five weeks later and entered France at the beginning of june. June 10th, Paris was declared to be an 'open town.


  • No conqueror returning from a victory on the battlefield has come home adorned with nobler laurels than MR CHAMBERLAIN from Munich yesterday, and KING and people alike have shown by the manner of their reception their sense of his achievement.
  • You have sat here too long for any good you are doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!
    • Leo Amery, concluding his speech in the "Norway debate" (7-8 May 1940), in the British Parliament's House of Commons. In saying these words, he was echoing what Oliver Cromwell had said as he dissolved the Long Parliament in 1653. As quoted in Neville Chamberlain: A Biography by Robert Self (2006), p. 423
  • If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers.
    • Adolf Hitler after the Munich Agreement, quoted by Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, The Inner Circle Macmillan (1959), p. 135
  • Neville annoys me by mouthing the arguments of complete pacifism while piling up armaments.
    • Clement Attlee in a letter to Tom Attlee (22 February 1939), quoted in Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Hitler. British Politics and British Policy. 1933-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 177.
  • Mr Chamberlain views everything through the wrong end of a municipal drain-pipe.
    • David Lloyd George, as quoted in Rats! (1941) by "The Pied Piper", p. 108; similar remarks have also been attributed to Winston Churchill in later works, including Neville Chamberlain : A Biography (2006) by Robert C. Self, p. 12
  • Monsieur J'aime Berlin [Mr. I-love-Berlin].
    • French nickname for Chamberlain (punning on the sound of "Chamberlain" in French)
  • It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart-the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour.
    • Winston Churchill, Speech to House of Commons on 12th November 1940, 3 days after his death.
  • What a Chamberlain government would have done had there been no war in 1939 will never be known, but an election was due in 1940, and the manifesto proposals outlined by the Conservative Research Department embraced family allowances and the inclusion of insured persons' dependants in health cover—about half the advances usually attributed to Beveridge. As Lady Cecily Debenham wrote to Chamberlain's widow, Anne, after his death: "Neville was a Radical to the end of his days. It makes my blood boil when I see his ‘Tory’ and ‘Reactionary’ outlook taken as a matter of course because the Whirligig of Politics made him leader of the Tory party."

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