Chamberlain established his career in mainstream business with the purchase of Hoskins & Company, a manufacturer of metal ship berths. He served as the managing director of the company for 17 years.
In 1906, he was appointed as the Governor of Birmingham's General Hospital and immediately thereafter became a founding member of National United Hospitals Committee of the British Medical Association
Chamberlain’s first stint in politics was as an avid supporter of his father’s Liberal Unionists. His first public office was as the chairman of the Town Planning Committee. It was under his administration that Britain adopted its first town planning schemes though the plan essentially remained on paper due to World War I.
In 1915, he took up the position of Lord Mayor of Birmingham during the tough phase of wartime. Same year, he was appointed as the member of the Central Control Board on liquor traffic.
In 1916, he served as the Director of National Service. However, due to lack of powers and support, he resigned from the office the following year.
Having gained enough experience in public office, he decided to stand as Unionist candidate for the House of Commons. Following the end of World War I, he was elected as a Unionist member with 70% votes.
From 1919 to 1921, he served as the chairman of the National Unhealthy Areas Committee and visited slums of England. During the 1922 election, Unionists left the coalition with Liberals and fought on their own with Bonar Law as their leader.
Under Bonar Law’s leadership, Unionists party faced opposition from high-ranking members within the party. This gave Chamberlain the opportunity to rise up the ladder. Within a span of ten months, he was promoted as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In the 1923 general elections, the Conservative Party lost to the Labour Party and Charmberlain lost his position as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact he barely managed to retain his parliamentary seat. But, within a few months, the Labour government fell necessitating another election. Chamberlain shifted his parliamentary seat from Ladywood to the much safer seat of Birmingham Edgbaston. After the Unionists victory, he became as the Minister of Health.
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In 1929, he presented the Cabinet with 25 bills of which 21 were enacted upon and became a law. Briefly he left the office of the Minister of Health but resumed his duties after the fall of the Labour government.
During the 1931 general election, MacDonald’s National Government party comprising of mostly the Conservatives won overwhelmingly. Chamberlain was yet again offered the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
During his second term in office as the Chancellor, his policies raised his reputation as an efficient administrator. He presented his first budget in April 1932. He not just reduced the interest rate on Britain’s war debt but successfully declared a budget surplus by 1934, thus restoring cuts in unemployment compensation and civil servant salaries
In 1937, he succeeded Stanley Baldwin as the Prime Minister, thus becoming the second-eldest person in the 20th century to become Prime Minister for the first time.
Immediately after being sworn as the PM, he passed the Factories Act of 1937, which laid emphasis on better working conditions and limited working hours for women and children. His other policies on domestic front included nationalization of coal deposits, clearance of slums, rent control and a week of paid holiday for workers by employers
During his reign, strained relations with Ireland that had been a cause of concern for his predecessors was rightfully resolved. Despite being tough negotiators, Irish finally conceded to pay Britain the money due. However, Britain had to compromise with the access of the three Treaty Ports excepting at the time of war. The issue of partition, however, was not resolved.
Having lived through World War I, Chamberlain was of the intention to avert a second war by all means. He tried to persuade Italy to move away from German influence and for the same even recognized Italian supremacy in Ethiopia. Furthermore, he kept Great Britain out of Spanish Civil War. However, these moves were condemned by Foreign Secretary Eden.
Chamberlain assumed that pacifying and appeasing Adolf Hitler was the only way to avert the dreaded war and its aftereffects. Due to the same, Munich Agreement was signed according to which Britain and France accepted that the Czech region of the Sudetenland should be ceded to Germany.
Following Hitler’s annexation of the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia and later Prague, Slovakia and Poland, Chamberlain accelerated British rearmament program and rejected further appeasement of any sort. With Poland attacked, Chamberlain responded with a British declaration of war on Germany on September 3, 1939.
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He set up a war cabinet, inviting members of the Labour and Liberal Party. He even assigned Winston Churchill, his foremost critic, as the First Lord of the Admiralty. However, the war declared by British was a phoney one, as sporadic military action dominated the confrontation
Following the failure of a British expedition to Norway in April 1940 and his poor relations with the Labour Party, Chamberlain lost the support from many Conservatives members in the House of Commons. Resultantly, he resigned on May 10, 1940, the day of the German invasion of the Low Countries.
Following his resignation, Winston Churchill emerged as the new Prime Minister of Britain. Under Churchill’s coalition government, Chamberlain served loyally as Lord President of the Council. Additionally, he was also the leader of the Conservative Party. Chamberlain resigned from both the positions on September 30, 1940