Austen Chamberlain Biography

(First Lord of the Admiralty (1931))

Birthday: October 16, 1863 (Libra)

Born In: Birmingham, England

Austen Chamberlain was a British statesman of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the Locarno Pact which sought to prevent war between France and Germany. Son of a well-known statesman, Austen Chamberlain was brought up to follow his father’s footstep from an early age. After graduating from the Trinity College, he was sent to Paris and Berlin so that he could have a first-hand idea about the political culture of those two European powers. On coming back, he worked closely with his father and very soon gathered enough experience to enter the House of Commons at the age of twenty-nine. He was a skilled orator and his maiden speech greatly impressed Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone. He congratulated the young Chamberlain although it was an attack on his policies. At the House of Commons, he always played a positive role and made personal sacrifices so that the party remained united. Later he distinguished himself both as Chancellor of Exchequer and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. His role in signing the ‘Treaty of Locarno’ has been lauded by many experts. Later, he was first to realize that how dangerous Hitler could turn out to be.
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In October

Also Known As: Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain

Died At Age: 73


father: Joseph Chamberlain

mother: Harriet Kenrick

siblings: Beatrice Chamberlain, Ethel Chamberlain, Hilda Chamberlain, Ida Chamberlain, Neville Chamberlain

Political Leaders British Men

Died on: March 16, 1937

place of death: London, England

Notable Alumni: Sciences Po, University Of Berlin

City: Birmingham, England

More Facts

education: Trinity College, Cambridge, Sciences Po, University of Berlin

awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Childhood & Early Years
Austen Chamberlain was born on October 16, 1863 in Birmingham. His father, Joseph Chamberlain, was a rising industrialist, who later became a renowned statesman. Austen’s mother, Harriet Chamberlain, was Joseph’s first wife. The couple had two children; Beatrice Mary and Joseph Austen.
Harriet died three days after giving birth to Austen. Five years later Joseph married Harriet’s cousin Florence Kenrik. From this marriage, Austen had four half siblings; Arthur Neville, Ida, Hilda and Ethel. Much later, Arthur Neville became the Prime Minister of Britain.
Florence had also given birth to another son; but both the baby and mother died soon after. Although Joseph got married once again, the union did not produce any offspring.
Austen Chamberlain had his schooling at Rugby, one of the oldest and most expensive public schools in England. Later, he joined Trinity College, Cambridge. There he joined the Political Society, where he made his first political address. Besides, he was also a member of Cambridge Union Society and later became its Vice President.
From the beginning, Joseph wanted his eldest son to join politics. Consequently, after graduating from Cambridge, Austen was sent first to France and then to Germany so that he could have direct knowledge about their political culture.
At Paris, Austen was enrolled at the École des Sciences Politiques and studied there for nine months. Later, he spent twelve months at the University of Berlin before returning to Birmingham in 1887.
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On coming back to England, Austen Chamberlain began to work closely with his father, who by this time had become a national leader. He soon gathered enough experience to contest 1892 general election. Austen won his first parliamentary seat from East Worcestershire representing his father’s Liberal Union Party.
On entering the House of Commons, Austen chamberlain was made a Junior Whip. It was his job to see that his father’s ideas were reflected in all policy matters. However, owing to parliamentary instability, he could not make his maiden speech until 1893.
In his maiden speech, Austen Chamberlain attacked W. E. Gladstone, the then Prime Minister of Great Britain, for his Government of Ireland Bill, 1893. In spite of such attack, the speech was highly praised by Gladstone and he publicly congratulated both the father and son for such a great performance.
When in 1895, a coalition of the Conservatives and Unionists won the general election with a thumping majority Austen Chamberlain was made the Civil Lord of Admiralty. He was around thirty two years old then. He worked in that position for five years.
In 1900, Chamberlain was appointed as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the fourth most important ministerial post within the Treasury. In 1902, he got his first cabinet berth and became the Post Master General.
In 1903, Austen Chamberlain was appointed as the Chancellor of Exchequer. By then, a friction between Joseph Chamberlain and Prime Minister Arthur Balfour had surfaced on the issues of tariff reforms. By the end of 1903, it reached its peak.
Joseph Chamberlain decided to resign from his cabinet post so as to be able to campaign for tariff reform. This weakened Austen Chamberlain’s position greatly. However, he continued to serve as Chancellor of Exchequer until the fall of the government in 1906.
The coalition of Conservative and Liberal Union Party fought the 1906 general election under the leadership of Arthur Balfour and lost more than half the seats. Austen Chamberlain was one of the few MPs who were able retain their seats.
Sometime now, the senior Chamberlain was forced to retire due to ill health. Austen Chamberlain took his place and began to lead the campaign for tariff reform within the party.
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The Conservative and Liberal Union coalition fought the 2010 election under Arthur Balfour once more, but lost. Chamberlain was forced to sit in the opposition until 1915. When War time coalition government was formed he became Secretary of State for India.
In 1917, Chamberlain resigned from his post taking responsibility of the failure of the Indian Army in the British campaign at Mesopotamia. Later in April 1918, he returned to the government and was inducted in the War Cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio.
In January 1918, Chamberlain was once again appointed as the Chancellor of Exchequer. He quickly earned distinction as he paid off the enormous debts that the country had incurred during the war, and was also able to maintain a stable currency and strengthen the national credit.
By the beginning of 1921, Chamberlain became the Leader of the Conservative Party, which was formed by merger of the previous coalition partners. At the same time, he was also chosen as the Leader of the House of Commons. In addition, he was appointed to the office of Lord Privy Seal.
However, his position was relegated when he went against the popular demand of breaking away from the war time coalition government. When a resolution was passed that the party would fight the forthcoming election alone, Chamberlain resigned from the post of the Leader of the Party.
He returned to the government in 1924 as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and served in that position till 1929. In this capacity, he had to solve many international crises.
In 1925, in a speech at the Council of League of Nations, he rejected the Geneva Protocol because it gave the Council an arbitrary power. Instead, he suggested that the covenant should be supplemented by making special arrangement to need special needs.
He was instrumental in the negotiations of ‘Locarno Pact’, formally signed in London on December 1, 1925 by Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Belgium. It provided for peace in post war Europe and Chamberlain was hailed for his role in this treaty.
Chamberlain was not that successful in his engagement with China and Egypt. Although he showed firmness in defending British interest vis-à-vis China, he could not provide any long term solution. In 1927, he drew up a draft that would have provided permanency in Anglo-Egyptian relation, but retired before he could translate them as treaty.
Chamberlain went into retirement as the government under Prime Minister Baldwin resigned in 1929. However, he still attended the House of Commons and spoke on different issues with authority.
In 1931, Chamberlain returned to government for a brief period as First Lord of the Admiralty in the first National Government. He resigned when Invergordon Mutiny took place in September 1931.
Chamberlain spent the remaining six years of his life active in politics; albeit as a backbencher. However, from 1934 to 1937, he was with Winston Churchill when the later gave a call for rearmament in the face of looming threats from the Nazis.
Major Works
Austen Chamberlain is best remembered for his role in forming the Locarno Treaties in 1925. It consisted of seven agreements among the major powers of Europe including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy; it paved the way for stability and improved the diplomatic climate in the continent.
Awards & Achievements
In 1926, Austen Chamberlain was awarded Noble Prize for Peace for his role in Locarno Treaties. He received the prize jointly with Charles Dawes, an American banker cum politician.
Personal Life & Legacy
Austen Chamberlain died on March 17, 1937 at the age of 73. He was survived by his wife and three children.

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