British prime minister (1937-40), known for his appeasement policy in the immediate pre-World War II period. The son of Joseph Chamberlain and half brother of Sir Austen, he was born and educated in Birmingham and after a successful business career became lord mayor of the city in 1915.
Elected to Parliament in 1918, Chamberlain served as postmaster general (1922-23), minister of health (1923, 1924-29, and 1931), and chancellor of the Exchequer (1923-24 and 1931-37) before he succeeded Stanley Baldwin as prime minister. In that office his major aim was to avoid a European war at all costs. His policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler’s Germany culminated in the Munich Pact of September 1938, after which Chamberlain returned home proclaiming “peace in our time.” Later he recognized the failure of his policy and vowed support for Poland. After Germany’s invasion of the country, Chamberlain led Great Britain into the war against the aggressor.
After the British debacle in the first few months of the war, Chamberlain was forced to resign in May 1940 and was succeeded by Sir Winston Churchill. He served in Churchill’s cabinet as lord president of the council until October 1940, when illness forced his resignation. He died the following month.