Joseph Chamberlain

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Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) was a British Liberal (later Liberal Unionist) political and statesman. Rich through his involvement with a Birmingham screw manufacturers, he served as Mayor of Birmingham 1873-1876 and is associated with the development of city-run services known at the time as 'municipal socialism'. Elected to Parliament in 1876, he was associated with the radical wing of the Liberal Party; in 1880 he joined the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade. Disagreeing with Gladstone's Home Rule proposals, he became leader of the Liberal Unionists in 1891 and in 1895 joined a coalition government with the Conservative Party as Secretary of State for the Colonies. In this role he played a significant part in fomenting the Boer War of 1899-1902. He resigned office in 1903 in order to be able to campaign for tariff reform: Chamberlain believed in Imperial Preference, protected trading within the British Empire. Ill health forced him to retire from public life in 1906.

Chamberlain was one of the best-known and most divisive figures of his age, universally referred to as 'Joe', his aquiline features a gift for cartoonists. He was known also for his dapper turn-out, always wearing in his buttonhole an orchid grown in the hothouses of his Birmingham hoome, Highbury.

His oldest son, Austen Chamberlain (1863-1937) occupied several cabinet posts and was leader of the Conservative Party in the course of a long political career. Another son was Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940), British Prime Minister 1937-1940.