Book Chapter

Joseph Chamberlain: His Reputation and Legacy



Cawood I (2016) Joseph Chamberlain: His Reputation and Legacy. In: Cawood I & Upton C (eds.) Joseph Chamberlain: International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 229-243.

Chamberlain’s story, as the first self-made businessman to enter the Cabinet, the founder of a political dynasty and, arguably, the first truly modern politician, is perhaps unique in British political history. Unsurprisingly, his life was frequently celebrated while he was still alive, mainly by his adopted city of Birmingham. In a lavish civic publication marking the beginning of the twentieth century, Chamberlain’s biography is presented second, only preceded by the current Lord Mayor, and notes that as the current Colonial Secretary he was ‘more than ever prominent among British statesmen’.1 Given the length of his career, and his undoubted influence in local, national and international politics, his life has largely been studied by political biographers, beginning before he had even died. Often overlooked, Alexander Mackintosh wrote the first full biography of Chamberlain in 1906 and produced a second edition shortly after his death in 1914. He tried to remain impartial, but noted how difficult this was, as for many, ‘he [Chamberlain] was either saint or devil’.2 He revealed his own position when he commented that Chamberlain’s changes of political view ‘were unusually numerous and violent’ and that they did not merely happen ‘in the judgement of his youth, but in those of his ripe and mature manhood’.

European Economic Community; Social Reform; Political History; Conservative Party; Civic Culture

Publication date31/12/2016
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Place of publicationLondon

People (1)


Dr Ian Cawood

Dr Ian Cawood

Associate Professor, History