Joseph Chamberlain

Entrepreneur in Politics

Peter T. Marsh

View Inside Price: $100.00


July 27, 1994
744 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300058017
Cloth

Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) was the first industrialist to reach the highest sphere of British politics. Notably successful as a young man in Birmingham's metal-manufacturing industry, he tackled politics as business—venture by venture, innovative in organization as well as product, alert to the importance of accounting and marketing. Aggressive and direct in both personality and principle, he was loyal to enterprise rather than to party. He never became prime minister, yet by the beginning of the twentieth century he was by general consent "the first minister of the British Empire."
This book by Peter T. Marsh is the first complete, archivally based, single-volume biography of Chamberlain. Skillfully dissecting his political career, Marsh reveals Chamberlain's radically fresh approach to most of Britain's problems between the Second Reform Act and the First World War. He also highlights the distortions and discontinuities: the breach with Gladstone over Irish Home Rule, which drove Chamberlain from the left of the Liberal party into enduring alliance with the Conservative right; how Chamberlain came to be the champion of the House of Lords instead of its scourge; the cause and effects of Chamberlain's shift from free trader to protectionist. In addition, Marsh explains Chamberlain's internationalism, his involvement in South Africa, Canada, and the United States, and his sustained campaign to develop the Empire's "undeveloped estates."
Searching and judicious, the book evokes the contradictions in Chamberlain's personality and private life, his vigor, intensity, and imperious self-confidence along with his inner desolation and lifelong nervous strain. Finely written and argued, the book makes compelling reading, presenting the story of a life that is one of the most absorbing in modern British politics.

Peter T. Marsh is professor of history and international relations at Syracuse University.

"In his major reassessment . . . Marsh has succeeded in making us know [Chamberlain] better, understand him better, and—now and then—like him better."—Peter Clarke, Times Literary Supplement

"Clearly written, easy to follow, based on exhaustive research (in 141 separate archives), and laced with passages of lasting interest."—Economist

"[A] thorough, highly intelligent, and well-written biography. . . . The story has more than a passing relevance to some of today's debates."—Fareed Zakaria, National Review

"Marsh has succeeded in writing a judicious, comprehensive and readable biography of one of the most prominent statesmen of the late Victorian age. . . . It supersedes previous biographies and should go a long way towards staunching the relentless flow of Chamberlain studies."—David Nicholls, Social History

"This is political history at its best."—Richard W. Davis, Albion

"Peter Marsh has taken the measure of Chamberlain sensitively and sympathetically. His biography will be the classic account for years to come."—Richard A. Rempel, Canadian Journal of History

"Professor Marsh has used a very wide range of archival sources to create a compelling portrait of a businessman turned politician. . . . Anyone interested in the debate on whether Victorian businessman 'failed' in some sense can read this biography with profit."—G.C. Peden, Business History

"To write a masterful biography of a masterful man in one absorbing volume is an extraordinary achievement that so far had eluded Joseph Chamberlain's previous biographers. . . . Peter Marsh has indefatigably searched through the archives of many collections with a diligence that would have done justice to the great Victorian biographers; this indeed is a 'Victorian' biography in many senses placing the man and his policies in the context of his times and society. . . . Peter Marsh has succeeded in writing an enthralling biography which can be read with profit and pleasure again and again."—J.A.S. Grenville, Midland History

"This impressive biography helps establish Marsh as one of the leading historians of Victorian Britain. . . .[This book] is important, if not essential, for the scholar, graduate student, or serious reader interested in Victorian and Edwardian Britain."—John L. Gordon, Jr., History

"A deeper insight into the personality of Joseph Chamberlain . . . we are indebted to [Marsh]."—Albert A. Hayden, The Historian

"Peter Marsh has told Chamberlain's story with great skill and thoroughness, based on innumerable manuscript collections. One cannot believe that this definitive biography will need to be redone."—Peter Stansky, British Politics Group Newsletter

"The result of Marsh's enterprise and perspicacity is a smoothly crafted life of its multifaceted subject, viewing him from a different perspective than earlier writers and offering several novel insights."—Don M. Cregier, Journal of Modern History

"The need for a well-rounded, in-depth, biography of the very able, widely hated and feared, political giant is now well fulfilled by Peter Marsh. . . . This definitive biography of Chamberlain is an outstanding achievement."—J. O. Baylen, Victorian Periodicals Review

"Chamberlain is a splendidly urbane study of this quintessentially urban man. Marsh's long labor of love is a marvelous biography that is neither an unwieldy, multivolumed biography."—Diane Drummond, Journal of Urban History

"Marsh's biography, based on a thorough analysis of primary sources, is documented extensively. It is a readable and carefully argued study that should interest educated general readers as well as students of British history."—William T. Walker, Business Library Review