Beaverbrook, William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Beaverbrook, William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron

William Maxwell Aitken Beaverbrook, 1st Baron, 1879–1964, British financier, statesman, and newspaper owner, b. Canada. The son of a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman, he grew up near Beaverbrook, N.B. He made a fortune in business and was probably a millionaire when he went to England in 1910. There he immediately entered political life as a member of Parliament and secretary to a fellow Canadian, Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law. Politically ambitious, he was involved in the intrigues that led to the replacement (1916) of Herbert Asquith as prime minister by David Lloyd George. He was not given a place in the new cabinet, but he received a peerage (1917). Beaverbrook obtained control of the Daily Express (1916) and the Evening Standard (1923) and began the Sunday Express (1918). Both in Parliament and in his newspapers he advocated strong imperial ties and free trade within the empire, regardless of commercial agreements with other countries, but he never succeeded completely in his attempts to have his imperial isolationist policies adopted by the Conservative party. In World War II, Lord Beaverbrook was prominent in Winston Churchill's coalition government as minister of aircraft production (1940–41), minister of supply (1941–42), minister of war production (Feb., 1942), special envoy to the United States on supplies (1942), and lord privy seal (1943–45). After the fall of the Churchill government in 1945, he continued his supervision of his newspapers. His books include Success (1922), Politicians and the War 1914–1916 (1928), Men and Power: 1917–1918 (1956), and Friends (1959).

See biographies by T. Driberg (1956) and A. J. P. Taylor (1972).

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