The Life of Neville Chamberlain

The Life of Neville Chamberlain

The Life of Neville Chamberlain

The Life of Neville Chamberlain

Excerpt

More than one biography of Neville Chamberlain appeared in his lifetime, without his endorsement or assistance, and that others would be written he foresaw from the momentous events in which his last years passed. Very much earlier, too, he had quoted with approval his father's view "that a man's life should be written before he is forgotten".

That being so, Mrs. Chamberlain and his family desired that some more authentic record should be made for his contemporaries, and for that purpose placed the whole of his papers at my disposal; it was, moreover, their wish not to see any part of my narrative before publication. The responsibility thus laid on me (who had never known him) to select and use my material with the full freedom which is the historian's duty and desire, was a trust for which I must always be deeply grateful.

The documents for contemporary history are men, not less than the written word; his predecessor and his successor in office, Cabinet colleagues, followers, and associates at every stage of his life, have generously allowed me not only to use their letters but to consult them in person. They will forgive the omission here of their names and even, I hope, my familiar allusion to them as figures in history. Several departments of government, and the Corporation of Birmingham, permitted me to see certain records. With special gratitude I acknowledge the gracious permission given by H.M. King George VI to print some important letters, besides the document, reproduced in facsimile at p. 205, from His Majesty's autograph collection.

This book, however, is substantially based upon private papers and can, if for that reason alone, claim only a provisional character. Of the official sources from which final history will in great part be drawn, none are yet available: neither the archives of the British government, its allies and its foes, nor the correspondence of contemporary statesmen. And again, though the generation which has endured the last twenty years has a right, I feel, to be told all possible truth, even so no contemporary history can be written like the annals of the distant dead. For that reason too it has seemed best, especially in the last controversial years, to let him speak, so far as possible, for himself. Though nine-tenths of my omissions in a great body of quotation are due to considera-

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