History hero: Joseph Chamberlain (1836–1914)

Historian Denis Judd explains his admiration for a politician who was a radical on the municipal, national and international stages

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces the outbreak of the Second World War in a BBC broadcast, 1939. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the May 2009 edition of BBC History Magazine

Why have I chosen Joseph Chamberlain for my history hero? The main reason is I see him as a particularly decisive politician at a time of great change and uncertainty. I admire his capacity for confronting a series of problems – Britain’s economy, the empire, political organisation, social reform, Irish nationalism, the crisis in South Africa – head-on. He didn’t fudge: he proposed solutions, which is perhaps why his enemies accused him of ruthlessness.

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