Joseph Chamberlain

BIOGRAPHY

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Joseph Chamberlain was born on 8 July 1836 in London. He left school at 16, having excelled academically, and was apprenticed to the family shoemaking business.

Two years later, he moved to Birmingham to work for his uncle’s screw-making company in which he soon became a partner and central to the company’s phenomenal achievements. Having established himself as a highly successful businessman, he married his first wife, Harriet Kenrick, in 1861. She tragically died in 1863, three days after the birth of Austen, leaving him devastated. It was not until 1868 that he married his second wife, Florence Kenrick, Harriet’s cousin and mother of Neville.

Chamberlain entered local politics in 1869 as councillor for St Paul’s ward, Birmingham, campaigning for education reform. He retired from business in 1873 and became Mayor of Birmingham in November. During this time he promoted many civic improvements, including the provision of water and gas, slum clearance and the construction of libraries, municipal swimming pools and schools.

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