'No One Has the Right to be Happy in This Brutal World'

JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN’S FIRST FORTY YEARS

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Joseph Chamberlain was bred for business and was brilliant at it. Descended from generations of cordwainers or manufacturers of leather shoes, he was brought up, educated and apprenticed to follow in their footsteps.

In view of the distinction he later acquired in public life and politics, it is tempting to look for influences in his early life that prepared him for that career and to suspect that at least subconsciously he was grooming himself for it. But that was not the objective. He received an education fitted to the rising industrial economy, and it fully excited his imagination.

He might ultimately have made an even greater, more durable mark as one of the titans of modern industry – as a Carnegie, say, or a Siemens – than he did in British and imperial politics. But he was driven to choose otherwise as much by bereavement and remarriage as by his worried recognition of the socio-economic consequences of his industrial success.

Joseph Chamberlain was educated in schools that stressed modern subjects appropriate for commerce and industry rather than the classical subjects in which the ruling elite took pride. He followed a curriculum that stressed mathematics, science and French as well as Latin. When his understanding of mathematics exceeded that of his schoolmaster, young Joseph was sent to University College School, a distinguished unsectarian academy in London, where he carried away prizes in mathematics, hydrostatics and French. During school vacations he attended lectures on chemistry and electricity at  the Polytechnic Institution, and he loved the scientific exhibits that actually worked.

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