- Edited by Robert Self, London Metropolitan University, UK
As a primary source of historical evidence and insight, it is difficult to overstate the value and importance of Neville Chamberlain's diary letters to his sisters. They represent the most complete and illuminating 'insider' record of British politics between the wars yet to be published. From 1915 Chamberlain wrote detailed weekly epistles to his sisters until his death in 1940; a confidential account of events covering the quarter of a century during which he stood at the very centre of Conservative and national politics. Beyond the fascination of the historical record of people and events, these letters are extremely valuable for the remarkable light they throw upon the personality and character of the private man lurking behind the austerely forbidding public persona.
Contents: Introduction; Neville Chamberlain - 1921-27: the reform years; 1921: ‘To speculate on Austen’s position’: backbench frustrations and disappointments; 1922: ‘I should like to be rid of the Goat’: decline and fall of the Coalition; 1923: ‘Things change so quickly in politics’: Postmaster-General, Health, the Treasury and defeat; 1924: ‘Lord! Lord! What a funny world’: opposition and the ‘New Conservatism’; 1925: ‘I might be a great Minister of Health’: pensions, rating and valuation; 1926: ‘I am an asset...of the Government’: West Ham, the coal dispute and rural housing; 1927: ‘Everything is going wrong this session’: slums and the frustrations of Poor Law reform; Appendix I: the Chamberlain household and family; Appendix II: primary sources; Index.
Reviews: 'Now Robert Self has placed all students of inter-war Britain in his debt by producing an expertly edited collection of Chamberlain's letters to his two sisters.... the years that are covered here, 1921-27, are full of interest and offer vital insights into Chamberlain's career....Above all we are presented here with the authentic Chamberlain...Robert Self is to be congratulated on another valuable and well-produced volume....It may be that no consensus is ever going to be reached about this key figure of inter-war British politics. But Self's work will at least ensure that the case for Neville Chamberlain is put as persuasively as the subject's own words permit.' Reviews in History
'Robert Self is to be congratulated on these books. His forty-page introduction to Neville Chamberlain's life is a masterly exposition, and his analyses of the 1915–20 and 1921–27 periods are full, fair and engrossing...of immense value...subsequent volumes are eagerly awaited.' History Today
‘Eloquently introduced, capably organized and fully annotated, these latter volumes should certainly enhance scholarly inquiry into the life and career of a most controversial figure.’ Parliamentary History
'... a major achievement and a great contribution for which historians of the period will be most grateful.' History
'These two volumes represent a significant achievement by Self, ...The letters are a remarkable record of both (Chamberlain's) public and private life.' Parliamentary History
'... an important event.... Robert Self should be congratulated for his indefatigable efforts in securing publication in book form of such an extensive series, and in such handsome format.... (These are) volumes which all academic librarians should possess, and most historians of modern Britain will covet.' English Historical Review
'The products of Self's thoughtful editing are indispensable to the student of politics and society in this period. These are a primary sources of great value. Albion
'There can be no doubt that all University Libraries should purchase the four-volume set...' Cercles