Neville Chamberlain remains the most famous member of his family because of the still controversial policy he pursued as prime minister to keep Europe from plunging into another war: the policy known as "appeasement". His collected letters and papers provide the best means to understand his motives in attempting to reach an understanding with Hitler. They also contain evidence of the outpouring of gratitude with which that attempt was initially greeted around the world.
The collection includes the extensive correspondence of Neville with other family members, principally his father, Joseph, his step mother, his sisters, his half sister, Beatrice and half brother, Austen; his wife Annie and their children; and other members of the extended Chamberlain family and associated families including members of the Kenrick, Maxwell, Nettlefold and Lloyd families. This correspondence relates not just to personal, family and domestic matters but also to contemporary domestic and foreign politics papers. The frequent and regular diary correspondence with his two younger sisters, Hilda and Ida, particularly from 1915 up to 1940 is a particularly important resource. There is also material relating to the Chamberlain family history, genealogies, and official documents.
The collection also includes Neville's journals, diaries and notebooks. These comprise his political diaries and journals, 1913-40; journals in which he recorded his activities and observations on his widespread travels in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, 1889-1939; a commonplace book in which he collected humorous anecdotes in the 1930s; other personal notebooks which document his private hobbies of gardening, fishing and nature. The collection also contains presscuttings, scrapbooks and photograph albums which include some of Neville's trips to meet Mussolini, and Hitler in 1938.
The collection contains material relating to Neville's business activities. This includes correspondence, a diary and other papers relating to his experience as a young man when he was placed in charge of his father's ill-fated venture growing sisal in the Bahamas, 1890-1901; and his notebooks relating to the business affairs of Elliotts Metal Company in Selly Oak, Birmingham, 1902-07
Other papers include a large section of correspondence with royalty, family members, and Chamberlain's are also documented by his own comprehensive notes
The archives relating to his public and political life include material relating to involvement in local Birmingham politics and activities and as a Birmingham MP. Material relating to national politics include pre war papers dealing with the Tariff Commission originally set up by Joseph Chamberlain, and with the canal system which drew traffic to Birmingham; papers from Neville's first stint in national office as Director General of National Service, including his correspondence with Lloyd George; papers from his first cabinet ministry, Health, and letters of congratulation on his first appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and later about the rating bill when he was back at the ministry of health; letters concerning the Conservative party in the early 1930s; a large collection of letters on his main term at the Exchequer charting Britain's recovery from the Depression including papers tracing his meetings with Hitler at Berchtesgaden, and his subsequent visits to Paris and Italy. Other papers relate to the early months of the war and Neville's preparation for the debate that precipitated his fall as prime minister, and on his subsequent responsibilities as Lord President.
In addition, the collection includes correspondence with royalty, with some parliamentary colleagues including Winston Churchill, and with constituents. There is also a series of correspondence of congratulation and support, 1937-1940 which he attracted as prime minister and following his conduct at Munich. The support came from all walks of life, from within Europe and around the world. Neville's gratitude is documented in his written responses to the gifts and testimonials.
The collection also includes some papers of his wife, Annie, which consists of notebooks and diaries, personal correspondence and scrap albums. These include notes she kept of house calls on constituents.
Reference: The Chamberlain Papers from University of Birmingham Library: The Papers of Neville Chamberlain (Primary Source Microfilm, Reading, 2000).