Joseph Chamberlain Collection

Scope and Content

Official and personal papers of the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914); the official papers comprise material relating to Joseph Chamberlain's involvement in the family screw-making business in Birmingham (Nettlefold and Chamberlain), his activity in Birmingham municipal affairs (his Councillorship for St Paul's Ward, and his mayoralty), his election to Parliament for West Birmingham, and his service in public office as President of the Board of Trade, 1880-1885, President of the Local Government Board, 1886, Chairman of the Washington Fishery Conference, 1887-1888, and Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1895-1903. These papers include material relating to current domestic political matters and foreign affairs (the Russian/Turkish War, Irish Home Rule, the Liberal Party and the Liberal Unionist Alliance, General Elections of 1874-1906, the Boer War, and the campaign for tariff reform). The personal papers include correspondence from Joseph Chamberlain to his third wife Mary (ne Endicott, later Carnegie) and various personal associates, papers relating to his three marriages (including deeds and other documents relating to the settlement on the marriage of Joseph Chamberlain and Florence Kenrick), his teaching records from the Church of the Messiah and Birmingham Heath and Smethwick Working Men's Club (1863-1865), personal notebooks, and papers relating to his seventieth birthday celebrations, and his death (will, deeds and other documents relating to the settlement of the estate of Joseph Chamberlain, and press cuttings relating to his funeral). The collection also includes the correspondence of Mary Chamberlain (ne Endicott, later Carnegie, third wife of Joseph Chamberlain), most especially correspondence from Joseph Chamberlain, dating from the announcement of their engagement until the final months before his death (1888-1914). In addition there is also material relating to the composition of the biography of Joseph Chamberlain; this includes the correspondence of Austen Chamberlain (son of Joseph Chamberlain) and James Louis Garvin (biographer of Joseph Chamberlain) relating to the early period of the book's development, preparatory notes, transcripts of correspondence between Joseph Chamberlain and political, family and personal associates, and material acquired for the purposes of research (this includes the papers of E. A. Sonnenshein relating to the history of Birmingham University, 1900-1950).

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Chamberlain was born in 1836. He was educated at University College School, and at the age of sixteen moved from London to Birmingham to join his uncle's screw manufacturing business, Nettlefold and Chamberlain. He became a member of the Birmingham Education Society, the National Education League, and was chairman of the Birmingham School Board (1868-1873); he was a member of Birmingham Town Council (1872-1880), being Councillor for St Paul's Ward and Mayor (1873-1876); he was MP for West Birmingham (1876-1914); President of the Board of Trade (1880-1885); President of the Local Government Board (1886); Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1895-1903); Chancellor of the University of Birmingham (1901-1914); and Lord Rector of Glasgow University; he died on 2nd July 1914.

Reference: University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department, Online Archive Catalogue ( ). Accessed May 2002.


The Joseph Chamberlain papers were sorted and arranged in the 1960s under a series of section headings (JC1-JC27); additional section headings were added to include subsequent deposits of papers from the family (JC28) and from the estate of Lord Amery (JC29-JC37). The bulk of the papers (JC1-JC28) are mounted into fascicules; some are bound as volumes, others are stored in custom made boxes. The volumes and boxes are labelled with the section title headings and finding numbers. These papers were heavily used by Joseph Chamberlain's biographers, James Louis Garvin and Julian Amery before they were deposited with the University of Birmingham and the arrangement of the initial deposit in the original handlist (JC1-JC27) appears to reflect an arrangement and organisation of the papers imposed by the biographers.

The section title headings used for describing this main deposit are as follows: JC1 Papers on Joseph Chamberlain's youth and early family life. JC2 Board of Trade papers: 1880-1885. JC3 Washington Fisheries Conference: 1887-1888. JC4 Presscuttings: pre 1898; Memorial notices: 1914. JC5 General correspondence, A-Z: pre-1899. JC6 Domestic politics. JC7 Foreign affairs: pre 1899. JC8/1-2 Diaries and materials relating to the Life of Joseph Chamberlain by Garvin and Amery. JC8/3-10 Irish politics: correspondence and papers. JC9 Imperial affairs. JC10 South African War: antecedents and first year. JC11 General correspondence, A-Z: 1900-1902. JC12 Birmingham University correspondence; other miscellaneous matters. JC13 South Africa: 1900-1902. JC14 Colonial affairs (other than South Africa): 1900-1902. JC15 Canada: photocopies of papers in the Canadian National Archives. JC16 Miscellaneous notebooks; correspondence with Sir M. Hicks Beach; copies of correspondence with Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. JC17 Colonial correspondence: 1901-1902. JC18/1-10 Colonial and foreign correspondence and documents: 1903. JC18/11-15 South Africa documents: 1903. JC18/16-20 Domestic politics: 1903. JC19 Colonial papers and miscellaneous correspondence: 1904. JC20 Colonial papers and miscellaneous correspondence: 1905. JC21 Miscellaneous correspondence: 1906. JC22 Miscellaneous correspondence: 1907-1914. JC23 Presscuttings, 1913-1914; copies and extracts of Mary Chamberlain's papers; papers relating to Joseph Chamberlain's death; miscellaneous printed articles about Joseph Chamberlain. JC24 Centenary of Joseph Chamberlain's birth; materials relating to Garvin's Life of Joseph Chamberlain . JC25 Printed items relating to individuals associated with Joseph Chamberlain. JC26 Early letters. JC27 Photocopies of materials in the University of Texas Library relating to Garvin and the Chamberlain family.

The section title headings used for the additional deposit of correspondence from the family are as follows: JC28A Correspondence from Joseph Chamberlain to Mary Chamberlain. JC28B Correspondence from Mary Chamberlain to Joseph Chamberlain.

The section title headings used for the additional deposit from the estate of Lord Amery are as follows: JC29 Colonial Office papers and correspondence. JC30 Political correspondence. JC31 Political notebooks. JC32 Personal material of and relating to Joseph Chamberlain. JC33 Official printed materials. JC34 Presscuttings, scrap albums, political cartoons and photographs. JC35 Birmingham University. JC36 Miscellaneous printed materials. JC37 Papers of J. L. Garvin.

In 1998, funding was secured to allow substantial recataloguing of the papers, in electronic format, and the opportunity was taken to incorporate the different deposits into a single, multi-level descriptive catalogue. All the original finding numbers remain the same, but a new structure has been created for this collection in order to bring together, Joseph Chamberlain's official papers, his personal papers, the papers of his third wife, Mary Chamberlain, those papers of his son, Austen, which are in this collection, and other associated papers relating, for example, to his biography.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

A formal agreement relating to the gift of the papers of Joseph Chamberlain and his son, Austen Chamberlain to the University of Birmingham was drawn up with the Chamberlain Family and Chamberlain Trustees in 1959. Both collections were presented to the University of Birmingham at a public ceremony on 18 October 1960, chaired by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Sir Robert Aitken. In 1968 additional papers of Joseph Chamberlain which had been loaned by the family to Lord Amery (Julian Amery, 1st Baron Amery of Lustleigh: biographer of Joseph Chamberlain) in order to complete the biography were passed to the University Library and these were added to the Joseph Chamberlain Collection. Subsequent gifts of papers from the family have also been added to the Joseph Chamberlain Collection. These gifts include the correspondence between Joseph Chamberlain and his third wife, Mary Endicott Chamberlain which were presented in 1980 by Colonel and Mrs A. T. Maxwell (JC28). More papers of Joseph Chamberlain were also found by the executors of Lord Amery in 1997 and these too were passed on to the University Library and incorporated into the collection (JC29-JC37).

Alternative Form Available

The collection is available on microfilm . Facilities are available in the University of Birmingham Library for researchers to make paper copies of individual items from these microfilms for their own private research purposes. Most of the collection has been micropublished by Primary Source Media, in six separate units on a total of 137 reels, and some or all these units have been purchased by other research libraries in this country and elsewhere. It is possible for individuals to purchase single reels, rather than whole units, from Primary Source Media.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

The Special Collections Department holds a number of related collections: Austen Chamberlain Collection (GB 150 AC); Neville Chamberlain Collection (GB 150 NC) (catalogue is not yet available on the Online Archive Catalogue); Beatrice, Ida and Hilda Chamberlain Collection (GB 150 BC) (catalogue is not yet available on the Online Archive Catalogue); Chamberlain Miscellanea (GB 150 C) (catalogue is not yet available on the Online Archive Catalogue); Artificial collections of letters and other documents of Joseph, Austen and Neville Chamberlain (GB 150 JCLAdd, GB 150 ACLAdd, GB 150 NCLAdd) (some catalogue records are available on the Online Archive Catalogue).

Location of Originals

The collection contains photocopies of original items from the Laurier Papers, the Aberdeen Papers, the Denison Papers, the R. W. Scott Papers, the Galt Papers and the Tupper Papers, all held in the Canadian National Archives, and photocopies of items held in the University of Texas Library, Austin, USA.


The official biography of Joseph Chamberlain, which was commissioned by the family, was begun by James Louis Garvin and completed by Julian Amery. It draws very heavily on the papers in this collection and was published in six volumes under the title, Life of Joseph Chamberlain (London: Macmillan and Co, 1932-1969). There have been several other biographies published but the most recent is Joseph Chamberlain. Entrepreneur in Politics by Peter T. Marsh (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994).

Geographical Names