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The Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
Stanley Baldwin ggbain.35233.jpg
Baldwin in 1920
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
7 June 1935 – 28 May 1937
Preceded by Ramsay MacDonald
Succeeded by Neville Chamberlain
In office
4 November 1924 – 4 June 1929
Monarch George V
Preceded by Ramsay MacDonald
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
In office
22 May 1923 – 22 January 1924
Monarch George V
Preceded by Bonar Law
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
Lord President of the Council
In office
24 August 1931 – 7 June 1935
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by The Lord Parmoor
Succeeded by Ramsay MacDonald
Personal details
Born (1867-08-03)3 August 1867
Bewdley, England
Died 14 December 1947(1947-12-14) (aged 80)
Stourport-on-Severn, England
Resting place Worcester Cathedral
Political party Conservative
Lucy Ridsdale
(m. 1892; died 1945)
Children 7, including Oliver and Arthur
  • Alfred Baldwin
  • Louisa MacDonald
Education Harrow School
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Industrialist
  • politician
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC, PCc, JP, FRS (3 August 1867 – 14 December 1947) was a British Conservative Party statesman and politician who dominated the government of the United Kingdom between the world wars, serving as prime minister on three occasions, from May 1923 to January 1924, from November 1924 to June 1929, and from June 1935 to May 1937.

Born to a prosperous family in Bewdley, Worcestershire, Baldwin was educated at Hawtreys, Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He joined the family iron and steel making business and entered the House of Commons in 1908 as the member for Bewdley, succeeding his father Alfred. He served as Financial Secretary to the Treasury (1917–1921) and President of the Board of Trade (1921–1922) in the coalition ministry of David Lloyd George and then rose rapidly: in 1922, Baldwin was one of the prime movers in the withdrawal of Conservative support from Lloyd George; he subsequently became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Bonar Law's Conservative ministry. Upon Law's resignation for health reasons in May 1923, Baldwin became prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party. He called an election in December 1923 on the issue of tariffs and lost the Conservatives' parliamentary majority, after which Ramsay MacDonald formed a minority Labour government.

After winning the 1924 general election, Baldwin formed his second government, which saw important tenures of office by Sir Austen Chamberlain (Foreign Secretary), Winston Churchill (at the Exchequer) and Neville Chamberlain (Health). The latter two ministers strengthened Conservative appeal by reforms in areas formerly associated with the Liberal Party. They included industrial conciliation, unemployment insurance, a more extensive old-age pension system, slum clearance, more private housing and expansion of maternal care and childcare. However, continuing sluggish economic growth and declines in mining and heavy industry weakened Baldwin's base of support. His government also saw the General Strike in 1926 and introduced the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 to curb the powers of trade unions.

Baldwin narrowly lost the 1929 general election and his continued leadership of the party was subject to extensive criticism by press barons Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook. In 1931, with the onset of the Great Depression, Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald formed a National Government, most of whose ministers were Conservatives, and which won an enormous majority at the 1931 general election. As Lord President of the Council and one of four Conservatives among the small ten-member Cabinet, Baldwin took over many of the Prime Minister's duties when MacDonald's health deteriorated. This government saw an Act delivering increased self-government for India, a measure opposed by Churchill and by many rank-and-file Conservatives. The Statute of Westminster 1931 gave Dominion status to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, while taking the first step towards the Commonwealth of Nations. As party leader, Baldwin made many striking innovations, such as clever use of radio and film, that made him highly visible to the public and strengthened Conservative appeal.

In 1935, Baldwin replaced MacDonald as prime minister and won the 1935 general election with another large majority. During this time, he oversaw the beginning of British rearmament and the abdication of King Edward VIII. Baldwin's third government saw a number of crises in foreign affairs, including the public uproar over the Hoare–Laval Pact, the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Baldwin retired in 1937 and was succeeded by Neville Chamberlain. At that time, Baldwin was regarded as a popular and successful prime minister, but for the final decade of his life and for many years afterwards he was vilified for having presided over high unemployment in the 1930s and as one of the "Guilty Men" who had tried to appease Adolf Hitler and who had supposedly not rearmed sufficiently to prepare for the Second World War. Today, modern scholars generally rank him in the upper half of British prime ministers.

Early life: family, education and marriage

Baldwin was born at Lower Park House (Lower Park, Bewdley) in Worcestershire, England, to Alfred and Louisa (MacDonald) Baldwin, and through his mother was a first cousin of the writer and poet Rudyard Kipling, with whom he was close for their entire lives. A summer spent with Kipling and his sister with the freedom of farm and forest at Loughton in 1877 was seminal in the development of both boys.

The family was prosperous, and owned the eponymous iron and steel making business that in later years became part of Richard Thomas and Baldwins.

Baldwin's schools were St Michael's School, at the time located in Slough, Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire), followed by Harrow School. Baldwin then went on to the University of Cambridge, where he studied history at Trinity College. He was asked to resign from the Magpie & Stump (the Trinity College debating society) for never speaking, and, after receiving a third-class degree in history, he went into the family business of iron manufacturing. His father sent him to Mason College for one session of technical training in metallurgy as preparation. As a young man he served briefly as a second lieutenant in the Artillery Volunteers at Malvern, and in 1897 became a JP for the county of Worcestershire.

Baldwin married Lucy Ridsdale on 12 September 1892. Following the birth of a still-born son in January 1894, the couple had six surviving children:

  • Lady Diana Lucy Baldwin (born 8 April 1895, died 1982)
  • Lady Leonora Stanley Baldwin (born 10 July 1896, died 1989)
  • Lady Pamela Margaret Baldwin (born 16 September 1897, died 14 August 1976)
  • Major Oliver Ridsdale Baldwin, 2nd Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (born 1 March 1899, died 10 August 1958)
  • Lady Esther Louisa (Betty) Baldwin (born 16 March 1902, died 1981)
  • Arthur Windham Baldwin, 3rd Earl Baldwin of Bewdley (born 22 March 1904, died 5 July 1976)

Baldwin proved to be adept as a businessman, and acquired a reputation as a modernising industrialist. He inherited £200,000, equivalent to £14,972,508 in 2021, and a directorship of the Great Western Railway on the death of his father in 1908.

Early political career

In the 1906 general election he contested Kidderminster but lost amidst the Conservative landslide defeat after the party split on the issue of free trade. In a by-election in 1908 he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Bewdley, in which role he succeeded his father, who had died earlier that year. During the First World War he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to the party leader Bonar Law. In 1917 he was appointed to the junior ministerial post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, where he sought to encourage voluntary donations by the rich to repay the United Kingdom's war debt, writing letters to The Times under the pseudonym 'FST', many of which were published. He relinquished to the Treasury one fifth of his own fortune (its total estimated at own account as £580,000) held in the form of War Loan stock worth £120,000.

Joins Cabinet

Astley, Worcs, Astley Hall 2 back
Astley Hall near Stourport On Severn, Baldwin's home between 1902 and 1947

Although he entered politics at a relatively late age, his rise to the top leadership was very rapid. In the Treasury he served jointly with Sir Hardman Lever, who had been appointed in 1916, but after 1919 Baldwin carried out the duties largely alone. He was appointed to the Privy Council in the 1920 Birthday Honours. In 1921 he was promoted to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

In late 1922 dissatisfaction was steadily growing within the Conservative Party over its coalition with the Liberal David Lloyd George. At a meeting of Conservative MPs at the Carlton Club in October, Baldwin announced that he would no longer support the coalition, and famously condemned Lloyd George for being a "dynamic force" that was bringing destruction across politics. The meeting chose to leave the coalition, against the wishes of most of the party leadership. As a direct result Bonar Law was forced to search for new ministers for a Cabinet which he would lead, and so promoted Baldwin to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the November 1922 general election the Conservatives were returned with a majority in their own right.

Prime minister: first term (1923–1924)

Stanley Baldwin 02
Baldwin, unknown date

In May 1923 Bonar Law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and retired immediately; he died five months later. With many of the party's senior leading figures standing aloof and outside of the government, there were only two candidates to succeed him: Lord Curzon, the foreign secretary, and Baldwin. The choice formally fell to King George V acting on the advice of senior ministers and officials.

It is not entirely clear what factors proved most crucial, but some Conservative politicians felt that Curzon was unsuitable for the role of prime minister because he was a member of the House of Lords. Curzon was strong and experienced in international affairs, but his lack of experience in domestic affairs, his personal character quirks and his huge inherited wealth and many directorships at a time when the Conservative Party was seeking to shed its patrician image were all deemed impediments. Much weight at the time was given to the intervention of Arthur Balfour.

The King turned to Baldwin to become prime minister. Initially Baldwin was also Chancellor of the Exchequer whilst he sought to recruit the former Liberal Chancellor Reginald McKenna to join the government. When this failed he appointed Neville Chamberlain to that position.

The Conservatives now had a clear majority in the House of Commons and could govern for five years before holding a general election, but Baldwin felt bound by Bonar Law's pledge at the previous election that there would be no introduction of tariffs without a further election. Thus Baldwin turned towards a degree of protectionism which would remain a key party message during his lifetime. With the country facing growing unemployment in the wake of free trade imports driving down prices and profits, Baldwin decided to call an early general election in December 1923 to seek a mandate to introduce protectionist tariffs which, he hoped, would drive down unemployment and spur an economic recovery. He expected to unite his party but he divided it, for protectionism proved a divisive issue. The election was inconclusive: the Conservatives had 258 MPs, Labour 191 and the reunited Liberals 159. Whilst the Conservatives retained a plurality in the House of Commons, they had been clearly defeated on the central issue: tariffs. Baldwin remained prime minister until the opening of the new Parliament in January 1924, when his administration was defeated in a vote on its legislative programme set out in the King's Speech. He offered his resignation to George V immediately.

Leader of the Opposition (1924)

Baldwin successfully held on to the party leadership amid some colleagues' calls for his resignation. For the next ten months, an unstable minority Labour government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald held office. On 13 March 1924, the Labour government was defeated for the first time in the Commons, although the Conservatives decided to vote with Labour later that day against the Liberals.

During a debate on the naval estimates the Conservatives opposed Labour but supported them on 18 March in a vote on cutting expenditure on the Singapore military base. Baldwin also cooperated with MacDonald over Irish policy to stop it becoming a party-political issue.

The Labour government was negotiating with the Soviet government over intended commercial treaties – 'the Russian Treaties' – to provide most favoured nation privileges and diplomatic status for the UK trade delegation; and a treaty that would settle the claims of pre-revolutionary British bondholders and holders of confiscated property, after which the British government would guarantee a loan to the Soviet Union. Baldwin decided to vote against the government over the Russian Treaties, which brought the government down on 8 October.

The general election held in October 1924 brought a landslide majority of 223 for the Conservative party, primarily at the expense of an unpopular Liberal Party. Baldwin campaigned on the "impracticability" of socialism, the Campbell Case, the Zinoviev letter (which Baldwin thought was genuine, and the Conservatives leaked to the Daily Mail at a most damaging time to the Labour campaign; the letter is now widely believed to have been a forgery) and the Russian Treaties.

Prime minister: second term (1924–1929)

W. L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada (left) and Baldwin at the Imperial Conference, October 1926

Baldwin's new Cabinet now included many former political associates of Lloyd George: former Coalition Conservatives: Austen Chamberlain (as foreign secretary), Lord Birkenhead (secretary for India) and Arthur Balfour (lord president after 1925), and the former Liberal Winston Churchill as chancellor of the exchequer. Baldwin created the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies, a volunteer body of those opposed to the strike which was intended to complete essential work.

A defining feature of Baldwin's Second term was the 1926 General Strike, Baldwin handled the strike by using powers awarded to him in the Emergency Powers Act of 1920. He deployed the military and volunteers to keep essential services running. The strike ended when it was found to not be protected by the Trade Disputes Act of 1906, leading to the strike being called of on the 12th of May lasting just 9 days. Baldwin's government was widely credited for such an effective response to the strike.[1]

Visit of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) to Rideau Hall, Ottawa August 1927. Front row: left-right: 2nd, W. L. Mackenzie King; 4th, Viscount Willingdon; 5th, the Prince of Wales; 6th, Prince George; 8th, Baldwin

At Baldwin's instigation Lord Weir headed a committee to "review the national problem of electrical energy". It published its report on 14 May 1925 and in it Weir recommended the setting up of a Central Electricity Board, a state monopoly half-financed by the Government and half by local undertakings. Baldwin accepted Weir's recommendations and they became law by the end of 1926.

The Board was a success. By 1939 electrical output was up fourfold and generating costs had fallen. Consumers of electricity rose from three-quarters of a million in 1920 to nine million in 1938, with annual growth of 700,000 to 800,000 a year (the fastest rate of growth in the world).

One of his legislative reforms was a paradigm shift in his party. This was the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act of 1925, which provided a pension of 10 shillings a week for widows with extra for children, and 10 shillings a week for insured workers and their wives at 65. This transformed Toryism, away from its historic reliance on community (particularly religious) charities, and towards acceptance of a humanitarian welfare state which would guarantee a minimum living standard for those unable to work or who took out national insurance. In 1927, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Leader of the Opposition (1929–1931)

In 1929 Labour returned to office as the largest party in the House of Commons (although without an overall majority) despite obtaining fewer votes than the Conservatives. In opposition, Baldwin was almost ousted as party leader by the press barons Lords Rothermere and Beaverbrook.

Ramsden argues that Baldwin made dramatic permanent improvements to the organisation and effectiveness of the Conservative Party. He enlarged the headquarters with professionals, professionalised the party agents, raised ample funds, and was an innovative user of the new mass media of radio and film.

Lord President of the Council (1931–1935)

By 1931, as the economy headed towards crisis, both in Britain and around the world, with the onset of the Great Depression, Baldwin and the Conservatives entered into a coalition with Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. This decision led to MacDonald's expulsion from his own party, and Baldwin, as Lord President of the Council, became de facto prime minister, deputising for the increasingly senile MacDonald, until he once again officially became prime minister in 1935.

One central and vitally important agreement was the Statute of Westminster 1931, which conferred full self-government upon the Dominions Canada, South Africa, Australia, The Irish Free State and New Zealand, while preparing the first steps towards the eventual Commonwealth of Nations, and away from the designation 'British Empire'. In 1930, the first British Empire Games sports competition was held successfully among Empire nations in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

His government then secured with great difficulty the passage of the landmark Government of India Act 1935, in the teeth of opposition from Winston Churchill, spokesman for the die-hard imperialists who filled the Conservative ranks.


Baldwin did not advocate total disarmament but believed that, as Lord Grey of Falloden had stated in 1925, "great armaments lead inevitably to war". However he came to believe that, as he put it on 10 November 1932: "the time has now come to an end when Great Britain can proceed with unilateral disarmament".

This speech was often used against Baldwin as allegedly demonstrating the futility of rearmament or disarmament, depending on the critic.

With the second part of the Disarmament Conference starting in January 1933, Baldwin attempted to see through his hope of air disarmament. However he became alarmed at Britain's lack of defence against air raids and German rearmament, saying it "would be a terrible thing, in fact, the beginning of the end". In April 1933 the Cabinet agreed to follow through with the construction of the Singapore military base.

On 15 September 1933 the German delegate at the Disarmament Conference refused to return to the Conference and Germany left altogether in October.

On 14 October Germany left the League of Nations. The Cabinet decided on 23 October that Britain should still attempt to cooperate with other states, including Germany, in international disarmament. However between mid-September 1933 and the beginning of 1934 Baldwin's mind changed from hoping for disarmament to favouring rearmament, including parity in aircraft. In late 1933 and early 1934 he rejected an invitation from Hitler to meet him, believing that visits to foreign capitals were the job of Foreign Secretaries.

On 29 March 1934 Germany published its defence estimates, which showed a total increase of one-third and an increase of 250% in its air force.

A series of by-elections in late 1933 and early 1934 with massive swings against government candidates—most famous was Fulham East with a 26.5% swing— convinced Baldwin that the British public was profoundly pacifist. Baldwin also rejected the "belligerent" views of those like Churchill and Robert Vansittart because he believed that the Nazis were rational men who would appreciate the logic of mutual and equal deterrence.

Prime minister: third term (1935–1937)

With MacDonald's health in decline, he and Baldwin changed places in June 1935: Baldwin was now prime minister, MacDonald Lord President of the council. In October that year, Baldwin called a general election. Neville Chamberlain advised Baldwin to make rearmament the leading issue in the election campaign against Labour and said that if a rearmament programme was not announced until after the election, his government would be seen as having deceived the people. However, Baldwin did not make rearmament the central issue in the election. He said that he would support the League of Nations, modernise Britain's defences and remedy deficiencies, but he also said: "I give you my word that there will be no great armaments". The main issues in the election were housing, unemployment and the special areas of economic depression. The election gave 430 seats to National Government supporters (386 of these Conservative) and 154 seats to Labour.


Baldwin's younger son A. Windham Baldwin, writing in 1955, argued that his father, Stanley, had planned a rearmament programme as early as 1934 but had to do so quietly to avoid antagonising the public, whose pacifism was revealed by the Peace Ballot of 1934–35 and endorsed by both the Labour and the Liberal oppositions. His thorough presentation of the case for rearmament in 1935, his son argued, defeated pacifism and secured a victory that allowed rearmament to move ahead.

On 31 July 1934, the Cabinet approved a report that called for expansion of the Royal Air Force to the 1923 standard by creating 40 new squadrons over the next five years. On 26 November 1934, six days after receiving the news that the German air force would be as large as the RAF within one year, the Cabinet decided to speed up air rearmament from four years to two. On 28 November 1934, Churchill moved an amendment to the vote of thanks for the King's Speech: "the strength of our national defences, and especially our air defences, is no longer adequate". His motion was known eight days before it was moved, and a special Cabinet meeting decided how to deal with the motion, which dominated two other Cabinet meetings. Churchill said Germany was rearming and requested that the money spent on air armaments be doubled or tripled to deter an attack and that the Luftwaffe was nearing equality with the RAF. Baldwin responded by denying that the Luftwaffe was approaching equality and said it was "not 50 per cent" of the RAF. He added that by the end of 1935 the RAF would still have "a margin of nearly 50 per cent" in Europe. After Baldwin said that the government would ensure the RAF had parity with the future German air force, Churchill withdrew his amendment. In April 1935, the Air Secretary reported that although Britain's strength in the air would be ahead of Germany's for at least three years, air rearmament needed to be increased; so the Cabinet agreed to the creation of an extra 39 squadrons for home defence by 1937. However, on 8 May 1935, the Cabinet heard that it was estimated that the RAF was inferior to the Luftwaffe by 370 aircraft and that to reach parity, the RAF must have 3,800 aircraft by April 1937, an extra 1,400 above the existing air programme. It was learnt that Germany was easily able to outbuild that revised programme as well. On 21 May 1935, the Cabinet agreed to expanding the home defence force of the RAF to 1,512 aircraft (840 bombers and 420 fighters). On 22 May 1935 Baldwin confessed in the Commons, "I was wrong in my estimate of the future. There I was completely wrong."

On 25 February 1936, the Cabinet approved a report calling for expansion of the Royal Navy and the re-equipment of the British Army (though not its expansion), along with the creation of "shadow factories" built by public money and managed by industrial companies. The factories came into operation in 1937. In February 1937, the Chiefs of Staff reported that by May 1937, the Luftwaffe would have 800 bombers, compared to the RAF's 48.

The Labour Party strongly opposed the rearmament programme. Clement Attlee said on 21 December 1933: "For our part, we are unalterably opposed to anything in the nature of rearmament". On 8 March 1934, Attlee said, after Baldwin defended the Air Estimates, "we on our side are out for total disarmament". On 30 July 1934, Labour moved a motion of censure against the government because of its planned expansion of the RAF. Attlee spoke for it: "We deny the need for increased air arms...and we reject altogether the claim of parity". Sir Stafford Cripps also said on that occasion that it was fallacy that Britain could achieve security through increasing air armaments. On 22 May 1935, the day after Hitler had made a speech claiming that German rearmament offered no threat to peace, Attlee asserted that Hitler's speech gave "a chance to call a halt in the armaments race". Attlee also denounced the Defence White Paper of 1937: "I do not believe the Government are going to get any safety through these armaments".

Abdication of Edward VIII

The accession of King Edward VIII, and the ensuing abdication crisis, brought Baldwin's last major test in office. The new monarch was "an ardent exponent of the cause of Anglo-German understanding" and had "strong views on his right to intervene in affairs of state," but the "Government's main fears... were of indiscretion." The King proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, an American woman who was twice divorced.

Mrs. Simpson was also distrusted by the government for her known pro-German sympathies and was believed to be in "close contact with German monarchist circles".

During October and November 1936, Baldwin joined the royal family in trying to dissuade the King from that marriage, arguing that the idea of having a twice-divorced woman as the Queen would be rejected by the government, by the country and by the Empire and that "the voice of the people must be heard." As the public standing of the King would be gravely compromised, the Prime Minister gave him time to reconsider the notion of this marriage. According to the historian Philip Williamson, "The offence lay in the implications of [the King's] attachment to Mrs. Simpson for the broader public morality and the constitutional integrity which were now perceived—especially by Baldwin—as underpinning the nation's unity and strength."

News of the affair was broken in the newspapers on 2 December. There was some support for the wishes of the King, especially in and around London. The romantic royalists Churchill, Mosley, and the press barons, Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express and Lord Rothermere of the Daily Mail, all declared that the king had a right to marry whichever woman he wished. The crisis assumed a political dimension when Beaverbrook and Churchill tried to rally support for the marriage in Parliament. However, the King's party could muster only 40 Members of Parliament in support, and the majority opinion sided with Baldwin and his Conservative government. The Labour leader, Clement Attlee, told Baldwin "that while Labour people had no objection to an American becoming Queen, [he] was certain they would not approve of Mrs. Simpson for that position", especially in the provinces and in the Commonwealth countries. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, held that the King, as the head of the Church of England, should not marry a divorcée. The Times argued that the monarchy's prestige would be destroyed if "private inclination were to come into open conflict with public duty and be allowed to prevail".

While some recent critics have complained that "Baldwin refused the reasonable request for time to reflect, preferring to keep the pressure on the King – once again suggesting that his own agenda was to force the crisis to a head" and that he "never mentioned that the alternative [to the marriage] was abdication", the House of Commons immediately and overwhelmingly came out against the marriage. The Labour and Liberal parties, the Trades Union Congress, and the dominions of Australia and Canada, all joined the British cabinet in rejecting the King's compromise, initially supported and perhaps conceived by Churchill, for a morganatic marriage that had originally been made on 16 November. The crisis threatened the unity of the British Empire, since the King's personal relationship with the Dominions was their "only remaining constitutional link".

Baldwin still hoped that the King would choose the throne over Mrs. Simpson. For the King to act against the wishes of the cabinet would have precipitated a constitutional crisis. Baldwin would have had to resign, and no other party leader would have served as the prime minister under the King, with the Labour Party having already indicated that it would not form a ministry to uphold impropriety. Baldwin told the Cabinet, one Labour MP had asked, "Are we going to have a fascist monarchy?" When the Cabinet refused the morganatic marriage, Edward decided to abdicate.

The King's final plea, on 4 December, to broadcast an appeal to the nation was rejected by the Prime Minister as too divisive. Nevertheless, at his final audience with King Edward on 7 December, Baldwin offered to strive all night with the King's conscience, but he found Edward to be determined to go. Baldwin announced the King's abdication in the Commons on 10 December.

After the speech, the House adjourned and Nicolson bumped into Baldwin as he was leaving, who asked him what he thought of the speech. Nicolson said it was superb to which Baldwin replied: "Yes ... it was a success. I know it. It was almost wholly unprepared. I had a success, my dear Nicolson, at the moment I most needed it. Now is the time to go".

The King abdicated on 11 December and was succeeded by his brother, George VI. Edward VIII was assigned the title of the Duke of Windsor by his brother and then married Mrs. Simpson in France in June 1937 after her divorce from Ernest Simpson had become final.

Baldwin had defused a political crisis by turning it into a constitutional question. His discreet resolution met with general approval and restored his popularity. He was praised on all sides for his tact and patience and was not in the least put out by the protestors' cries of "God save the King—from Baldwin!" "Flog Baldwin! Flog him!! We—want—Edward."


Stanley Baldwin, wife and daughter LCCN2014715581
Baldwin photographed by the American press on board a ship, with his wife and daughter

Leaving office and peerage

After the coronation of George VI, Baldwin announced on 27 May 1937 that he would resign the premiership the next day. His last act as prime minister was to raise the salaries of MPs from £400 a year to £600 and to give the leader of the Opposition a salary. That was the first rise in MPs' wages since their introduction in 1911, and it particularly benefited Labour MPs. In a BBC radio broadcast transmitted on 8 December 1938, Baldwin made a nationwide appeal for funds to help Jewish and other refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany. The “Lord Baldwin Fund for Refugees”, helping the kindertransport and other relief schemes, raised over £500,000 [£36,000,000 in 2022]

Attitude to appeasement

Baldwin supported the Munich Agreement and said to Chamberlain on 26 September 1938: "If you can secure peace, you may be cursed by a lot of hotheads but my word you will be blessed in Europe and by future generations". Baldwin made a rare speech in the House of Lords on 4 October and said that he could not have gone to Munich but praised Chamberlain's courage. He also said the responsibility of a prime minister was not to commit a country to war until he was sure that it was ready to fight. If there was a 95% chance of war in the future, he would still choose peace. He also said he would put industry on a war footing the next day, as the opposition to such a move had disappeared. Churchill said in a speech: "He says he would mobilise tomorrow. I think it would have been much better if Earl Baldwin had said that two and a half years ago when everyone demanded a Ministry of Supply".

Two weeks after Munich, Baldwin said prophetically in a conversation with Lord Hinchingbrooke: "Can't we turn Hitler East? Napoleon broke himself against the Russians. Hitler might do the same".

Baldwin's years in retirement were quiet. After Chamberlain's death in 1940, Baldwin's perceived part in prewar appeasement made him an unpopular figure during and after World War II. With a succession of British military failures in 1940, Baldwin started to receive critical letters. He did not have a secretary and so was not shielded from the often-unpleasant letters that were sent to him. After a bitterly-critical letter was sent to him by a member of the public, Baldwin wrote: "I can understand his bitterness. He wants a scapegoat and the men provided him with one". His biographers Middlemas and Barnes claim that "the men" almost certainly meant the authors of Guilty Men.

Iron gates criticism

In September 1941, Baldwin's old enemy, Lord Beaverbrook, asked all local authorities to survey their area's iron and steel railings and gates that could be used for the war effort. Owners of such materials could appeal for an exemption on grounds of artistic or historic merit, which would be decided by a panel set up by local authorities. Baldwin applied for exemption for the iron gates of his country home on artistic grounds and his local council sent an architect to assess them. In December, the architect advised for them to be exempt, but in February 1942, the Ministry of Supply overruled that and said all his gates must go except the ones at the main entrance. A newspaper campaign hounded him for not donating the gates to war production.

There were fears that if the gates were not taken by the proper authorities, "others without authority might". Thus, months before any other collections were made, Baldwin's gates were removed except for those at the main entrance. Two of Beaverbrook's friends after the war claimed that it was Beaverbrook's decision despite Churchill saying, "Lay off Baldwin's gates". At Question Time in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Captain Alan Graham said: "Is the honourable Member aware that it is very necessary to leave Lord Baldwin his gates in order to protect him from the just indignation of the mob?"

Comments on politics

During the war, Churchill consulted him only once, in February 1943, on the advisability of his speaking out strongly against the continued neutrality of Éamon de Valera's Ireland. Baldwin saw the draft of Churchill's speech and advised against it, which Churchill followed. A few months after this visit to Churchill, Baldwin told Harold Nicolson, "I went into Downing Street.... a happy man. Of course it was partly because an old buffer like me enjoys feeling that he is still not quite out of things. But it was also pure patriotic joy that my country at such a time should have found such a leader. The furnace of the war has smeltered out all base metals from him". To D. H. Barber, Baldwin wrote of Churchill: "You can take it from me he is a really big man, the War has brought out the best that was in him. His head isn't turned the least little bit by the great position he occupies in the eyes of the world. I pray he is spared to see us through".

In December 1944, strongly advised by friends, Baldwin decided to respond to criticisms of him through a biographer. He asked G. M. Young, who accepted and asked Churchill to grant permission to Young to see Cabinet papers.

Last years and death

Worcester Cathedral Baldwin of Bewdley grave
Worcester Cathedral, grave of the 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley and his wife Lucy, née Ridsdale

In June 1945, Baldwin's wife, Lucy, died. Baldwin himself now suffered from arthritis and needed a cane to walk. When he made his final public appearance in London in October 1947 at the unveiling of a statue of George V, a crowd of people recognised and cheered him, but he had become deaf and so asked: "Are they booing me?" Having been made Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1930, he continued in that capacity until his death in his sleep at Astley Hall, near Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, on 14 December 1947. He was cremated in Birmingham, and his ashes were buried in Worcester Cathedral. No cause of death was revealed.

Baldwin was a member of the Oddfellows and Foresters Friendly Society.


Astley, Worcs, Baldwin memorial 1
Memorial to the 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley near his home, Astley Hall

Upon his retirement in 1937, he had received a great deal of praise, but the onset of World War II would change his public image for the worse. Baldwin, Chamberlain and MacDonald were held responsible for Great Britain's military unpreparedness on the eve of war in 1939. Peter Howard, writing in the Sunday Express (3 September 1939), accused Baldwin of deceiving the country of the dangers that faced it in order not to rearm and so win the 1935 general election. During the ill-fated Battle of France in May 1940, Lloyd George in conversation with Churchill and General Ironside railed against Baldwin.

In July 1940, a bestseller Guilty Men appeared, which blamed Baldwin for failing to rearm enough. In May 1941, Hamilton Fyfe wrote an article ("Leadership and Democracy") for Nineteenth Century and After, which also laid those charges against Baldwin.

Churchill firmly believed that Baldwin's conciliatory stance toward Hitler gave the impression that in the case of an attack by the German dictator, Britain would not fight. Churchill was known for his magnanimity toward political rivals such as Chamberlain but had none to spare for Baldwin. "I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill," Churchill said in declining to send him 80th birthday greetings in 1947, "but it would have been much better had he never lived." Churchill also believed that Baldwin, rather than Chamberlain, would be most blamed by subsequent generations for the policies that led to "the most unnecessary war in history". An index entry in the first volume of Churchill's "History of the Second World War" (The Gathering Storm) records Baldwin "admitting to putting party before country" for his alleged admission that he would not have won the 1935 election if he had pursued a more aggressive policy of rearmament. Churchill selectively quoted a speech in the Commons by Baldwin that gave the false impression that Baldwin was speaking of the general election, instead of the Fulham by-election in 1933, and omitted Baldwin's actual comments about the 1935 election: "We got from the country, a mandate for doing a thing [a substantial rearmament programme] that no one, twelve months before, would have believed possible". In his speech on Baldwin's death, Churchill paid him a double-edged yet respectful tribute: "He was the most formidable politician I ever encountered in public life".

In 1948, Reginald Bassett published an essay disputing the claim that Baldwin "confessed" to putting party before country and claimed that Baldwin was referring to 1933 and 1934 when a general election on rearmament would have been lost.

In 1952, G. M. Young published an authorised biography of Baldwin that asserted that Baldwin united the nation and helped moderate the policies of the Labour Party. However, Young accepted the chief criticisms of Baldwin that he failed to rearm early enough and that he put party before country. Young contends that Baldwin should have retired in 1935. Churchill and Beaverbrook deemed several passages in the biography to be defamatory of their own actions and threatened to sue if they were not removed or altered. A settlement was reached to remove the offending sentences, and the publisher Rupert Hart-Davis had the "hideously expensive" job of removing and replacing seven leaves from 7,580 copies.

In response to Young's biography, D. C. Somervell published Stanley Baldwin: An examination of some features of Mr. G. M. Young's biography in 1953 with a foreword by Ernest Brown. This attempted to defend Baldwin against the charges made by Young. Both Young and Somervell were criticised by C. L. Mowat in 1955, who claimed that they both failed to rehabilitate Baldwin's reputation.

In 1956, Baldwin's son A. W. Baldwin published a biography entitled My Father: The True Story. It has been written that his son "evidently could not decide whether he was answering the charge of inanition and deceit which grew out of the war, or the radical "dissenters" of the early 1930s who thought the Conservatives were warmongers and denounced them for rearming at all".

In an article written to commemorate the centenary of Baldwin's birth, in The Spectator ("Don't Let's Be Beastly to Baldwin", 14 July 1967), Rab Butler defended Baldwin's moderate policies and claimed that it helped heal social divisions. In 1969 the first major biography of Baldwin appeared, of over 1,000 pages, written by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, both Conservatives who wished to defend Baldwin.

In 1998, historian Andrew Thorpe wrote that apart from the questions of war and peace, Baldwin had a mixed reputation. He was moved by social deprivation but not to the point of legislation and systematically avoided intervention in the economy and social system. He had a ruthless style that included insincerity. His advisors were second rank figures like Davidson and Bridgeman. Thorpe wrote, "Essentially, Baldwin was a much more neurotic and insecure character than his public persona would have suggested", as shown by his nervous breakdown in 1936 that kept him out of action for three months. On the other hand, Thorpe says that Baldwin was a good co-ordinator of his coalition who did not block colleagues who proposed various small reforms.

Thorpe argued that Baldwin's handling of the 1926 general strike was "firm and uncompromising" but disliked the harsh Trade Disputes Act that followed because it was too far to the right of Baldwin's preferred moderation. Thorpe praised Baldwin's handling of the Abdication Crisis in 1936, which allowed Baldwin to leave office in a blaze of glory. Thorpe said that Baldwin often lacked drive and was too easily depressed, too pessimistic and too neglectful of foreign affairs. On the other hand, he achieved his primary goals of preserving capitalism, maintaining the parliamentary system and strengthening the Conservative Party as a leading opponent of socialism.

In 1999, Philip Williamson published a collection of essays on Baldwin that attempted to explain his beliefs and defended his policies as prime minister. Baldwin's defenders argued that with pacifist appeasement the dominant political view in Britain, France and the United States, he felt he could not start a programme of rearmament without a national consensus on the matter. Williamson argued that Baldwin had helped create "a moral basis for rearmament in the mid 1930s" that contributed greatly to "the national spirit of defiance after Munich".

Williamson admitted that there was a clear postwar consensus that repudiated and denigrated all interwar governments: Baldwin was targeted with the accusation that he had failed to rearm Britain in the 1930s, despite Hitler's threat. Williamson said that the negative reputation was chiefly the product of partisan politics, the bandwagon of praise for Churchill, selective recollections, and the need for scapegoats to blame for Britain's very close call in 1940. Only during the 1960s would political distance and then the opening of government records lead to more balanced historical assessments, but the myth had become so central to larger myths about the 1930s and 1940s that it persists as conventional wisdom about the period.

By 2004, Ball could report, "The pendulum has swung almost completely towards a positive view." Ball noted, "Baldwin is now seen as having done more than most and perhaps as much as was possible in the context, but the fact remains that it was not enough to deter the aggressors or ensure their defeat. Less equivocal was his rediscovery as a moderate and inclusive Conservative for the modern age, part of a 'one nation tradition'."

Governments as prime minister

First government, May 1923 – January 1924


  • August 1923 – Neville Chamberlain took over from Baldwin as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sir William Joynson-Hicks succeeded Chamberlain as Minister of Health. Joynson-Hicks' successor as Financial Secretary to the Treasury was not in the Cabinet.

Second cabinet, November 1924 – June 1929


  • April 1925 – On Curzon's death, Lord Balfour succeeded him as Lord President. Lord Salisbury became the new Leader of the House of Lords, remaining also Lord Privy Seal.
  • June 1925 – The post of Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was created, held by Leo Amery in tandem with Secretary of State for the Colonies.
  • November 1925 – Walter Guinness succeeded E. F. L. Wood as Minister of Agriculture.
  • July 1926 – The post of Secretary of Scotland was upgraded to Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • October 1927 – Lord Cushendun succeeded Lord Cecil of Chelwood as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • March 1928 – Lord Hailsham (former Sir Douglas Hogg) succeeded Lord Cave as Lord Chancellor. Hailsham's successor as Attorney-General was not in the Cabinet.
  • October 1928 – Lord Peel succeeded Lord Birkenhead as Secretary of State for India. Lord Londonderry succeeded Peel as First Commissioner of Public Works

Third cabinet, June 1935 – May 1937


  • November 1935 – Malcolm MacDonald succeeded J. H. Thomas as Dominions Secretary. Thomas succeeded MacDonald as Colonial Secretary. Lord Halifax succeeded Lord Londonderry as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. Duff Cooper succeeded Halifax as Secretary for War. Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister became Viscount Swinton and Bolton Eyres-Monsell became Viscount Monsell, both remaining in the Cabinet.
  • December 1935 Anthony Eden succeeded Sir Samuel Hoare as Foreign Secretary and was not replaced as Minister without Portfolio.
  • March 1936 – Sir Thomas Inskip entered the Cabinet as Minister for the Coordination of Defence. Lord Eustace Percy left the Cabinet.
  • May 1936 – William Ormsby-Gore succeeded J. H. Thomas as Colonial Secretary. Lord Stanhope succeeded Ormsby-Gore as First Commissioner of Works.
  • June 1936 – Sir Samuel Hoare succeeded Lord Monsell as First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • October 1936 – Walter Elliot succeeded Collins as Scottish Secretary. William Morrison succeeded Elliot as Minister of Agriculture. Leslie Hore-Belisha entered the Cabinet as Minister of Transport.


Cultural depictions

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Stanley Baldwin para niños

  • Interwar Britain
  • List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s
National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Distinguished Hispanic diplomats
Bill Richardson
Horacio Rivero Jr
Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón
Edward C. Prado
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