Baldwin Papers: A Conservative Statesman, 1908-1947

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"The significance of Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) is self evident. As Conservative party leader and three times prime minister, he was at the heart of most of the great political debates and national events of interwar Britain." "This edition contains a selection of Baldwin's letters, reports of his conversations, related documents and illustrations, with an extensive commentary. It has two main purposes. The first is to publish important documents on Conservative and ministerial politics, as perceived and practised by their leader. These deal with major issues and episodes from the destruction of the Lloyd George Coalition to the Abdication, and relationships among leading politicians and other public figures, notably Churchill, the Chamberlains, press controllers and three kings. Less explicit but of equal importance is considerable evidence on the environments, routines, courtesies and culture of high political society." The second purpose of this edition is to provide a documentary account of Baldwin himself, revealing in his own words his circumstances, personality, beliefs, friendships and enmities. These sources on national politics and the prime minister will make this edition indispensable for studies of public life in interwar Britain.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review of the hardback: 'Tom Jones, one of Baldwin's closest confidants, once told Vincent Massey that Baldwin had 'goodwill' but was hobbled by 'indecision and mental indolence'. These papers do not entirely acquit Baldwin of such charges but they show a man of generosity, decency and total integrity.' The Spectator

Review of the hardback: '... magnificent volume ... this collection of letters, memos, notes and extracts from others do give a rounded picture of a thoroughly decent man - perhaps the most quintessentially English prime minister of the last century or more.' The House Magazine

Review of the hardback: '... a fascinating collection of papers - put together with scholarship and presented in a most attractive format ...' The House Magazine

Review of the hardback: '... an invaluable tool ... an interesting read ... gives a valuable insight into the Conservative perspective of events during the 1920s and 30s.' Open History

Review of the hardback: 'This enjoyable selection well shows why Baldwin, as Churchill admitted in 1935, enjoyed 'a fund of personal goodwill and public confidence'. Cambridge University Press has done a great service to the memory of a much maligned figure'. Contemporary Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521580809
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2004
  • Pages: 548
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

PHILIP WILLIAMSON is Professor of History, University of Durham.

EDWARD BALDWIN, 4th Earl Baldwin of Bewley, is the prime minister's grandson. After a career in education, he has sat in the House of Lords since 1988, speaking on educational, medical and environmental matters.

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Read an Excerpt

Cambridge University Press
0521580803 - Baldwin Papers - A Conservative Statesman 1908-1947 - Edited by Philip Williamson and Edward Baldwin


As Conservative party leader from 1923 to 1937 and three times Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin was one of the pre-eminent public figures of interwar Britain. This volume of his selected letters, records of his private statements, and related documents and illustrations has two purposes. It makes important evidence on political leadership and national events readily available. It also provides a documentary life and portrait of an intriguing, much-liked, but controversial statesman.

For much of his career Baldwin was unusually well respected - personally admired even by opponents of his party, and credited with a larger command over the House of Commons and public feelings and with a wider electoral appeal than any other contemporary politician. Nevertheless on occasion he suffered harsh criticism, facing rebellions within his own party as well as attacks from Labour and Liberal opponents. After the outbreak of the Second World War his reputation collapsed, under accusations that he had 'failed to rearm' the nation against the threat from Nazi Germany. In the early 1950s his first historical biographer attributed his supposed political shortcomings to deficiencies in his character and personal life.

In understanding Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, much turns on how Baldwin and his place in public life are assessed - interpretations not only of party politics and government but more broadly of public values, revealed most dramatically during the Abdication crisis. A difficulty in making such assessments has been that Baldwin published no memoirs, kept no diary and, compared to some other leading politicians, wrote few political letters or memoranda. Although he bequeathed a large collection of political papers to the University of Cambridge, these consist overwhelmingly of material he received, the letters and memoranda sent to him by ministerial colleagues, politicians, officials, diplomats and members of the public. While these papers are certainly important for historians, they reveal little directly about Baldwin himself.1 Biographers and historians have achieved much by exploiting other sources. A 1955 biography by his second son, Windham Baldwin, used family papers and Baldwin's speeches to defend his character and record on rearmament. The 1969 political biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes - an essential reference work - and numerous later party and policy histories found substantial evidence about him in government records and in the papers of ministerial colleagues and officials. It has also been argued that the special qualities of Baldwin's leadership mean that his public speeches, addresses and broadcasts should be regarded as the primary evidence about his political purposes and impact.2

Even so, the private sources for Baldwin are more extensive and richer than is generally appreciated, and searches by the present editors in a large number of archives and private collections have added further documents to those available to his biographers. This edition prints almost all Baldwin's surviving political letters and memoranda, material of public importance from his family papers, and the more significant or characteristic of his many personal letters. These are supplemented by records of his private conversations and statements in Cabinet. A number of documents already printed but scattered in various books and journals have been gathered but, with just a few exceptions, items published in other editions of interwar diaries and letters are not reprinted.

Although the assembled material is diverse, this has the strength of showing Baldwin in different capacities and contexts, and in discussion with individuals other than the familiar diarists of the period. The result is a collection of sources which provides considerable evidence on interwar public life and a fuller understanding of Baldwin's personality and politics, to be set alongside - and perhaps, in some cases, to counterbalance - the published papers of Winston Churchill, Austen Chamberlain, Neville Chamberlain, Leo Amery, Thomas Jones and others.

Why did Baldwin commit less of his politics to paper than some other senior politicians? What is the value of the material collected here?

The comparison with other politicians must not be overstated, nor should misleading conclusions be drawn. As will be seen, Baldwin was far from averse to letter-writing as such. Where he differed was in his style of politics, and his purposes in writing. Voluminous and detailed letters on policy, tactics and management exchanged between ministers, party organisers, MPs, officials, and media controllers have become the staple evidence for historical studies of political leadership, to such an extent that they may appear to have been the primary medium for political business and to provide a measure of political activity or commitment. Such impressions have not been to the advantage of Baldwin's reputation; the relative scarcity of his political letters seemed to indicate a lack of application.3 Yet Churchill, the Chamberlains, and the other assiduous political letter-writers were the exception, not the norm. In any Cabinet or shadow cabinet a large proportion of its members similarly wrote few political letters, because there was no necessity to do so. Plainly enough, most ministerial and party transactions were conducted by interview and meetings. Baldwin was among those who worked chiefly by word of mouth. In his own description, he was 'in constant conference' and 'at the beck and call of everyone for 14 hours a day'.4 Colleagues learned to accept that the letters and memoranda they sent to him on policy or strategy would normally receive a verbal reply, or be treated as briefs for Cabinet or committee discussions. Alternatively they might sometimes receive a letter drafted by a secretary from brief instructions, because Baldwin made full use of the private office staffs at 10 Downing Street and Conservative Central Office which had been formed under his predecessors precisely in order to assist them with much of their business and correspondence. Certain letters despatched over the Prime Minister's or party leader's signature had for some time been handled entirely by private secretaries, most notably, since Lloyd George's wartime tenure, the traditional letter to the King on each day's proceedings in the House of Commons.5 Such secretarial letters have not been included in this volume.

Moreover, Baldwin deliberately conducted his politics at a different level from that of other ministers and senior party politicians. In the threatening circumstances of the 1920s and 1930s he considered the greatest task of the Conservative leader was that of general strategy, shaping opinions and gathering the widest possible support: hence the importance of his speeches. If the principal aim of the Conservative party was to conserve, there was no special advantage in activity for its own sake. Within government and party, his further task was the work of co-ordination, trouble-shooting, and seeking to restrain the sort of partisan excesses which might repel less committed voters and provoke socialist 'extremism'. He did not regard it as his job to help run departments nor, after his unsuccessful initiative on protection in 1923, to create programmes or policies. These were properly the responsibilities of departmental ministers or shadow cabinet specialists and of collective Cabinet or committee decision, so after his own period as a departmental minister in 1921-3 he felt no inclination to write policy or administrative memoranda and letters. Nor did Baldwin write documents for the record, any more than he considered writing memoirs. He had a detached attitude towards his historical reputation, believing that 'no man can write the truth about himself' and that 'whether our work has been good or not will not appear until long after we have passed away, and no worrying on our part will affect the verdict'.6

All this emphasises the importance of those of Baldwin's political letters and notes that have survived, while indicating something of their character. They tended to be occasional and short, responding to letters in special circumstances or reporting general political news rather than bringing forward new issues, but often giving sharp insights on his perspectives on public affairs and his estimations of his colleagues and opponents. It also explains why much and often the best private evidence about Baldwin is not in his letters, but in his reported conversations.

Here another of his characteristics should be considered, which is also pertinent to his correspondence but is especially important for weighing the value of records written by his interlocutors. On some issues and at certain times Baldwin would take particular colleagues into his confidence. Generally, however, he was very cautious when speaking with his senior colleagues, on occasion to the point of becoming reticent or evasive. This was perhaps their most frequent complaint against him, and contributed to charges that he was indecisive, inert or complacent. It is striking that only after working with Neville Chamberlain for twelve years, and then only because Chamberlain had become his inevitable successor, did Baldwin feel he should speak freely with him. There were several reasons for such restraint. He thought that few of his colleagues shared his deeper views: in 1935 he gave just two, Bridgeman and Halifax, as having talked 'the same language as I do'.7 As leader and manager of powerful and often prickly individuals, having to maintain their co-operation and to reconcile competing opinions and ambitions, he was alert to the risks of provoking unnecessary disagreements and jealousies. As he said in 1924, 'fourteen hours a day seeing people and having to be at your best and guarding every a fearful strain...every smallest word is liable to burst into flame'.8 His trait of sometimes 'closing up like an oyster' might be a reaction variously to aggrieved colleagues, tactical disagreements, unwanted suggestions, inconvenient questions, or unreasonable demands.9 He knew that he could give the impression of being slow-witted, but this was part of his technique for 'making the other fellow talk' and divulge more than they perhaps intended. 'I am a very quick thinker but I do not like people knowing it': he wanted to listen, to learn and to give himself ample time for reflection on the often delicate issues.10

Consequently the most revealing of Baldwin's reported conversations - many printed in this edition - were often with trusted individuals other than his close official colleagues, because it was with those making no claims of departmental, sectional or personal interest that he felt most able to be open and forthcoming. These included King George Ⅴ and the private secretaries at Buckingham Palace; a fellow Commonwealth Prime Minister, Mackenzie King of Canada, and the Swedish ambassador, who prompted him to extended comments on his career and beliefs.11 Some individuals he valued because they could offer informed but (relatively) disinterested opinions, on anything from high policy to Cabinet appointments. This was true of Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, but especially of Tom Jones, assistant Cabinet secretary until 1930 and a friend, confidant and speech-writer. In four published volumes of diaries and letters Jones comes nearest to being Baldwin's Boswell; valuable material which Jones omitted from his volume for the years after 1930 is printed here. In a different category are records of occasions when Baldwin thought candour would be effective in disarming deputations of critics, as over rearmament in July 1936,12 or discontented individuals, as with Austen Chamberlain in May 1923 and December 1935 - two striking examples of how frankness could be counter-productive.13 Like other political leaders he also found it easy to confide in sympathetic women who lacked complicating political concerns, even when, as in the case of Kathleen Hilton Young, they were married to a member of another party. In such reported conversations Baldwin made observations about issues and personalities which have considerable historical interest, and in these too the real personal and political character of the man becomes apparent. The unbuttoned Baldwin was sometimes solemn and reflective, but often vivid, frank, mordant and funny.

Although those who confine their researches to political and government papers alone may conclude that Baldwin 'was always reluctant to put pen to paper', he was actually a prolific letter-writer with a very large and varied range of correspondents, probably broader than that of any contemporary politician except Churchill.14 Although most of these letters were personal or social they often contain striking or moving phrases, and even apparently trivial notes were valued and kept by their recipients. One Cabinet minister hoped that 'someone would edit a volume of [his] private letters' because they 'would reveal a wise, sympathetic, humorous and subtle man'.15

Many of the Baldwin letters that survive in the papers of politicians and others associated with political life are, by strict definition, personal. Although they might contain a political comment or two, they were prompted by other purposes. These might, for example, be encouragement: 'My dear Anthony,/ Just a line to express my delight./ You are doing admirably./ Yours always S.B.'16 Or they might be arrangements for a public or social engagement, advice on some private matter, or to mark birthdays, congratulation, illness, or condolence. Or they might be thanks, for letters, information, gifts, acts of kindness, or a weekend visit, like this to an MP and political hostess: 'My dear,/ Bless you and thank you for a most happy little visit./ No worst fears materialized and one's best hopes realized./ Our love and grateful thanks,/ Your affectionate/ S.B.'17 Yet however mundane the purpose, such attentions from the Prime Minister or party leader carried special weight - and Baldwin's letters, though usually brief, had an attractive spontaneity, wit and humanity. 'No one', he wrote, 'writes a letter to be a literary essay: one just likes to hear a friend talk to one naturally and without constraint.'18 The letters were an aspect or extension of what made him so likeable and difficult to cross or, when political differences did arise, impossible to hate. There could be a winning or indiscreet sentence, or a barbed observation on some mutual irritant. He could play up amusingly to his own or his correspondent's traits or ailments. He might evoke shared associations, in his own love of books and the countryside, or else contrasting interests, in his colleagues' love of sport or gardening. He would subordinate public disagreement to private friendship or, with trade unionists and socialists, bridge social or ideological distances by expressions of fellow feeling. In these ways - spreading goodwill, recognising the importance of matters other than the political, applying the light touch to troublesome tensions, ever so gently offering warning - Baldwin lubricated political relationships and assisted his management of the government, the House of Commons, and the party. Such letters were an instrument for what his cousin Rudyard Kipling early recognised as his 'quiet faculty for bossing men and things'.19 In this sense, any sharp distinction between his 'political' and 'personal' correspondence would be misleading, and so a selection of the best of these personal letters is included in this edition.

Even in his more obviously personal and social correspondence there could be a public aspect. 'Writing charming, if brief, epistles to sweeten the existence of his friends and acquaintances' was for Baldwin a form of relaxation from the burdens of office.20 The substance of most of these letters is too historically inconsequential to deserve publication, though a few containing characteristic comments or displaying his manner of addressing public figures outside politics are printed. It is, rather, the range of this correspondence that is significant and deserves reflection. Addressees included novelists, poets, historians, classical scholars, literary critics, teachers, clergymen and free church ministers, artists, musicians, and scientists. Together with his speeches on 'non-political' subjects to a great variety of organisations, these letters attest to his contact with many aspects of national life and to the breadth of admiration he could attract on grounds other than the party-political.21 Another type of correspondence was with friends in 'Society'. Although he sometimes attended Grillions, The Club and other all-male dining clubs where he could meet leading figures from other parties and other professions, he did not much enjoy social dinners, parties and balls (and he took his lunches in the unpolitical seclusion of the Travellers' Club). But he enjoyed visits to country houses - Hatfield, Blair Atholl, Chevening, Longleat, Wynyard - whether as the base for speaking engagements or for relaxation, even though he had no interest in the typical landed pursuits of hunting, riding, shooting or fishing. The flavour of these visits is given in an account of a weekend at an Essex house in July 1935.22 On such occasions, and at small private dinners in London, at his own preferred social meal of breakfast, or less commonly over a weekend at Chequers, he met some of the leading men and women of Conservative and Liberal society. The former provincial manufacturing employer and wealthy City director had friends and acquaintances in numerous ranks and occupations, but it is striking that these also came to include great hostesses such as Lady Desborough, the Countess of Stanhope, and the Marchionesses of Salisbury and Londonderry. The social milieu of interwar Conservative leadership has been little studied, but it is plain that for all the structural shifts in the distribution of political power since the Victorian period, much remained that would have been familiar to the senior politicians of that era.

Two further sets of letters - to his family, and to his chief personal correspondent - require special comment, not least because these contradict the claim that 'a certain discomfort in his nearer relationships' was a key to Baldwin's public career.23 His mother Louisa seems to have kept every letter she received from him, from early childhood onwards. From 1908, after she was widowed and after Baldwin became an MP and moved to London, until her death in 1925, over four hundred letters survive. Many naturally consist of family news, as Baldwin wrote to 'cheer her in her lonely life'; nor was she greatly interested in politics. Even so a good number from the period of the First World War and its aftermath contain important indications of his early political attitudes and moral values. Baldwin himself re-read the letters in 1940-1, and thought that a selection might be published together with other family papers.24 Those which deal most fully with public affairs are printed, while significant sentences or phrases from others are included in the commentaries. Baldwin's letters to his father do not survive, which is almost certainly a serious loss. Alfred Baldwin was a Conservative political organiser and MP as well as a considerable businessman, and their correspondence presumably contained much on public matters. What Alfred's journals and both parents' few surviving letters to Baldwin ('My very dear Stan...Your loving father') do show is their secure pride and love for their only child: 'You have been a joy & a comfort to me all your life, as you were to your dear Father.'25

Nor have Baldwin's letters to his wife Lucy ('Cissie') been preserved.26 Probably few were written, because they were so rarely apart; but there are indications that whenever separated they wrote to each other every day. Windham Baldwin considered the letters that still survived at their deaths to be so private that he burnt them, after transcribing extracts relating to the August 1931 political crisis: these are printed here in full. Lucy Baldwin was a substantial public figure in her own right, involved in the Young Women's Christian Association and other charitable bodies for women, most notably in those concerned to improve maternity care, after having herself suffered difficult pregnancies.27 As vice-chairman from 1928 of the newly established National Birthday Trust Fund, she was an active member of its policy committee, and in 1929 founded the Anaesthetics Fund, which she assisted by speeches, broadcasts and fund-raising. This too developed into a national campaign. One of her supporters and donors built a Lucy Baldwin Maternity Hospital in the Baldwin home town of Stourport-on-Severn, and her lobbying contributed to the 1936 Midwives Act, which created a national midwifery service. Although she and her husband had differing temperaments and interests, and her own political views were so artlessly moralistic as to bemuse the sophisticated, Baldwin plainly relied upon her support and discussed important political matters with her, most clearly when his own career was at stake, in October 1922 and March 1931. She also wrote valuable notes of two major episodes, the fall of the Lloyd George Coalition and the Abdication crisis, which draw on her husband's verbal reports and which are printed here. As her occasional surviving letters to Baldwin also suggest - 'Darling heart...Fondest Love my precious/ Always thine own most loving Cissie' - there is no reason to doubt the closeness and warmth of their marriage.

The Baldwins had six surviving children (their first was stillborn).28 Within a world of servants and boarding schools, and with Lucy taking the leading part in the household, Baldwin seems to have been a loving father but one who in the Edwardian style was not closely involved in his children's lives. It was Lucy who created a small theatre at Astley Hall where for many years the children, with their cousins and neighbours, performed their own reviews and plays. All of them developed strong and free-spirited characters, to the extent that both parents joked that 'having a child is like letting loose a bomb on the world. You never know when it will explode or how, nor why it does.' Of the daughters, only the youngest, Betty, had serious political interests (she spoke on some Conservative platforms in the 1930s), while the second son, Windham, early settled on a business career. With Lucy keeping up the family correspondence once they left home, Baldwin himself only wrote to his children occasionally - typically on birthdays or anniversaries - in letters which hardly ever alluded to public matters. But they were good, and certainly sincere, father's letters. Consider this extract to his third daughter: 'Darling Margot,/ Blessings on the day that brought you into this very odd world, for you do it a lot of good./...Thank you for being my daughter and not somebody else's/ Your own loving/ Father.' Or again 'you are a very dear daughter and there is nothing better on earth'. His correspondence with the young Windham included exchanges of schoolboy jokes, and this from 1922: 'Dearest Little/ It is impossible to believe that you are eighteen to-morrow, but as with other profound truths, I believe it because it is impossible, and this brings much love of the finest quality./ You are one of the happinesses of my life:...blessings on you and seventy or eighty many happy returns!/ Your ever loving Father.'

With his elder son, Baldwin's relations were more difficult. Service in the First World War and traumatic experiences during wars in the Near East disrupted Oliver Baldwin's life and aggravated a rebellious temperament. Shortly after Baldwin became Prime Minister in 1923 Oliver publicly declared himself a socialist and broke with his parents. He spoke on socialist platforms, stood as a Labour candidate at the 1924 general election, and was Labour MP for Dudley in 1929-31. The Baldwins were certainly hurt. Stanley told one of his daughters that he 'nearly died' when he first saw Oliver sitting on the opposite benches to himself in the House of Commons. He, though perhaps not Lucy, almost certainly understood that Oliver was homosexual. Yet contrary to a common assumption, neither parents nor son allowed the difference in politics and lifestyle to cause a permanent breach. Oliver never attacked his father in public and, assisted by tacit agreement to avoid political discussion, good personal relations were restored after a short period, with the parents occasionally travelling from Chequers to visit Oliver and his partner, John Boyle, at their Oxfordshire farmhouse. Boyle was accepted, winning over Lucy with, in effect, the attentions of a dutiful son-in-law. Baldwin came to write to him as 'My dear Johnny', and during the Second World War used government contacts to help him send letters and parcels to Oliver, serving overseas.29 Baldwin's letters to Oliver, the best of which are published here, are among his most humane: tolerant, open-hearted, merry and affectionate.

Baldwin's immediate family did not, however, share all his interests nor exhaust his liking for affectionate companionship and unrestrained, amusing, or even frivolous, conversation. None would accompany him on his strenuous country walks (or in London, brisk walks around the parks before breakfast). In pre-war Worcestershire a neighbour, Phyllis Broome, would join him on these walks ('Dearest Phillippina...your loving Stan'),30 but from 1916 his closest female friend and chief walking companion was Joan ('Mimi') Dickinson, daughter of the Liberal MP Sir Willoughby Dickinson. She was some twenty-five years younger than him, and originally became acquainted with the Baldwins as a friend of one of their daughters. A correspondence began, which lasted to the end of his life and from Baldwin's side eventually ran to many hundreds of letters. These soon became fond: 'Mimi my dear...Much love, S.B.', then 'Dear Maid' or 'Very dear Maid', before settling into 'Little Maid' - an endearment used even after she became a mother and, in the 1940s, a grandmother. Such endearments and repeated references to his love belong to an idiom which might mislead later generations. Although her letters to Baldwin do not survive - he destroyed them all in the 1940s, along with other purely personal correspondence31 - it seems that she herself initially came close to some misunderstanding, prompting a delicate warning:

dear child, don't idealize me. You think far too much of me. Don't. The reaction will only be the stronger when it comes. Friendship between those of different generations may be a beautiful thing - and it may not. We will keep ours on the heights, please God./ Your loving S.B.32

This indicates the nature of the enduring relationship, that of an affection in which Joan was placed as a 'child', a status which sometimes warmed to 'beloved Dream Daughter' or ideal 'daughter-in-law'.33 The friendship was strengthened when in 1919 she married Baldwin's friend, protégé, and later, as MP, junior minister and party chairman, his political lieutenant, John ('David') Davidson. Baldwin now referred to them both as being like 'dearest children, or brother and sister', and as their home was close to the House of Commons it provided him with a further social base. Together they became an extension or adjunct to his family, as close to Lucy as to himself. They usually shared part of the Baldwins' holidays in France, and acted as confidants with whom he could switch easily from serious political discussion to light social conversation. From them he could receive candid opinions, advice and criticism:

Little Maid/I like to tell you, if only once a year, and in case you don't know or forget it, how much your unfailing loving friendship means to me. You and David give me a second home where I can hide from the world: you give up countless mornings to me to make me take exercise that never would be taken without you: you alone tell me things I ought to hear which no one else will tell me: and together you sacrifice a large part of your holiday together to make mine a happier one.34

Baldwin's letters now sometimes went to both of them ('dearest couple'), or began as letters to her and ended as letters to him. He sometimes referred Davidson to matters written in a letter to Joan, or - when she was unexpectedly absent - asked him to open his letters to her. Letters to the wife were plainly available for reading by the husband too. A few of the letters reported political events or his reflections on them, but mostly they were summary reports of social meetings, concerts, recitals, meals and travels. In another strain, they consisted of humorous stories or comments on individuals or newspaper items, or flights of fancy (such as pretended letters from a dog, Towser) - what he himself described as his 'lighter news', 'my gossip', or 'all my nonsense'. The letters to Joan Davidson and many of those to her husband were, in sum, a magnified version of much of his personal correspondence, a relaxation or escape. Aside from political extracts, just a small sample of these (mostly from the earlier years) is included below.

Baldwin was punctilious about the forms of address in his letters. He used several different salutations and valedictions, in order to indicate precisely the relationship he had with, or wished to suggest towards, his correspondent. An individual he gradually came to know, or wanted to draw closer, might pass beyond the formal 'Dear [surname]...Yours sincerely, Stanley Baldwin' to 'My Dear [surname]...Yours ever, S.B.', and then on to the closer 'Dear [forename]...Yours S.B.' - and Baldwin may well have been the first Prime Minister to address all his Cabinet colleagues by their Christian names. Alternatively correspondents might retreat from his regard or seem less desirable as allies, slipping back towards the formal. The variation in his forms of address in letters to Beaverbrook in 1929-31 is particularly telling. He was equally sensitive to such forms in the letters he received. In an indicative comedy of misunderstanding, during a difference over Indian policy an exasperated friend, the Duchess of Atholl, addressed him as 'Mr'. Thinking this marked the beginning of a breach, Baldwin duly replied to 'Dear Duchess', only for her to take umbrage - so he immediately reverted to his usual 'My dear Kitty...Affectionately yours S.B.'35

For this reason, both the salutations and the valedictions of letters are normally included in the texts printed here. Similarly, any classification of the letters - 'Private', 'Confidential' and so on - has been retained. The place from which the letter was written (not always the same as the address on the notepaper) is also given, to indicate something of Baldwin's movements. More broadly, such details draw attention to other subjects and layers in these documents, beyond overt political action and aspects of Baldwin's personality. There is evidence on political courtesies and social conventions; on the personal burdens of disappointing office-seeking friends, or dismissing ministers; on public relationships beyond the political and ministerial; and on the environments and routines of political leadership.

The commentaries and the footnote apparatus are directed towards elucidating the documents rather than providing a consistent narrative of Baldwin's career or comment on every important political episode. Certain supplementary material - including family trees, a history of his papers, a notorious newspaper interview, and a rare account of a Prime Minister's daily routine - is included in appendices. Facsimiles in the text give a few more documents, and illustrations of Baldwin's handwriting and speech notes. The plates have been chosen to supplement the text, notably by showing Baldwin's successive private homes.36

Baldwin's letters and other documents have been selected chiefly from the original papers of many other individuals. All the collections that have been searched are listed in the first section of the Sources. Footnote references are given to the most significant reports of conversations published elsewhere, though it is taken for granted that specialists in the study of interwar politics will refer to other printed editions of political papers: these are listed in the second section of Sources. Space has not permitted frequent citation of the relevant biographical and historical literature, but these works, which have been as invaluable in preparing this edition as they are for all serious study of Baldwin, are listed in the last three sections of the Sources.

© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

1 Businessman-MP and junior minister, 1908-March 1921 16
2 The Coalition Cabinet, April 1921-October 1922 53
3 Chancellor and Prime Minister, October 1922-September 1923 78
4 Protection and its aftermath, October 1923-January 1924 111
5 Leader of the opposition, January-October 1924 140
6 Baldwin's second government, November 1924-June 1929 163
7 The second opposition period, June 1929-August 1931 222
8 The national government, August 1931-June 1935 269
9 Prime Minister again, June 1935-November 1936 333
10 The abdication crisis 387
11 Towards retirement, December 1936-May 1937 426
12 Elder statesman, June 1937-April 1940 443
13 Last years, May 1940-December 1947 471
App. A Family trees 485
App. B The people interview, 18 May 1924 489
App. C Palmstierna's memoir 494
App. D The Prime Minister's staff and daily routine 502
App. E The Baldwin collections 507
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