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Stanley Baldwin

Baldwin, Stanley, 1867–1947, British statesman; cousin of Rudyard Kipling. The son of a Worcestershire ironmaster, he was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and entered the family business. In 1908 he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative. In 1916 he became parliamentary private secretary to Andrew Bonar Law, who made him (1917) joint financial secretary to the treasury. He was made president of the Board of Trade in 1921 but in 1922 played an important role in the decision of the Conservative party to withdraw from David Lloyd George's coalition government. When the Conservatives won the ensuing election, Baldwin became chancellor of the exchequer and in 1923 succeeded Bonar Law as prime minister. His government fell (1924) when he failed to obtain support for a protectionist tariff policy, but he returned to office within the year. Baldwin's second period of office (1924–29) was marked by rising unemployment and by a general strike (1926), following which he secured passage of the Trade Disputes Act (1927) to restrict the power of the labor unions. In 1931, Baldwin became lord president of the council in the National government. Although under the nominal leadership of Ramsay MacDonald, the coalition was dominated by Baldwin, and in 1935 he again became prime minister. Although he won the general election of 1935 on a platform of support for the League of Nations, Baldwin approved the Hoare-Laval pact (see Templewood, Samuel John Hoare, 1st Viscount), which greatly discredited his government. As international relations continued to deteriorate, with the German reoccupation of the Rhineland and the beginning of the Spanish civil war, Britain finally began to rearm. Baldwin steadfastly opposed the proposed marriage of Edward VIII to Wallis Warfield Simpson and secured the king's abdication (1936). He retired in 1937 and shortly thereafter was created Earl Baldwin of Bewdley. Although an able politician, Baldwin has been much criticized for his indolence and particularly for his apparent complacency in the face of the mounting threats to peace in Europe.

See biographies by G. M. Young (1952), A. W. Baldwin (1956), and K. Middlemas and J. Barnes (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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