Exeter alumnus Andrew Reekes (1970, Modern History) has published Two Titans, One City: Joseph Chamberlain & George Cadbury. The book, published by West Midlands History, tells the story of two of the most famous and powerful men of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era, Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) and George Cadbury (1839-1922), both of whom shared strong connections to the city of Birmingham. Together, they offer a fascinating window into the rapidly changing world in which they lived and the preoccupations of their generation.
Chamberlain amassed a fortune from engineering before entering politics, serving three terms as mayor of Birmingham, during which time he made Birmingham the global model of good civic governance. His ambitions took him to Westminster where he became the first great middle-class statesman of modern Britain and the leading Radical of the age, but throughout his turbulent career, Birmingham, sometimes referred to as his “Duchy”, remained his political base and his family home. It was in Birmingham, after an incapacitating stroke, that Chamberlain was buried following a funeral where the size of the crowds brought the whole city to a halt.
It was also in Birmingham that Cadbury created his fortune and where his programmes for social improvement caught the attention of the world. Taking control of the confectionery business established by his Quaker family, Cadbury built it into one of the first great global brands. The wealth he created allowed Cadbury to introduce far-sighted benefits for his workers, including the visionary model village of Bournville which was his response to the jerry-built slum housing of his workforce. Meanwhile, on the national stage, Cadbury successfully campaigned to improve the lives of men and women labouring in sweatshops and worked for the introduction of pioneering social reforms, including non-contributory old age pensions. Throughout this time, unlike Chamberlain, he abhorred party politics and his pacifist views brought the two men into conflict during the Anglo-Boer War, which Chamberlain championed. By his death, Cadbury was lauded as one of the leading philanthropists of his age.
These towering figures of their age had much in common, and yet had significant differences that brought them into conflict in the arena of national affairs and in Birmingham, where they were reluctant neighbours. Drawing on archives, correspondence and contemporary accounts, Andrew Reekes reveals the fascinating lives and rivalries of the two men.
You can read more about Two Titans: One City and purchase a copy here.