After being educated at Rugby School he spent seven years managing his father's plantation in the Bahamas.
Chamberlain arrived back in England in 1897 where he went into the copper-brass business. He was active in local politics and in 1915 was elected Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
In the 1918 General Election Chamberlain was elected as the Conservative MP for Ladywood. Promotion was rapid and in 1923 Stanley Baldwin appointed him as Postmaster-General (1923-24) and Minister of Health (1924-29). He also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the National Government headed by Ramsay MacDonald (1931-37). He was an efficient administrator abolishing the Poor Law and reorganizing unemployment assistance.
Chamberlain became Prime Minister when Stanley Baldwin resigned in 1937. The following year he travelled to Germany to meet Hitler in an attempt to avoid war between the two countries. The result of Chamberlain's appeasement policy was the signing of the Munich Agreement. However, after the invasion of Poland, Neville Chamberlain was forced to declare war on Germany.
Considered an uninspiring war leader, members of the Labour Party and Liberal Party refused to serve in his proposed National Government. Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill. He was appointed as Lord President of the Council in Churchill's government but ill health forced him to leave office in October 1940, and he died soon afterwards.