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Arthur James Balfour
1st Earl of Balfour

Balfour began his political career as a member of Parliament in 1874. His was the nephew of Salisbury and in 1886 joined his cabinet as chief secretary for Scotland. In 1887 he became secretary for Ireland. He took a firm stand in opposition to home rule for Ireland and earned the nickname "Bloody Balfour" among Irish nationalists. In 1891 he became First Lord of the Treasury in Salisbury's second ministry and held the same post in his third government when he also became leader in the Commons.

In 1902 Balfour succeeded his uncle as prime minister and during his short time in office passed significant legislation including education and Irish land reform bills. He was responsible for the "entente cordiale," which established cordial relations between the governments of Britain and France (1904), forming a basis for their alliance in World War I. That same year he created the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID) to plan for the Empire's defense and establish budgets for the military and navy.

Balfour's government resigned the following year. Disputes over Joseph Chamberlain's proposals for tariff reform split the party and led to the Conservatives losing the general election (1905) and Balfour losing his seat in Parliament. He retained party leadership until 1911.

Balfour continued to serve in government, joining the Asquith ministry in 1915 as First Lord of the Admiralty. Under David Lloyd George, as foreign secretary (1916-19) he issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, a letter to Lord Rothschild in which he stated the governments support for "the establishment in Palestine of a homeland for the Jewish people". His declaration led to the foundation of Israel in 1948. He was also involved in the negotiations ending World War I and signed the Treaty of Versailles between the allies and Germany, 1919. He was lord president of the council under Lloyd George (1919-22) and again in Baldwin's government (1925-29). He represented Britain in the League of Nations (1920-22).

Balfour is also the author of two books of philosophy, "Defense of Philosophical Doubt" published in 1879 at age 31 and "Theism and Humanism" published in 1914, 35 years later.


1902 - The railway line from Cape Town to Mozambique is completed.
1903 - Maurice Garin wins the first Tour de France cycle race. George Orwell, author of "Animal Farm" and "1984" is born in Bengal.
1904 - Helen Keller graduates from Radcliffe College with honours.
1905 - To break a general strike, Russian troops kill over 6000 in Odessa. Russian sailors mutiny aboard the battleship "Potemkin" in the Black Sea. Japan defeats Russian in the Russo-Japanese War. The Automobile Association was formed in Britain.

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