Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. Arthur Henderson received international notoriety after being awarded the 1934 Nobel Peace Prize. He received this coveted award, according to the Nobel Prize committee, "for his untiring struggle and his courageous efforts as Chairman of the League of Nations Disarmament Conference 1931-34." He received four nominations for the Nobel Prize candidacy, with two being from Richard Lindström a member of the Swedish parliament, who jointly nominated Henderson and Ramsay MacDonald. McDonald did not receive the honor of the Nobel Prize. He and Ramsay were political adversaries. Born the second son of a frequent unemployed cotton worker, Henderson was not even ten years old when his father died, leaving his family to live in poverty. He had to leave school until his mother, who worked as a maid, remarried. At the age of twelve, he returned to school for three years before becoming apprentice at the Robert Stephenson and Sons’ General Foundry Works. At the position of journeyman, he joined the union at the age of 18, advancing in paid positions from local level, to national, and then international level in the union. Although many did not agree with him, he believed that strikes caused more harm than they were worth and tried to avoid them whenever he could. Although he worked long days, he attended night school to receive an education. Beginning his political career, he was elected mayor of Darlington in 1903. The same year, he was sent to the House of Commons as a Labor Party member from Barnard Castle Division, Durham, in what was the first electoral victory of a Laborite over candidates from both the Conservative and Liberal parties. In 1914 representing the majority of the Labor Party, he supported the British effort in World War I, where the party’s parliament leader, Ramsay MacDonald, was the leader in the pacifist minority. He took over the party leadership at that point. He was never a great orator, but he was a great leader. He led his party as chief in the House of Commons in 1914, 1921 to 1923, and 1925 to 1927. In 1908 to 1910 and 1914 to 1917 he was chairman of the Labor Party, and from 1911 to 1934 he held the more demanding office of party secretary. Serving in Prime Minister H. H. Asquith's Cabinet, he became the first president of the Board of Education in 1915, and later in 1916 the paymaster general and governmental adviser on labor matters. Serving Prime Minister David Lloyd George, he became a minister without portfolio in the five-man War Cabinet. After the first Russian revolution of 1917, Lloyd George sent him on a mission to Russia, and upon his return from Russia, he resigned from his cabinet post in August of 1917. This move was done as a result of a disagreement with the prime minister over the question of British representation at the proposed conference of international socialists to be held at Stockholm. Lloyd George did not want Britain involved with the conference. At that point, Henderson redirected his energies to the Labor Party affairs. When the document was written for the Labor Party to openly recognize the Socialist Party, he gave his support. From January to November of 1924, the Labor Party held power for the first time and he served as home secretary under Prime Minister Ramsey MacDonald. In this post Henderson attempted to reduce political tensions in Europe. During the Great Depression, MacDonald attempted to reduce the unemployment benefits offered to the citizens. Most of his cabinet opposed this idea. After most of the prime minister’s cabinet resigned, he resigned as foreign secretary when MacDonald formed a national coalition government in August of 1931. He lost his parliament seat in 1931 but was re-elected in 1932. Between 1932 and 1935 he chaired the Geneva Disarmament Conference. The last important service that he performed was in July of 1933, when he visited Paris, Rome, Prague, which followed by traveling to Germany, visiting Berlin and Munich, where he met Adolf Hitler to promote an armament limitation plan. This is the action that led to his Nobel Peace Prize. After converting to the Wesleyan Methodist Church 1879, he became a lay preacher. It was in the church where he met his wife, Eleanor Watson. He married and the couple had a daughter and three sons. All three of his sons served in the military during World War I. The oldest son, who was killed in action, was buried in France in 1916. In his last decade of life, the remaining two sons joined him in Parliament. Both of his sons were granted the title of Baron after World War II. Sources refer to him as “architect of the Labor party,” "Apostle of Peace,” and members of the Labor Party called him “Uncle Arthur.” He was a Scottish iron worker who presided over international peace conferences. He died suddenly of a heart attack.
Bio by: Linda Davis
The Right Honorable Arthur Henderson P.C.
An Outstanding Leader of the Labour Party
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.