On this day: Arthur James Balfour

July 25 1848: Politician with a declaration of sympathy


Arthur Balfour was best known for his 'Balfour Declaration' of 1917, a publication which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This was published during his time as Foreign Secretary, during the First World War.

The publication made him hugely popular with Jews all around the world, with the JC at the time calling the declaration a "Jewish triumph".

Born in Scotland, Balfour studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was identified as a young political prodigy while still an undergraduate.

He went on to become an MP and eventually became prime minister in December 1905, succeeding Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

Balfour was known to be a somewhat shy man, yet was criticised for being self-obsessed and vane, with his unique personality often referred to as the "Balfour Manner".

The Balfour Declaration drastically changed the public conception of a Jewish state, with the idea entering mainstream debate in the years after the publication of the declaration.

The original document, a letter sent by Balfour to Baron Rothschild, a close friend, and leader of the British Jewish community, is now stored in the British Museum. Balfour, who died 13 years later, is remembered as being a Zionist and a friend of the Jewish community.

What the JC said: Arthur Balfour's name will ever be specially remembered by the Jews with the affection and gratitude not only for the Declaration, but also for his unceasing interest in the implementation of his Zionist policies. His sincerity of purpose was a constant encouragement and inspiration to all who laboured for its successful development.

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    Last updated: 10:21am, July 25 2011