British statesman and novelist, Benjamin Disraeli was born in London on December 21, 1804. Disraeli received his education at private schools in Blackheath and Walthamstow. Between the ages of 17 and 20 he became a law apprentice at a London office. After suffering heavy financial loss due to reckless speculation in the stock market, he started writing novels, the first of which, Vivien Grey, appeared in 1826 with some success. Other novels include: The Young Duke (1831); Cantarini Fleming (1832); Henrietta Temple (1837); Lothair (3 vols. 1870); and Endymion (3 vol. 1880).
Disraeli started his political career in 1832, running unsuccessfully to the Parliament, once as a Radical and three times as a Tory. In 1837 he finally won a seat in the House of the Commons. In 1852 he became the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Geoffrey Stanley, 14th earl of Derby (1799-1869) and he held the same office in the Derby ministries of 1858-59 and 1866-68. Disraeli became the Prime Minister when Derby retired in 1867, but his opponent, William Gladstone, defeated his government in the following year. He spent six years in opposition to Prime Minister Gladstone and in 1874 he won the election to become Prime Minister. As a Prime Minister his most important achievements came through his participation in international affairs. He was instrumental in buying shares of the Suez Canal and in creating for Queen Victoria the title of empress of India. That same year Queen Victoria created him earl of Beaconsfield in recognition of his services. Perhaps his major achievement in International affairs came in 1878, in the Congress of Berlin, a congress that redrew the boundaries of southeastern Europe after the defeat of Turkey in the war with Russia (1877-78). Through political and military maneuvers, Disraeli prevented Russia from gaining strategic advantages in the Mediterranean. The queen offered to reward him with a dukedom, which he refused. He died in London on April 19, 1881.