He had a conventional middle-class upbringing, and after going to Oxford University began a career as a barrister.
He abandoned this to become a social worker in the East End of London, and later joined the Labour Party.
He served in the army in World War One
Attlee rose through the rank and file of the Labour Party which gave him a knowledge of Labour's culture and ethos that others from a similar social background, such as Hugh Dalton and Stafford Cripps, lacked. Attlee became member of parliament for Stepney in 1922 and served as a junior minister in the 1924 and 1929 - 1931 MacDonald governments.
He became party leader in 1935, largely by default as many of his more charismatic rivals had lost their seats in the 1931 election.
His quiet, unassuming personality led many to underestimate him. Plots to replace him were a regular occurrence throughout the next two decades.
Attlee had the self-assurance not to be perturbed by the machinations of Herbert Morrison or Ernest Bevin.
During World War Two, Attlee was a highly successful deputy prime minister in Churchill's coalition government.
Then in 1945, when Labour swept to power in a landslide election victory, his combination of social conscience and staunch patriotism encapsulated Labour's experiment in democratic socialism. This led to the creation of the National Health Service and the nationalisation of coal mining and the steel industry.
Attlee saw his role of premier as that