Edward Frederick Lindley Wood was born in April 1881 at Powderham Castle in Devon, the home of his maternal grandfather, the eleventh earl of Devon. He was the sixth child and fourth son of Charles Lindley Wood but became heir to the family viscountcy. He was born with an atrophied left arm.
He was educated at St David's preparatory school in Reigate, Eton, and Christ Church, Oxford. He took a first-class degree in modern history and was elected to a fellowship at All Souls in 1903, which he held until 1910. In 1904 he undertook a tour of South Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand with his Oxford friend Ludovic Heathcoat Amory. In September 1909 he was married to Lady Dorothy Evelyn Augusta Onslow, daughter of the fourth earl of Onslow.
Wood won the parliamentary seat of Ripon in the general election of January 1910 which he held until 1925. During World War One he served in the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons and was mentioned in dispatches in January 1917. From November 1917 until the end of 1918 he was Deputy Director of the Labour Supply Department in the Ministry of National Service.
In May 1920, he was appointed Governor-General of South Africa, although the offer of the position was subsequently withdrawn. In April 1921 he became Secretary for the Colonies in April 1921. He joined the Cabinet as President of the Board of Education from October 1922. After the short-lived Labour Government of 1924 he was appointed Minister of Agriculture from November 1924.
In March 1926 Wood departed for India to serve as Viceroy and Governor-General. Giving up his seat in the House of Commons he took the title of Baron Irwin of Kirby Underdale.
A conference in December 1929 between Irwin and political leaders in India failed to produce agreement and Gandhi started his campaign of civil disobedience. Irwin was forced to order his arrest. On Gandhi's release in January 1931 the two scheduled eight meetings which culminated in the "Delhi Pact" of March 1931 which ended civil disobedience. Irwin returned home in May 1931 at the end of his five-year appointment, receiving a knighthood of the Garter,
In June 1932 Irwin was re-appointed as President of the Board of Education. In 1933 he succeeded Viscount Grey as Chancellor of the University of Oxford and on the death of his father in January 1934 became Viscount Halifax.
In June 1935 Halifax was appointed to the War Office, before moving in November 1935 to became Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. In May 1937, he was became Lord President of the Council while still leading the Lords.
After the resignation of Anthony Eden Halifax was appointed as Foreign secretary in February 1939. He remained in Chamberlain's, and then Churchill's War Cabinets until his departure in January 1941 to become British ambassador in Washington. He continued as Ambassador until May 1946. In May 1944 he was awarded an earldom.
In later life he served as Chancellor of the University of Sheffield and as Chairman of the General Advisory Council of the BBC. He wrote a volume of memoirs, "Fullness of Days", published in 1957. He died in December 1959.
Microfilm of part of the "Hickleton papers", now in Borthwick Institute, York; papers and printed notes including meetings with Gandhi, Feb-Mar 1931, and time in Washington.
The collection was presented to Churchill College in 1973 by the 2nd Earl of Halifax.
The microfilms are owned by Churchill College, Cambridge.