Claire Brooks, 1931-2008

Claire Brooks left an indelible impression on just about everyone with whom she was involved. She was warm hearted, spirited, emotional, unwavering in her support of individuals and causes once she had decided they were worthy of her backing and quite impossible to cajole into an effective tactical force. She was a one off, typically […]

Millicent Garrett Fawcett, 1847-1929

Millicent Fawcett, a radical and pioneering feminist, is best known as the leader of the suffragists, the constitutional campaigners for women’s votes. Born in Aldeburgh on 11 June 1847, Millicent Garrett was the eighth of the 11 children born to businessman Newson Garrett and his wife Louisa, neé Dunnell. Her father, a Liberal, encouraged political […]

Josephine Butler, 1828-1906

Josephine Butler was a social reformer with a broad feminist commitment, whose willingness to speak publicly on sexual issues distracted from her wider views. Born in Northumberland on 13 April 1828, Josephine Elizabeth Grey was the 7th child of John Grey, a cousin of Earl Grey, the Prime Minister responsible for the 1832 Reform Act, […]

Lady Palmerston (Emily Mary Lamb), 1787-1869

Born on 21 April 1787 in the family’s Piccadilly home, Emily Mary Lamb was the 5th surviving child of Elisabeth Lamb née Milbanke, the wife of the first Viscount Melbourne, but the identity of her natural father is unclear. Emily’s brother, William, the second Viscount Melbourne, described their mother as an ‘excellent wife but not […]

Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797

An English radical, whose advocacy of equal rights for women and men attracted considerable attention in her lifetime, Wollstonecraft has subsequently acquired a reputation as the pre-eminent feminist polemicist of her day. Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 in Spitalfields, London, the second of seven children of Edward John Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Dixon. Her […]

Margaret Wintringham, 1879-1955

Margaret Wintringham was one of the first of the small band of Liberal women MPs. Like the other Liberal women elected in the 1920s, her political career was curtailed by the steady decline and disintegration of inter-war Liberalism.

Margot Asquith (Countess of Oxford and Asquith), 1864-1945

Emma Alice Margaret Tennant later became Mrs Asquith and eventually the first Countess of Oxford and Asquith but she was universally known as ‘Margot’. Margot was married to an immense personality, yet was also a great personality in her own right, who appears to have exerted significant influence over the career of her husband. Unlike […]

Eleanor Acland, 1878-1933

Eleanor Acland was born Eleanor Margaret Cropper in Westmoreland in 1878, into a family with political connections. Her paternal grandfather, Sir James Cropper, was Liberal MP for Kendal from 1880 to 1885, while her maternal grandfather was Lord Knutsford who had been a Conservative MP and secretary to the colonies from 1887 to 1892. After […]

Nancy Seear (Lady Seear), 1913-1997

When Lady Violet Bonham Carter died in 1969, the Liberal Party lost its most powerful and indomitable female campaigner. The vacuum she left was filled by Beatrice Nancy Seear, always known by her middle name, a formidable politician possessed of a towering intellect. Seear was an active Liberal and latterly Liberal Democrat for over fifty […]

Liberal Democrat History Group’s Sound Archive

Adrian Slade carried out all the interviews and here he explains their background: Since 2004 the Journal of Liberal History has been the guardian of what, although I say it myself, is now becoming a uniquely interesting party archive a set of CDs and audio-cassette tapes of in-depth interviews I have conducted with leading Liberal […]

Richard Cobden, 1804-1865

Richard Cobden is most famous for his advocacy of free trade and as a leader of the Anti-Corn Law League. He has been described as clothing free trade with a moral cloak. The repeal of the Corn Laws, and the subsequent embedding of the cause of free trade and cheap food in working-class beliefs, were […]

Dadabhai Naoroji, 1825-1917

When four black Labour MPs were elected to the House of Commons at the 1987 general election, much was made of the political breakthrough this represented for Britain’s ethnic minority communities. But the first non-white to win a Parliamentary seat had achieved his victory, as a Liberal, nearly a hundred years earlier.

Robert Maclennan (Lord Maclennan), 1936-2020

When Robert (Bob) Maclennan was first elected President of the Liberal Democrats in the summer of 1994, few realised just how much this seemingly self-effacing politician would come to represent so completely the ethos and values of the Liberal Democrats. Still fewer would realise quite how hard he fought for those values. It is characteristic […]

David Steel (Lord Steel), 1938-

With the exception of H. H. Asquith, David (now Lord) Steel has been the longest serving leader of the Liberal Party. During his twelve-year tenure of the leadership, the party enjoyed the highest share of the popular vote cast for a third party in half a century and won more seats in Parliament and in […]

National Sound Archive

The National Sound Archive at the British Library holds various recordings of key Liberal figures.

Edison’s recording of Gladstone

The Gladstone recording would originally have been made on a cylinder for the phonograph which Thomas Edison announced to the world in 1877.

Viscount Palmerston (Henry John Temple), 1784-1865

If we date the modern Liberal Party from the 1859 meeting in Willis’ Tea Rooms, we must accord Palmerston the honour of being the first Liberal Prime Minister, though he would have thought himself the Queen’s minister and the nation’s leader rather than a party’s. In truth, he was more the last of the old […]

Earl of Aberdeen (George Hamilton-Gordon), 1784-1860

Lord Aberdeen was the Prime Minister who first brought together the coalition of Whigs, Peelites and Radicals which later became the Liberal Party. He is perhaps best known for being premier at the time of the Crimean War. After his death several copies of a text were found which seemed to indicate that he felt […]

Earl of Kimberley (John Wodehouse), 1826-1902

When Lord Kimberley died on 8 April 1902, he was commonly remembered as Gladstone’s loyal lieutenant: competent, hard-working, and high-minded. By praising these very civilian virtues in the context of war-charged, turn-of-the-century high politics, his twentieth-century eulogists were politely wondering exactly why Kimberley had mattered. After all, as one journalist wrote, he was as far […]

Earl Granville (Granville George Leveson Gower), 1815-1891

For more than thirty years, at the height of its strength in the country, Lord Granville led the Victorian Liberal Party in the House of Lords, where it was in a perpetual minority. His diplomatic skills contributed significantly to its legislative achievements and to preserving the unity of a party always threatening to splinter. Granville […]