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 […]

National Sound Archive

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

Richard Holme on the merger negotiations

My recollections of the process which led to the merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP are hazy since I am not a diary-keeper. Nor can I give anything but an outsider's view of the formal merger negotiations since, to my chagrin at the time, I was not elected to be a member of the negotiating team – any small ability I had as a negotiator being nullified in the eyes of the Party Assembly by my parti-pris commitment to the merger itself.

The Liberals and Ireland since 1801

Underneath the surface of this [Irish question], and wrapped up in it, are nearly all the controversies of principle which will agitate the political atmosphere of our time. It is a microcosm of the whole imperial question.

Gladstone’s first government

After an apprenticeship in government under the Conservative Robert Peel, Gladstone served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Aberdeen’s coalition and Palmerston’s Government of 1859-1865. His energy, administrative and oratorical skills marked him as the Liberal Party’s future leader.

Joseph Chamberlain and Municipal Liberalism

The reforms in municipal services that Joseph Chamberlain introduced during his three-year mayoralty of Birmingham in the mid-1870s marked a turning point for British Liberalism as well as in the governance of industrial cities.

The 1918 ‘coupon’ general election

Just 24 hours after the Armistice had been signed with Germany, Lloyd George announced his decision to hold an election in alliance with his Coalition partners and Parliament was accordingly dissolved on 14 November 1918. The ensuing contest shattered the Liberal Party by formalising wartime divisions and providing a clear distinction between those Liberals who supported Lloyd George and those who continued to stand by Asquith.

Bentham on Utilitarianism

Extract from Principles of the civil code in Theory of Legislation, trans R Hildreth, 8th edn, London, 1894.

A torrent of gin and beer: the election defeat in 1874

In January 1874, the Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, approached Queen Victoria to dissolve parliament, surprising both the opposition and his own party. In his election manifesto, Gladstone promised to reduce local taxes, to cut taxes on consumer products and to repeal the income tax. When the campaign was over, the Liberal landslide of 1868 had been washed away and Benjamin Disraeli presided over a Conservative majority of 52, the first since 1841.

Rainbow Circle

The Rainbow Circle was a dining club which comprised a group of progressive politicians who met between 1894-1920.

Fusion: Liberals and Conservatives

The concept of fusion between the Liberal and Conservative parties was considered in the immediate post-war years as the solution for a new political age, in which traditional party allegiances had outlived their usefulness.

Old heroes for a new leader

As we have done in each of the last two Liberal Democrat leadership elections, in 1999 and 2006, the Liberal Democrat History Group has asked both candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership to write a short article on their favourite historical figure or figures – the ones they felt had influenced their own political beliefs most, and why they had proved important and relevant. Their replies are reproduced below. Their heroes? Vaclav Havel, David Lloyd George and Harry Willcock.

The Liberals in opposition 1875-1880

At the beginning of 1875, following his defeat by Disraeli in the 1874 general election, Gladstone resigned the leadership of the Liberal party, convincing himself that at the age of 65 he deeply desired an interval between parliament and the grave. But he did not resign his seat.

Liberal Governments of 1905-15

The Liberal government which took office as a minority administration in December 1905, before securing an overwhelming popular endorsement at the General Election of January 1906, remained in power until May 1915.

The 1923 general election

The 1923 election was sparked in October of that year, when the Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin announced that his government would be seeking a mandate to introduce tariff protection, in order to tackle growing levels of unemployment.

Michael Meadowcroft on the merger negotiations

It is difficult to realise that it is now sixteen years since the trauma and angst of the merger negotiations. As far as factual accuracy is concerned the book by Tony Greaves and Rachael Pitchford is an excellent record of the proceedings. There were only a few points of difference that I took up with them at the time.

The Midlothian Campaign

A year after the defeat of his government in 1874, William Ewart Gladstone retired as leader of the Liberal Party. At 65, he deeply desired an interval between parliament and the grave to devote to religious affairs. Indeed, it was while engrossed in notes on Future Retribution that he was called away to write the pamphlet on the 1876 Bulgarian atrocities that marked his return to politics. At the beginning of 1879, he accepted an invitation to stand for Midlothian in the general election expected for 1880.