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.

Macaulay on the role of the Whigs

Extract from a review of Henry Hallam’s The constitutional history of England in the Edinburgh Review, vol. 48, September 1828.

Chamberlain’s Radical Programme

Joseph Chamberlain, the Birmingham manufacturer, took up full time politics in the 1870s. As mayor of Birmingham he built his reputation by successfully importing business methods into local government and the Radical Programme was his attempt to apply his techniques on a national stage.

Lloyd George on the People’s Budget

Lloyd George's 1909 People's Budget was devised to bring about social reform and featured increases in income tax and excise duties, new taxes on cars, petrol and land, and a new supertax for those with incomes above £5,000.

The Liberal Nationals

The Liberal National group was officially formed on 5 October 1931; two days before the commencement of the election campaign, which saw the Liberals enter the polls as three distinct groups.

Impact of the French and American Revolutions

The French Revolution had important consequences for every major country in Europe. What was particularly remarkable about the impact of the French Revolution on Britain was its profound and abiding influence on the ideological climate and its impact on the development of politics inside and outside parliament.

The Home Rule crisis

Shortly after Gladstone’s second government had seen the third reform act safely onto the statute book in 1885, it suffered a defeat on the budget and resigned. Lord Salisbury formed a minority Conservative government that called an election when the new enlarged electoral register was ready.

Lib-Labs

The first working class representatives within Parliament were known as "Lib-Lab" MPs. They accepted the Liberal whip while exercising the right to utilise their experience to speak freely on labour issues.

The 1931 general election

The National Government was formed in August 1931, following the failure of Ramsay Macdonald's minority Labour administration to deal with the mounting unemployment that was paralysing Britain. The Conservatives had been pressing for the adoption of protection throughout the proceeding period and the public were becoming increasingly frustrated by the apparent ineffectiveness of the free trade policy, that had underpinned Britain's economic policy since the repeal of the Corn Laws. In contrast, the majority of Liberals remained distinctly opposed to the introduction of protection, which they associated with inflated food prices, vested interests and international conflict. The new administration was therefore far from harmonious.

The Newcastle Programme

The general election of 1885 was the first fought on the enlarged franchise of the third reform act and the first in which the parties competed for the votes of large numbers of agricultural workers. This stimulated both a new political debate and the development of campaigning techniques which would inform the next election.

Liberals and women

When the Victorian women's movement emerged in the 1850s and 1860s it attracted women from Liberal families such as Barbara Leigh Smith who had been associated with Liberal crusades for temperance, anti-slavery and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Feminist achievements later in the century owed much to Liberals, notably Josephine Butler's campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, Eva MacLaren's work for the Women's Local Government Society, and Millicent Fawcett's leadership of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies.

Liberal Party funding between the wars

One of the major problems facing the Liberal Party in the inter-war period was the lack of funds that they had at their disposal. As the Party became increasingly defunct, so it became impossible to attract the wealthy donors, who formed the foundation of the Liberal finances.

Popular Radicalism

'Popular radicalism' embraced a range of causes and beliefs in nineteenth-century Britain. For most readers, it relates to agitation outside parliament to secure a democratic franchise on the basis of 'one-man, one vote'. Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, very few people were arguing that women should get the vote on the same basis as men.

Extract from Gladstone’s 3rd Midlothian speech on foreign policy

Following his electoral defeat in 1874, Gladstone resigned the Liberal leadership and, in his sixties, hoped to spend the rest of his life in retirement. The Balkan Massacres of 1876 drew him back to politics in protest at what he saw as Disraeli’s (Lord Beaconsfield’s) cynical reaction and his own party’s supine response.