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.

Remember The Rights of The Savage

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.

Grimond and the first post-war revival

The apogee of two-party politics in the UK was reached in the 1950s. At the 1955 election, the Conservative and Labour parties, and their allies, between them took 96.10 per cent of the vote and 98.73 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats

The merger of the Liberals and the SDP was finally completed on 3 March 1988, when the new Social & Liberal Democrats (SLD) was formally launched following a majority vote by the memberships of both parties.

Free Trade and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

Belief in free trade became an enduring characteristic of British liberalism in the 19th century but its roots were complex. In part it stemmed from popular Radical hostility to monopoly in all its forms, in part from the diffusion of Smithian and Ricardian political economy and in part from the administrative pragmatism, reinforced by evangelical religion, of the liberal Tories in the 1820s.

The Liberals and the First World War

Understanding the history of the Liberal Party during the First World War has been made harder by hindsight. Later Liberal decline has called into question the efficacy of Liberal ideology in wartime.

Community politics

Community Politics describes a particular style of locally organised campaigning on specifically local issues pioneered by the Liberal Party in the 1950s and 1960s and now practised by Liberal Democrat activists throughout the UK.

The Anti-Corn Law League

The second Corn Law of 1828 sparked a wave of radical protest amongst Britain’s urban classes by introducing a sliding scale of duties on foreign wheat, thus causing bread prices to fluctuate excessively during a period that was plagued by high unemployment and poor harvests. The Corn Laws were seen to safeguard the interests of Britain’s traditional country landowners, at the expense of her new and growing industrial class and urban dwellers soon took exception to the resulting rise in food prices.

Conscription and the Liberal Party

The issue of conscription rocked the Liberal Party to its very core during the first part of the Great War, as Liberal parliamentarians struggled to justify the needs of war and necessity of compulsion against the concepts of individualism and laissez faire which they held so dear.

Realignment of the left

The end of Jo Grimond's leadership in 1967 heralded a bleak period for the Liberal Party. His successor, Jeremy Thorpe, was never assured of the complete confidence of his parliamentary colleagues. Unlike Grimond, he displayed little interest in ideas, though he was an accomplished organiser, fund-raiser and speaker.

The Age of Russell and Palmerston, 1846-1868

The collapse of Sir Robert Peel's Conservative government, following the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws, began a complex re-arrangement of British political parties; one that took more than a decade to complete. Paradoxically, by rejecting Peel, the remaining Tories held the advantage of unity in their desire to protect agricultural interests and the established Anglican Church while their foes were divided. Could the more liberal MPs, a majority in the House of Commons, form a cohesive party?

The Hawarden Kite

In November 1885 the Irish Nationalist leader, Charles Stewart Parnell proposed an independent constitution for Ireland and although the Liberal leader, William Gladstone, believed in the necessity of Home Rule by this time, he was also convinced that he needed further time to persuade his Party of this.

The ‘Buckingham Palace plot’, 1916

Edwin Montagu, Minister of Munitions and confidant of both Asquith and Lloyd George lamented that the two great men of England were being slowly but surely pushed apart during the winter of 1916.

Formation of the SDP

Launching the new Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the 26th March 1981, the former Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins announced that the aim of the new party was to get away from the politics of outdated dogmatism and class confrontation and to release the energies of those who were fed up with the old slanging match.

Times report on the meeting in Willis Rooms

The following report from The Times describes the meeting that took place at Willis' Rooms in St James Street, London on the 6th June 1859, when the Liberal Party was finally formed.