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.

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.

Liberal Nadir, 1935-56

The 1935 General Election was a catastrophic defeat for the Liberals. The number of MPs for the party was reduced to 19, 12 of whom had majorities of less than 2,000, seven less than 1,000. The party's leader, Herbert Samuel, former Cabinet Minister and Governor-General of Palestine, was defeated at Darwen in Lancashire; other leading Liberals such as Isaac Foot, Harcourt Johnstone and Walter Rea all shared the same fate.

Local history: Wembley Young Liberals in the 1950s

Alan Knight on being active in the Wembley North Young Liberals in the early 1950s.

Journal articles

E. D. Simon: Intellectual in politics

Biography of E. D. Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe

Lord Davies of Llandinam Papers

Description of the papers of Lord Davies of Llandinam held at the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales

Women in politics

Review of J. Gottlieb and R. Toye (eds.), The Aftermath of Suffrage: Women, Gender, and Politics in Britain, 1918–1945 (Macmillan, 2013)

The long march of British history

Review of Martin Pugh, State and Society. A Social and Political History of Britain since 1870 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)

Europe: The Liberal Commitment

Autumn Conference fringe meeting, 16 September 2018, with Anthony Howe and Eugenio Biagini; chair: Julie Smith.

The long-lived Liberal Party of Canada

An examination of the history of the Canadian Liberal Party.

A truly remarkable man – but not a universal man

Review of Richard Davenport-Hines, Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes (William Collins, 2015)

How the Liberal Party became committed to the European Union

The Liberal contribution to the Council of Europe

‘Pacifism is not enough; nor patriotism, either’

The life of Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian

Liberals, free trade and Europe

From Cobden to the Common Market

The Nonconformist mind of Lloyd George

The roots of Lloyd George’s political beliefs

Churchill’s attitude to Ireland

Review of Paul Bew, Churchill and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Churchill Archives Centre

Liberal archives at the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge.

Sir Walter Runciman and the Runciman papers at Elshieshields Tower

The life and political career of the Liberal MP Sir Walter Runciman (1847–1937) through the lens of his papers.

Lloyd George in cartoons

Review of Alan Mumford, David Lloyd George: A Biography in Cartoons (Matador, 2014).

The economic policies and initiatives of the Liberal Party

Review of Peter Sloman, The Liberal Party and the Economy, 1929–1964, Oxford Historical Monographs (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Madam Mayor

The first wave of Liberal women in local government leadership 1918–1939.

Assessing Edward Grey

Review of Michael Waterhouse, Edwardian Requiem: A Life of Sir Edward Grey (Biteback, 2013)

Lloyd George and Churchill as war leaders

A comparison of the two great wartime leaders

Friends and allies

Review of Ian Hunter (ed.), Winston and Archie: The Letters of Sir Archibald Sinclair and Winston S. Churchill (Politico’s, 2005).

‘His presence generated electricity’

Review of Peter Barberis, Liberal Lion, Jo Grimond: A Political Life (I.B. Tauris, 2005).

The forgotten leader

Review of Alan Wyburn-Powell, Clement Davies: Liberal Leader (Politico’s, 2003).

Too short a history

Review of Chris Cook, A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-2001 (Palgrave, 2002).

Liberals and the Suez crisis

Examination of the Liberal role in the Suez crisis of 1956 and the long-term consequences for the Liberal Party.

The most complex character

Review of Antony Lentin, Lloyd George and the Lost Peace: From Versailles to Hitler, 1914-1940 (Palgrave, 2001).

Internationalism and interdependency

Review of Richard S. Grayson, Liberals, International Relations and Appeasement (Frank Cass, 2001).

The strange survival of Liberal Lancashire

An examination of the resilience of the Liberal Party in the Lancashire cotton districts between the 1920s and 1970s.

Walter Runciman and the decline of the Liberal Party

Examination of the part played by Walter Runciman (1870-1949) in the disintegration of the Liberal Party.

Liberal defectors identified and explored

Review of Alun Wyburn-Powell, Defectors and the Liberal Party, 1910-2010: A Study of Inter-Party Relations (Manchester University Press, 2012).

Elegant and concise

Review of David Dutton, A History of the Liberal Party Since 1900 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition, 2013).

The last of the Liberals

The career and political thought of Francis Wrigley Hirst (1873-1953).

Liberal roots

The Liberal Party in a West Yorkshire constituency, 1920s-1970s.

‘We can conquer unemployment’

Lloyd George and Keynes.

Lloyd George and the appeasement of Germany

Lloyd George’s stance on Germany, 1922-1945.

Lloyd George and appeasement

Review of Stella Rudman, Lloyd George and the Appeasement of Germany 1919-1945 (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011).

The wonderful wizard as was

Lloyd George, 1931-1945.

A life-long espousal of Liberal values

Review of Mark Pottle (ed.), Daring to Hope: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter 1946 – 1969 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000).

The party leader who never was

Review of Mark Pottle (ed.), Champion Redoubtable: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter 1914-1945 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998).

A man of government

Review of Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain 1937-46 (Macmillan, 2000).

More mirage than vision

Review of Garry Tregidga, The Liberal Party in South-West Britain since 1918: Political Decline, Dormancy and Rebirth (University of Exeter Press, 2000).

Neville Chamberlain: Policy Wonk

Review of Graham Stewart, Burying Caesar: Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999).

Re-establishing the faith

The revival of Liberalism in Dumfriesshire, 1931-63.

Report: Dancing the Charleston again

Report of LDHG meeting of November 1999, on Liberal/Labour relations during the 1918-31 period.

Churchill, Clement Davies and the Ministry of Education

Examination of the offer of a cabinet position to the Liberal leader Clement Davies in October 1951.

A breach in the family

Examination of the defections, in the 1950s, of the children of David Lloyd George: Megan to Labour, and her brother Gwilym to the Conservatives.

Tory cuckoos in the Liberal nest?

Since the Liberal Nationals first divided from the official Liberals and eventually merged with the Conservatives, they have often been regarded as Tory cuckoos in the Liberal nest. This article re-evaluates their role.

‘A sad business’

Examination of Clement Davies’ resignation from the leadership in 1956.

The watchword liberty

Review of, 50 Years On: A History of the Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists, 1947-97 (Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists, 1997).

The 8:30 Club: a Liberal Debating Society of the 1930s

What issues concerned Liberal activists in the 1930s? This article examines the records of one young Liberal group.

The SDP’s ideological legacy

What was the ideological inheritance of the Social Democratic Party? And what did it bequeath to the Liberal Democrats?

Harry Willcock: the forgotten champion of Liberalism

The story of the Liberal who helped ensure that British citizens today are not compelled to carry identity cards.

Report: from Beveridge to Blair

Report of LDHG meeting of September 1997 on the welfare state, with Frank Field MP and Nick Timmins.

The Labour Party and the pursuit of the Liberal vote, 1945-1959

Labour made a determined effort to absorb the Liberal vote when the party seemed to be in terminal decline after 1945.

Report: why didn’t the Liberal Party die?

Report of LDHG meeting of March 1997 on the near death and survival of the Liberal Party in the 1950s and ’60s, with William Wallace.

1945 and all that

The 1945 election was a stunning Labour victory, but what did it mean for the Liberal Party?

The Liberal Party and the fall of the Chamberlain government

Examines the crucial role played by Liberal politicians – including Sinclair and Lloyd George – in the ousting of Neville Chamberlain in May 1940.

The Liberal Party’s performance in 1945

Continuing the debate over the Liberal Party and the 1945 general election.

The Liberal performance in 1945

Contribution to the continuing debate over the 1945 election: response to earlier Newsletter articles.

The Liberal Party and the 1945 election

Personal recollections of the Liberal Party’s campaign in the 1945 general election.

The slow death of Liberal Wales 1906 – 1979

The story of Liberalism in Wales 1906 – 1979.

The fighting parson

Biography of Rev Roderick Kedward MP (1881-1937).

Battle of ideas or absence of leadership?

Analysis of the ideological struggle in the Liberal Party in the 1940s and 1950s.

Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Liberal Party and the abdication of King Edward VIII

How close were the Liberals to backing the King’s cause during the abdication crisis in December 1936?

The heyday of Liberal internationalism

Despite the weakness of the Liberal Party in the inter-war period, Liberal ideals remained important.

Archibald Sinclair: Liberal anti-appeaser

The Liberal leader’s role as a critic of appeasement.

The growth of Liberal International

The development of global cooperation between Liberal parties.

Liberals and Europe

The development of the Liberal commitment to Europe, 1945-64.

Biography: Archie Macdonald

The career of Archie Macdonald, Liberal MP for Roxburgh and Selkirk 1950-51.

The Liberal Party and general elections

Report of Liberal Democrat History Group meeting of February 2003, with David Butler and Neil Stockley.

A real triumph for my old friend

The occasion when The Times took at face value an imaginary interview with David Lloyd George.

The Lord Chancellor who never was

Biography of the leading Liberal lawyer Norman Birkett (1883-1962).

Keeper of the Liberal flame

The life of Ivor Davies (1915-1986), who would have been the Liberal candidate at the Oxford by-election in 1938.

Liberalism and Unionist Northern Ireland

1921 – 1971: despite all the obstacles, Liberalism survived in Northern Ireland after partitition.

Liberal unity frustrated

Why the Liberal Party failed to patch up effectively its first major post-war split, between the supporters of Asquith and those of Lloyd George.

The final quest for Liberal reunion 1943-46

History of the attempts to reunite the Liberal Nationals with the official Liberal Party in the 1940s.

Impacts of reunification?

The electoral impact of a potential Liberal-National Liberal reunion in the 1940s.

Liberals cheer Mr Churchill

Speech: Winston Churchill at the National Liberal Club, 22 July 1943.


The career of one of the Liberal Party’s most colourful MPs, James de Rothschild (1878-1957).

Liberalism reunited: the Huddersfield experience 1945-47

How fusion between the two Liberal factions helped Liberalism survive in Huddersfield

The Liberal Party and the Popular Front

Assessment of the arguments over progressive unity in the 1930s, and Liberal and Labour responses.

Liberal class warrior

The maverick career of the radical Liberal MP, Tom Horabin (1896-1956).

Reviews: Issue 10

Reviews of Trevor Wilson, The Downfall of the Liberal Party 1914-1935 (Collins, 1966); Michael and Eleanor Brock (eds.), H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley (Oxford University Press, 1982).

1945-1964: The gory, gory years

The survival and development of the Liberal Party in the post-war era.

The Inverness turning point

How the Liberals’ near-miss in the Inverness by-election of 1954 proved a turning point in the party’s fortunes.

Last of the Midland radicals

Biography of Sir Geoffrey Mander, Liberal MP for Wolverhampton East, 1929-45.

Learning the lessons of history: Liberalism in the 1930s

What can Liberal Democrats learn from the Liberal Party’s positions in the 1930s?

Life with Lloyd George

A. J. Sylvester’s Life with Lloyd George remains a unique source of information. This article examines its preparation, publication and impact.

A Radical Life

Review of Mervyn Jones, A Radical Life: The Biography of Megan Lloyd George (Hutchinson, 1991).

‘A dynamic force is a terrible thing’

Review of Martin Pugh, Lloyd George (Longmans, 1988).

Liberal civil war: Denbigh, Oldham and the 1935 election

The story of two constituencies where Liberals and Liberal Nationals fought each other at the 1935 general election.

Liberals and the 1945 election (1)

Review of Malcolm Baines, The Liberal Party and the 1945 General Election (Contemporary Record 9:1, Summer 1995).

Liberals and the 1945 election (2)

Review of Peter Joyce, The Liberal Party and the 1945 General Election (Liberal Democrat History Group, Sept. 1995).

The two great wartime leaders

Review of Richard Toye, Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (Macmillan, 2007).

The Glyndwr manuscripts

The Glyndwr collection at the Denbighshire Record Office throws light on the fortunes of the local Liberal Party in the 1920s and ’30s.

Report: Torrington ’58 – Liberal survival and revival, 1945-79

Report of full-day seminar, with LSE, 14 June 2008.

The yellow glass ceiling: the mystery of the disappearing Liberal women MPs

Only six women ever sat as Liberal MPs, and most only for very short periods. This article examines why.

Radical Action and the Liberal Party during the Second World War

The story of this influential pressure group within the Liberal Party.

Review: A neglected party

Review of David Dutton, Liberals in Schism – A History of the National Liberal Party (I. B. Tauris, 2008).

Review: How the Liberal Party fared 1939-45

Review of Andrew Thorpe, Parties at War: Political Organisation in Second World War Britain (Oxford University Press, 2009).

A Liberal without a Home: the Later Career of Leslie Hore-Belisha

In the simplistic and sometimes pernicious categorisations which have so often been applied to the political personalities of the 1930s – appeasers and anti-appeasers, a majority of dupes and a minority of the far-sighted, the decade’s Guilty Men and its isolated voices in the wilderness – Leslie Hore-Belisha has strong claims to be listed among […]

British intellectual life, 1918-39

Review of Richard Overy, The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (Allen Lane, 2009).

The flight from the Liberal Party

Liberals who joined the Labour Party, 1914-31.

A retreat from the left?

The Liberal Party and Labour, 1945-55.

Liberal thought

Review of Kevin Hickson (ed.), The Political Thought of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats since 1945 (Manchester University Press, 2009).

Survival and revival

Review of Mark Egan, Coming into Focus: The Transformation of the Liberal Party 1945-1964 (VDM Verlag Dr Muller, 2009).

Strange death?

Review of Ross McKibbin, Parties and People 1914-1951 (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Liberalism and the National Government, 1931-40

An examination of the impact of the National Government on the Liberal Party.

Coalition in the archives

The papers of Liberal activist Frances Josephy are used to examine the attitudes of ordinary Liberals to coalitions in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Liberal predicament, 1945-64

How, despite the desperate state of their party, many Liberals kept the faith going at the nadir of the Liberal Party’s fortunes.

To hold the old flag

Biography of Henry Haydn Jones (1863-1950), Liberal MP for Merionethshire 1910-45.

Sir Frank Medlicott (1903-72)

The life and political career of a Liberal and Liberal National MP and activist.