History

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 […]

Clement Davies, 1884-1962

Edward Clement Davies was born on 19 February 1884 at Llanfyllin, Montgomeryshire, the youngest of the seven children of Moses Davies, an auctioneer, and Elizabeth Margaret Jones. He was educated at the local primary school, won a scholarship to Llanfyllin County School in 1897 and proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became senior foundation […]

David Lloyd-George (Earl Lloyd-George and Viscount Gwynedd), 1863-1945

Lloyd George, according to Winston Churchill after his death, ‘was the greatest Welshman which that unconquerable race has produced since the age of the Tudors’. Yet he was born in England at 5 New York Place, Robert Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester on 17 January 1863. His parents, William George, a school teacher, and Elizabeth Lloyd, a […]

Herbert Samuel (Viscount Samuel), 1870-1963

Herbert Samuel was a leading figure in the Liberal Party for over fifty years, from its zenith before the First World War to the nadir of its fortunes in the mid-1950s. With Sinclair , he was the last independent Liberal to serve in the Cabinet. A respected statesman, formidable mediator and administrator, and notable political […]

Sir Archibald Sinclair (Viscount Thurso), 1890-1970

Archibald Sinclair was the Liberal leader from 1935 to 1945. He was a leading figure in British politics in that period, first as an outspoken critic of appeasement, and then as a minister during the war. For Liberals, his importance lay in his belief in the possibility of a Liberal revival, which was crucial in […]

William Beveridge (Lord Beveridge), 1879-1963

William Henry Beveridge was born in Rangpur, an Indian station in Bengal, on 5 March 1879. He was the second child and first son of Henry Beveridge, a district sessions judge in the Indian Civil Service, by his second wife, Annette Susannah Ackroyd, who had travelled to India, originally in response to a call to […]

Elliot Dodds, 1889-1977

Elliott Dodds lived a life of rich variety and contrast. A southerner by birth, he became indelibly associated with the laissez-faire Liberalism of the northern counties. A journalist, whose political beliefs were breathed into every corner of the Huddersfield Examiner, he wrote extensively throughout his life on the changing relationship between individual liberty and the […]

John and Barbara Hammond, 1872-1949 and 1873-1961

John Lawrence Le Breton Hammond (known as Lawrence) was born in 1872, the son of the Vicar of Drighlington in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Lucy Barbara Bradby (known as Barbara) was born in 1873, the daughter of the headmaster of Haileybury College. Married in 1901, the Hammonds had no children. They became pioneer social […]

John Maynard Keynes (Lord Keynes), 1883-1946

Maynard Keynes was an active Liberal as well as one of the most important liberal writers of the twentieth century. He revolutionised economics, creating the case for deficit spending to stimulate employment which became the basis of government economic policy throughout the Western world for almost four decades. He helped to found the international economic […]

Ramsay Muir, 1872-1941

Ramsay Muir was a leading figure in the Liberal Summer School movement and the National Liberal Federation in the 1920s and 1930s. He was briefly a Liberal MP, but, more importantly, he was one of the most prominent Liberal thinkers in inter-war Britain, and had a marked influence on party policy. After his death, Muir […]

Violet Bonham Carter (Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury), 1887-1969

Violet Bonham Carter was born in Hampstead on 15 April 1887 as Helen Violet Asquith, the daughter of Herbert Henry Asquith and his first wife Helen Melland. In 1891 Violet’s mother died of typhoid fever, and in 1894 Asquith married Margot Tennant. At the time of Violet’s birth, Asquith had just entered the House of Commons. […]

Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire on 30 November 1874, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Jennie. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, and embarked on a military career which took him to India and Africa. He also began to make a name for himself as […]

Dingle Foot, 1905-1978

Throughout Britain, particular constituencies and cities have had a long connection with certain families – for instance, the Chamberlains in Birmingham and the Cecils in south Dorset. In Plymouth, politics has been dominated by the Foot family, principally Isaac Foot but also four of his five sons. These include Hugh (later Lord Caradon), John, and the […]

Isaac Foot, 1880-1960

Isaac Foot was born in Plymouth, Devon on 23 February 1880, the fifth child of Isaac and Eliza, nee Ryder. His father was a carpenter and undertaker, who, as a young man, had migrated from Horrabridge, Devon, the family home for at least three centuries, to Plymouth, building his own home at 20, Notte Street. […]

Roy Jenkins (Lord Jenkins), 1920-2003

Roy Jenkins played a significant role in developing and articulating a new progressive vision of social, political and constitutional change. His reforms at the Home Office helped to transform Britain into a more modern, more civilised society. He was a successful, if orthodox, Chancellor of the Exchequer. He played an important and consistent role in […]

Megan Lloyd George, 1902-1966

Megan Lloyd George was born at Criccieth, Caernarfonshire, on 22 April 1902, the third daughter and fifth child of David Lloyd George and his wife Margaret. Until the age of four she could speak only Welsh. She was educated privately, in part by Frances Stevenson, who became her father’s mistress and in 1943 his second wife, […]

Sir Donald Maclean, 1864-1932

Sir Donald Maclean had greatness thrust upon him. Until 1918, everything in his career suggested that he was living a useful public life which would one day merit an obituary notice in The Times, but would hardly bring him into the first rank of politics – yet he was to play a critical and unexpected […]

Sir John Simon (Viscount Simon), 1873-1954

Though he never rose to the premiership, John Allsebrook Simon’s collection of the highest offices of state – the Home Office (twice), the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Woolsack – is unique in twentieth-century history. He played a major role in British politics over more than three decades, while also enjoying a distinguished legal […]

Inter-war decline

The Liberals were a political casualty of the Great War – emerging from the conflict as a divided party, whose key ideological beliefs had been sacrificed to meet the needs of modern warfare.

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.

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.

Journal articles

Events

Back from the dead: the Liberal Party in the 1950s

In 1951, the Liberal Party’s existence was in grave doubt. At the October general election, the party contested a mere 109 seats, and only six MPs were returned. The party was badly divided over basic questions of strategy, and membership and morale were low.

The late 1950s saw an upturn in the Liberals’ fortunes. In  March 1962, they won a sensational by-election victory at Orpington and, soon after, reached 25 per cent in the Gallup poll. The party’s performance at local elections was similarly impressive and it claimed a record 350,000 members.

Join Lord William Wallace of Saltaire and Mark Egan (Greffier of the States of Jersey) to discuss how the Liberal Party survived a near-death experience and revived. Chair: Baroness Liz Barker.

Clement Davies Liberal Party Saviour?

Clement Davies led the Liberal Party from 1945 to 1956. During that time, the party came very close to dying out but it survived. He turned down Churchills offer of a government position and in so doing preserved the partys integrity. His tenure was as long as that of Jo Grimond, the hero of modern Liberalism. And yet today Davies leadership is hardly remembered at all.

Did Clement Davies save the Liberal Party from extinction? Or was he part of the problem?

Research in progress

Anarchism and Liberalism 1880-1980

Some anarchists were successfully influential in liberal networks, starting with many New Liberal networks around the beginning of the 20th Century. My thesis focuses on this earlier period but I am interested in anarchist influences on liberalism throughout the twentieth century. If any readers can help with informing me of their own personal experiences of […]