Robert Maclennan (Lord Maclennan), 1936-

When Robert (Bob) Maclennan was first elected President of the Liberal Democrats in the summer of 1994, few realised just how much this seemingly self-effacing politician would come to represent so completely the ethos and values of the Liberal Democrats. Still fewer would realise quite how hard he fought for those values. It is characteristic […]

David Steel (Lord Steel), 1938-

With the exception of H. H. Asquith, David (now Lord) Steel has been the longest serving leader of the Liberal Party. During his twelve-year tenure of the leadership, the party enjoyed the highest share of the popular vote cast for a third party in half a century and won more seats in Parliament and in […]

Viscount Palmerston (Henry John Temple), 1784-1865

If we date the modern Liberal Party from the 1859 meeting in Willis’ Tea Rooms, we must accord Palmerston the honour of being the first Liberal Prime Minister, though he would have thought himself the Queen’s minister and the nation’s leader rather than a party’s. In truth, he was more the last of the old […]

Earl of Aberdeen (George Hamilton-Gordon), 1784-1860

Lord Aberdeen was the Prime Minister who first brought together the coalition of Whigs, Peelites and Radicals which later became the Liberal Party. He is perhaps best known for being premier at the time of the Crimean War. After his death several copies of a text were found which seemed to indicate that he felt […]

Earl of Rosebery (Archibald Philip Primrose), 1847-1929

Rosebery is perhaps the least well-known of the Liberal Prime Ministers, having the misfortune to serve in the office for only a short period, immediately after the extended career of the charismatic Gladstone. He had a difficult relationship with the radicals of his parliamentary party, not because of his social policy attitudes (he was a […]

Herbert Henry Asquith (Earl of Oxford and Asquith), 1852-1928

H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister from April 1908 to December 1916, bore the chief part in some of the greatest Liberal achievements of the twentieth century. Herbert Henry Asquith was born at Morley, West Yorkshire, on 12 September 1852. His father died when he was eight, and in 1863, sent to London to live with […]

Jeremy Thorpe, 1929-2014

The infamy of Jeremy Thorpe’s downfall unfairly colours all else in his life. Thorpe was a stylish, progressive and popular politician. Under his leadership the Liberal Party won more votes than ever before or since at a general election and helped drive legislation taking Britain into the European Community through a divided Parliament. But the […]

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.

Journal articles

Liberal Democrat leadership performance

Comparative table of leadership performance updated to 2019

Vince Cable as leader

Interview with Vince Cable on his period as leader of the Liberal Democrats

Gladstone’s First Government 1868–74

Meeting following the AGM, 28 January 2019, with Professor Jon Parry and Dr David Brooks; chair Tony Little

Lloyd George’s presidency of the Board of Trade

A review of Lloyd George’s time at the Board of Trade, from 11 December 1905 to 8 April 1908

OId heroes for a new leader

Liberal Democrat leadership candidates’ historical heroes

Lloyd George condemned

Review of Richard Wilkinson, Lloyd George: Statesman or Scoundrel (IB Tauris, 2018)

Writing about Paddy

A look at how Paddy Ashdown’s life and career were remembered and celebrated in the media.

Paddy Ashdown – An Appreciation

A recollection of the career of Paddy Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 1988–99.

The historical Gladstone and the contemporary Gladstone

Gladstone’s library at Hawarden

The general election of 1874

Analysis of the reasons behind the crushing Liberal defeat in 1874

Jogging along by the Parliamentary train?

Gladstone’s first government and the House of Lords

Gladstone’s first ministry and Ireland

The Liberal government’s policy on Ireland

A Chapter of Autobiography as campaign document

Examination of the role played by the publication of Gladstone’s pamphlet during the 1868 election campaign

The general election of 1868

Discussion of the results of the election that brought the Liberals to power

Gladstone’s first government, 1868–74

Introduction to this special issue of the Journal of Liberal History, marking 150 years since William Ewart Gladstone first became prime minister

Interview with David Steel

David Steel on his recollections of Jeremy Thorpe

Hidden Liberal Traumas Exposed

Review of A Very English Scandal, BBC One, 20 May – 3 June 2018

7 December 1916: Asquith, Lloyd George and the crisis of Liberalism

An analysis of the partnership between the Liberal leaders which finally split under the strains of war

Tim Farron as Party Leader

Interview with Tim Farron MP on his period as Leader of the Liberal
Democrats, 2015–17

Asquith: friendship, love and betrayal

How did Liberal Prime Minister Asquith’s friendships and relationships affect his political decisions?

The ‘European mind’ of late Victorian Liberalism

W. E. Gladstone and Joseph Chamberlain

Letters to the Editor

Nelia Penman (Graeme Peters); Lloyd George and Nonconformity (Kenneth O. Morgan); French elections (Ian Stuart); The 2017 election (Trevor Jones and Richard Pealling)

The leadership of Charles Kennedy

Evening meeting of the Liberal Democrat History Group, 3 July 2017 with Greg Hurst and Lord Newby; chair: Baroness Lindsay Northover

The Nonconformist mind of Lloyd George

The roots of Lloyd George’s political beliefs

Liberal Democrat leadership

Comparative table of leadership performance updated to 2017

Old heroes for a new leader

Vince Cable explains why Roy Jenkins is his political hero

Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott

John Preston, A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment (Viking, 2016)

Asquith’s obsession

Stefan Buczacki, My Darling Mr Asquith: The extraordinary life and times of Venetia Stanley (Cato & Clarke 2016)

Saint or devil?

Ian Cawood and Chris Upton (eds.), Joseph Chamberlain: International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

‘Jeremy is innocent’: the life and times of Jeremy and Marion Thorpe

Liberal Democrat History Group meeting, 6 February 2017, with Ronald Porter; chair: Michael Steed

Churchill’s attitude to Ireland

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

Churchill and Lloyd George: Liberal authors on the First World War?

An analysis of Winston Churchill’s and David Lloyd George’s volumes on the First World War.

Lloyd George in cartoons

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

Jeremy’s story

Review of Michael Bloch, Jeremy Thorpe (Little, Brown, 2014).

Report: Liberal leaders and leadership

Report of the Conference fringe meeting, 20 September 2015, with Simon Hughes, Paul Tyler and Lynne Featherstone.

First biography of William George

Review of Peter Rowland, Lloyd George’s Tada – the one father he never knew! (PublishNation, 2014).

Authoritative new biography of ‘the goat’

Review of Travis L. Crosby, The Unknown Lloyd George: a Statesman in Conflict (I. B. Tauris, 2014).

Leading the Liberals

Review of Duncan Brack, Robert Ingham and Tony Little (eds.), British Liberal Leaders: Leaders of the Liberal Party, SDP and Liberal Democrats since 1828 (Biteback Publishing, 2015).

Lloyd George and Churchill as war leaders

A comparison of the two great wartime leaders

Writing about Charles

A review of Charles Kennedy’s obituaries and tributes

Old heroes for a new leader

The political heroes of Tim Farron and Norman Lamb

The Liberal–Tory coalition of 1915

Report of the History Group evening meeting, 26 January 2015, with Ian Packer and Nigel Keohane; chair: Raymond Asquith (Earl of Oxford and Asquith and great-grandson of Herbert Asquith)

A conspiracy of silence?

Lloyd George and Basil Zaharoff

Assessing Jeremy Thorpe

Four views on Thorpe’s record and character

The Grand Old Man and Dizzy re-examined

Review of Dick Leonard, The Great Rivalry: Gladstone & Disraeli (I. B. Tauris, 2013).

Remembering Jeremy Thorpe

A commemoration of the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who passed away in December 2014.

It’s Boy David

Review of David Torrance, David Steel: Rising Hope to Elder Statesman (Biteback Publishing, 2012)

Images of Lloyd George

How David Lloyd George was portrayed in cartoons throughout his long career.

Liberal Democrat leadership

A description of the key characteristics of Liberal Democrat leaders and analysis of the record of the four leaders to date.

Views of Peel

Review of Richard A. Gaunt, Sir Robert Peel: The Life and Legacy (I. B. Tauris, 2010).

Lloyd George and leadership

The influences on Lloyd George of Gladstone and Abraham Lincoln.

Report: Leaders good and bad

Report of LDHG meeting of February 2000, on Liberal, SDP and Liberal Democrat leaders, with Robert Maclennan MP and Professor Peter Clarke.

Leaders and leadership

Interview with Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party 1967-76.

Lessons for leaders

Considers the options open to Charles Kennedy and draws some lessons from the historical record.

‘A sad business’

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

The 1988 leadership campaign

Following this year’s leadership election for the Liberal Democrats, Harriet Smith looks back to the party’s first such election.

The last Liberal landlord

Review of Gerard J. De Groot, Liberal Crusader: The Life of Sir Archibald Sinclair (Hurst & Co.,1993).

Gladstone and books

The Gladstone Lecture, given at St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden, on 8 July 1998, in the centenary year of Gladstone’s death.

Old heroes for a new leader

Liberal Democrat leadership candidates describe their historical inspirations.

Liberal leaderships

As the Liberal Democrats enter their second leadership contest, Robert Ingham looks at contests of the past.

Some Gladstonian attitudes

Review of Peter J. Jagger (ed.), Gladstone (The Hambledon Press, 1998).

Victory at Paisley

Asquith’s return to Parliament in 1920.

The Two Davids

Examination of how much the failure of the Alliance was due to the failures of its leaders.

The unknown Prime Minister

Review of Ferdinand Mount, Umbrella (Heinemann, 1994).

The election of Jeremy Thorpe to the Liberal leadership

The first phase of the Liberal postwar revival came to an end with the resignation of Jo Grimond as leader. Tim Beaumont recalls the election of his successor.

Jo Grimond’s leadership of the Liberal Party

‘The personification and the hope of postwar Liberalism.’ The record of Jo Grimond.

Ashdown as leader

In November 2000 Paddy Ashdown published the first volume of his diaries. This article comprises two interviews with him on his period as leader.

‘Maistly Scotch’: Campbell-Bannerman and Liberal leadership

Assessment of the record of the man who led the Liberals into the 1906 landslide

Gladstone 1809-1874

Review of H.C.G. Matthew, Gladstone 1809-1874 (Oxford University Press, 1988).

Campbell as Leader

Interview with Menzies Campbell, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2006-07, on his political career.

Leader out of time

Review of Menzies Campbell, My Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton, 2008).

Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith

Analysis of the uneasy political relationship between the two Liberal leaders.

Review: An extraordinary life

Review of Paddy Ashdown, A Fortunate Life: The Autobiography of Paddy Ashdown (Aurum Press, 2009).

Archie and Clem

The story of the relationship between the successive Liberal leaders Sir Archibald Sinclair and Clement Davies.

The afterlives of former Liberal prime ministers

A look at the lives in retirement of Russell, Gladstone, Rosebery, Asquith and Lloyd George.


Liberal leaders and leadership

Party leaders matter: they embody a party’s present, while also shaping its future. This is particularly important in the values-based Liberal tradition. A total of twenty-five individuals led the Liberal Party, SDP and Liberal Democrats between Earl Grey’s assumption of the leadership of the Whig opposition in 1828 and Nick Clegg’s resignation in 2015. What did it take to […]

Leaders Good and Bad

Robert Maclennan MP, himself a former leader of the SDP, and Professor Peter Clarke, leading expert on the New Liberals, looked at leaders of the Liberal Party and the SDP over the last hundred years, using analysis and anecdotes to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of the two parties leaders. The audience was polled to […]

Research in progress

Policy position and Leadership Strategy within the Liberal Democrats: from Ashdown to Clegg

This thesis will be a study of the political positioning and leadership strategy of the Liberal Democrats. Consideration of the role of equidistance; development of policy from the point of merger; the influence and leadership strategies of each leader from Ashdown to Clegg; and electoral strategy from 1988-2015 will form the basis of the work. […]