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.

Bentham on Utilitarianism

Extract from Principles of the civil code in Theory of Legislation, trans R Hildreth, 8th edn, London, 1894.

A torrent of gin and beer: the election defeat in 1874

In January 1874, the Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, approached Queen Victoria to dissolve parliament, surprising both the opposition and his own party. In his election manifesto, Gladstone promised to reduce local taxes, to cut taxes on consumer products and to repeal the income tax. When the campaign was over, the Liberal landslide of 1868 had been washed away and Benjamin Disraeli presided over a Conservative majority of 52, the first since 1841.

Rainbow Circle

The Rainbow Circle was a dining club which comprised a group of progressive politicians who met between 1894-1920.

Fusion: Liberals and Conservatives

The concept of fusion between the Liberal and Conservative parties was considered in the immediate post-war years as the solution for a new political age, in which traditional party allegiances had outlived their usefulness.

Old heroes for a new leader

As we have done in each of the last two Liberal Democrat leadership elections, in 1999 and 2006, the Liberal Democrat History Group has asked both candidates for the Liberal Democrat leadership to write a short article on their favourite historical figure or figures – the ones they felt had influenced their own political beliefs most, and why they had proved important and relevant. Their replies are reproduced below. Their heroes? Vaclav Havel, David Lloyd George and Harry Willcock.

Macaulay on the lessons of the English Revolution

The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (5 vols., 1849-61; Vol.2, chapter 5).

The Liberals in opposition 1875-1880

At the beginning of 1875, following his defeat by Disraeli in the 1874 general election, Gladstone resigned the leadership of the Liberal party, convincing himself that at the age of 65 he deeply desired an interval between parliament and the grave. But he did not resign his seat.

Liberal Governments of 1905-15

The Liberal government which took office as a minority administration in December 1905, before securing an overwhelming popular endorsement at the General Election of January 1906, remained in power until May 1915.

The 1923 general election

The 1923 election was sparked in October of that year, when the Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin announced that his government would be seeking a mandate to introduce tariff protection, in order to tackle growing levels of unemployment.

Michael Meadowcroft on the merger negotiations

It is difficult to realise that it is now sixteen years since the trauma and angst of the merger negotiations. As far as factual accuracy is concerned the book by Tony Greaves and Rachael Pitchford is an excellent record of the proceedings. There were only a few points of difference that I took up with them at the time.

John Milton on the liberty of unlicensed printing

Extract from Areopagitca; a parliamentary speech by John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing (1644)

The Midlothian Campaign

A year after the defeat of his government in 1874, William Ewart Gladstone retired as leader of the Liberal Party. At 65, he deeply desired an interval between parliament and the grave to devote to religious affairs. Indeed, it was while engrossed in notes on Future Retribution that he was called away to write the pamphlet on the 1876 Bulgarian atrocities that marked his return to politics. At the beginning of 1879, he accepted an invitation to stand for Midlothian in the general election expected for 1880.

1906 Election

In the General Election of January 1906 the Liberals swept to victory in a landslide result, which saw the party win 400 seats. Conservative strongholds such as Bath and Exeter were conquered as Liberal leader, Henry Campbell Bannerman capitalised on the unpopularity of the previous Tory administration, which had been replaced by his new Liberal government in December 1905.

The 1924 general election

In contrast to the contest of 1923, the General Election of 29 October 1924 was an unmitigated disaster for the Liberals and the Party's parliamentary strength was reduced to just 40 MPs. A number of leading Liberal figures failed to emerge victorious from the contest, including the Party's leader, Herbert Henry Asquith, who lost the Paisley seat that he had won in a by-election just four years earlier.

Preamble to Liberal Democrat constitution

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

William IV’s dismissal of the Whig administration in 1834

William IV's dismissal of Lord Melbourne's Whig government in November 1834 was the last time a British monarch tried to assert political authority by bringing down a government that had majority support in the House of Commons.

Gladstone’‘s second government

The Liberals won the 1880 election by a greater margin than anticipated, gaining 112 seats and, despite the strength of the Irish nationalist party, a majority of over 50 against all other parties. Despite significant achievements including the 1884 Reform Act the 1880-1885 Gladstonian administration has not been celebrated in the same way as its Liberal predecessor. Most commentary, coloured by hindsight of the schism in the party in 1886, has focussed on its difficulties.