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Events
The Liberal Democrat History Group organises a regular series of discussion meetings on aspects of history relevant to the Liberal Democrats and its two predecessors, the SDP and the Liberal Party.

We normally hold two meetings a year in London (usually at the National Liberal Club) and fringe meetings at each of the Liberal Democrat conferences (March and September). Most of the meetings feature talks from two or three speakers, followed by questions and discussion. On occasion we organise witness seminars, discussions about a specific period or event featuring actual participants.

Anyone is welcome to attend and participate, whether or not they are a History Group member; no pre-registration is necessary. An attendance fee may be charged to non-members for some meetings.

Meetings are listed in reverse date order below. If you wish to find information about a specific meeting, please use the search box or relevant themed option above.

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The Liberal Party and the First World War
Saturday 1 November 2014

A one-day conference organised by the Journal of Liberal History and Kings College, London.
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Great Liberal thinkers: lessons for the future
Sunday 5 October 2014

To mark the launch of our publication, 'Liberal Thinkers', Baroness Liz Barker and MPs Alan Beith, David Laws and John Pugh draw lessons from past Liberal thinkers for the future direction...


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Liberalism, Peace and the First World War
Monday 30 June 2014

The First World War sent a shockwave through the Liberal Party, permanently affecting its politics, its people and the way it viewed the world and its own place in it. This meeting, jointly organised...


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Social reformers and liberals: the Rowntrees and their legacy
Friday 7 March 2014

Joseph and Seebohm Rowntree were successful businessmen, pioneers of social investigation and committed Liberals.
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Decline and Fall: the Liberal Party and the general elections of 1922, 1923 and 1924
Monday 10 February 2014

For the Liberal Party, the three general elections of 1922,1923 and 1924 represented a terrible journey from postwar disunity to reunion, and near return to government to dramatic and prolonged decli...


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Survival and success: the first 25 years of the Liberal Democrats
Sunday 15 September 2013

This year, 2013, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Liberal Democrats. From near-annihilation to entry into government, the years since 1988 have been a roller-coaster ride for the party.


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Jo Grimond - the legacy

Monday 10 June 2013

Jo Grimond, leader of the Liberal Party from 1956 to 1967, holds a particularly affectionate place in the collective memory of the Liberal Democrats. His charisma, charm, good looks, political courag...


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David Lloyd George: the legacy
Friday 8 March 2013

One of the greatest Liberal prime ministers, David Lloyd George, was born 150 years ago.
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The progressive coalition that never was lessons from the Ashdown-Blair 'project'
Tuesday 22 January 2013

Between 1994 and 1999, Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair led a process of collaboration between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, with the aim not merely of defeating the Conservatives but of es...


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The Liberal Party, Unionism and political culture in late 19th and early 20th century Britain
Saturday 10 November 2012

A one-day seminar organised by Newman University College and the Journal of Liberal History.
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The Day Parliament Burned Down
Tuesday 30 October 2012

In the early evening of 16 October 1834, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor...


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Mothers of liberty: how modern liberalism was made by women
Sunday 23 September 2012

Thanks to their exclusion from the right to vote and to stand for Parliament before 1918, the role of women in Liberal history is often overlooked. Yet many women played crucial roles, from the earli...


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Ownership for All the Liberal Party, co-ownership and industrial relations
Monday 9 July 2012

In 1928 the Liberal Party published the Yellow Book, the report Britains Industrial Future. While the report made a compelling case for state intervention in the economy and planning and advocated gr...


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Winston Churchill: Tory or Liberal?
Friday 9 March 2012

"I am an English Liberal. I hate the Tory Party, their men, their words and their methods." These were Winston Churchill's own words in 1903.
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Whatever happened to 'Orpington Man'?
Monday 23 January 2012

The Orpington by-election of March 1962 was a political landmark: a stunning victory for Jo Grimond's Liberal Party, as Eric Lubbock turned a Conservative majority of 14,760 into a Liberal major...


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Peace, Reform and Liberation: launch of new Liberal history book
Monday 19 September 2011

Peace, Reform and Liberation is a comprehensive history of Liberal politics in Britain.
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Forgotten heroes for a governing party
Monday 20 June 2011

Some forgotten figures of Liberal history may deserve their obscurity, but most remain an unmined source of reference, quotation and inspiration for the contemporary Liberal Democrat - especially now...


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Riding the tiger - the Liberal experience of coalition governments
Saturday 26 March 2011

A one day seminar organised by the Archives Division of the London School of Economics, the British Liberal Political Studies Group and the Journal of Liberal History.
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Lords Reform 1911-2011
Friday 11 March 2011

The 1911 Parliament Act, introduced in the wake of the rejection by the House of Lords of Lloyd Georges Peoples Budget and the two general elections of 1910, was the first successful reform of the po...


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The Great Reform Act of 1832: its legacy and influence on the Coalitions reform agenda
Monday 24 January 2011

Soon after becoming Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg promised "the most significant programmes of reform by a British government since the 19th century.... the biggest shake-up of our democracy...


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Election 2010 in historical perspective
Sunday 19 September 2010

The 2010 election must rank as one of the strangest in the history of the Liberal Democrats or its predecessor parties. Britains first-ever television debates saw the party catapulted into the front ...


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Thomas Paine and the radical liberal tradition
Monday 12 July 2010

To coincide with the publication of the special issue of the Journal of Liberal History on Liberalism and the Left (summer 2010), we are delighted to welcome Prof Edward Royle and Dr Edward Vallance ...


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Red Guard versus Old Guard? The influence of the Young Liberal movement on the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 1970s a witness seminar
Friday 12 March 2010

In the 1960s and early 1970s the press coined the phrase the "Red Guard" to describe the radical politics of the youth wing of the Liberal Party. At the 1966 Party Conference in Brighton, t...


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What's left of Gladstonian Liberalism in the Liberal Democrats?
Monday 25 January 2010

Since the publication of The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall in 2004, there has been an ongoing discussion in the Liberal Democrats about whether the party n...


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A celebration and exploration of aspects of the life, career and thought of John Stuart Mill
Saturday 14 November 2009

In 1859, the philosopher and leading liberal theorist of Victorian Britain, John Stuart Mill, published his most important and enduring work On Liberty. In this essay Mill set out the principle, sti...


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A delicate balance
Sunday 20 September 2009

The long-term decline in popularity of Labour and the Conservatives, and the growth in the number of third-party MPs at Westminster including mostly notably those of the Liberal Democrats means tha...


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The strange birth of Liberal England
Monday 20 July 2009

One hundred and fifty years ago, on the 6 June 1859, at Willis Rooms in St James, Westminster, Radical, Peelite and Whig Members of Parliament met to formalise their Parliamentary coalition to oust t...


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Fighting Labour: the struggle for radical supremacy in Scotland 1885-1929
Friday 13 March 2009

The Liberal Democrat History Group is holding its first meeting in Scotland as part of the fringe at the Scottish Liberal Democrats' spring conference. The meeting will look back at the Liberal ...


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Liberal Democrats in Europe, 21 years of success or failure?
Friday 6 March 2009

The Liberal Party and the SDP were the most pro-European of the British political parties. So how has their successor party fared in European politics since merger in 1988? How has the party adapted ...


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'Taxes that will bring forth fruit' - The centenary of the People's Budget of 1909
Monday 12 January 2009

Following the introduction of Old Age Pensions by the Liberal government of H H Asquith in 1908 and the plans to legislate for limited unemployment and sickness benefit through National Insurance, Ch...


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Founding the welfare state
Sunday 14 September 2008

A hundred years ago, in 1908, H. H. Asquith's government introduced the Old Age Pensions Bill. This was just the beginning of a comprehensive Liberal programme of social reform, including nation...


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Working with Others: the Lib-Lab Pact, 1977-78
Monday 14 July 2008

From March 1977 to October 1978, the Liberal Party kept Jim Callaghans Labour government in power through the Lib-Lab Pact. Labour ministers consulted systematically with Liberal spokespeople across ...


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Torrington '58: Liberal survival and revival, 1945-79
Saturday 14 June 2008

On 27 March 1958, Mark Bonham Carter, Asquiths grandson, won the Parliamentary by-election in the Devon seat of Torrington by a margin of just 219 votes.
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David Lloyd George
Tuesday 15 April 2008

Owen Lloyd George, the present and 3rd Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, the grandson of Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, will speak about his famous ancestor at the Kettner Lunch (organised joi...


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Salad days: merger twenty years on
Friday 7 March 2008

Twenty years ago a new political party was born from the merger of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties the Social & Liberal Democrats (or Salads, as the party was disparagingly nicknamed b...


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Liberals and local government in London since the 1970s
Monday 4 February 2008

Winning local elections has been a keystone in Liberal (Democrat) success in the years since the adoption of the community politics strategy at the Eastbourne Assembly in 1970. There have been many s...


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The search for the greatest Liberal
Wednesday 19 September 2007

William Ewart Gladstone, John Maynard Keynes, David Lloyd George or John Stuart Mill: who was the greatest British Liberal?
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Rufus Isaacs
Wednesday 18 April 2007

The Marquess of Reading and David Howarth (Lib Dem MP for Cambridge) will talk on Rufus Isaacs, successively Liberal MP for Reading, 1904-13, Lord Chief Justice, Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretar...


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Think Liberal: The Dictionary of Liberal Thought
Friday 2 March 2007

'If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.' Locke, Bentham, Mill, Hobhouse, Keynes, Rawls ... Liberalism has been built on more than three centuries work of poli...


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Liberalism and British national identity
Monday 5 February 2007

When people are asked what makes up Britishness, they often give the notions of 'fair play' 'tolerance' or 'personal liberty' as part of the answer. Liberals regard the...


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Yellow Book versus Orange Book: Is it time for a new New Liberalism?
Wednesday 20 September 2006

A hundred years ago, the Liberal landslide victory in the 1906 election opened the way for a period of radical social reform based on the social-liberal ideology of the New Liberalism.
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The Suez crisis
Monday 3 July 2006

Fifty years ago, in July 1956, the Egyptian President, Colonel Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal, to the anger and frustration of the British and French governments, who were the majority sharehold...


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Defender of Liberties: Charles James Fox
Friday 3 March 2006

2006 saw the bicentary of the death of the Whig leader Charles James Fox. A proponent of the supremacy of Parliament, the freedom of the press and the rights and civil liberties of the people, and a ...


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Blissful Dawn? The 1906 Election
Tuesday 7 February 2006

On 7 February 2006, the counting of votes was completed in the 1906 general election, and the Liberal Party had obtained a majority of 132 over all other parties. In addition, for the first time, 29 ...


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Election 2005 in historical perspective
Sunday 18 September 2005

The 2005 election saw the Liberal Democrats win a higher number of seats than at any time since 1923, and, for the second election in a row, gain both votes and seats after a period of Labour governm...


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Joseph Chamberlain and the unauthorised programme
Monday 25 July 2005

This meeting looked at Joseph Chamberlain and the unauthorised programme, and how this led to the loss of the Whigs from the Liberal Party and paved the way for the New Liberalism of the 1905 governm...


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Liberals and organised labour
Friday 4 March 2005

The loss of the support of organised labour during the late Victorian and Edwardian period was a key factor in the decline of the Liberal Party as an electoral force.
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Civil liberties in war and peace
Monday 24 January 2005

Law and order has long been a major issue in British politics.
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Roy Jenkins: reformer, visionary, statesman
Sunday 19 September 2004

Reforming Home Secretary, successful Chancellor of the Exchequer, principled European, groundbreaking President of the European Commission and distinguished man of letters, Roy Jenkins had a deep imp...


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Liberals in Liverpool: Their Legacy
Friday 19 March 2004

Liverpool has been a Liberal Democrat success. Why?
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Winston Churchill: A Liberal Politician
Monday 9 February 2004

It is often forgotten that Winston Churchill served in four different governments as a Liberal minister, between 1905 and 1922. Indeed, the year 2004 was the centenary of his joining the Liberal Part...


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Clement Davies Liberal Party Saviour?
Sunday 21 September 2003

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 d...


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The Fall of the Lloyd George Coalition
Monday 14 July 2003

The summer 2003 History Group meeting examined the events which brought an end to the last peacetime participation by the Liberal Party in UK government - when Lloyd Georges coalition was overthrown ...


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Liberal Heroines
Friday 14 March 2003

The speakers nominated the women from history who inspired them most, and explained why. ...


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Liberal Party General Election campaigns after 1945
Monday 3 February 2003

With David Butler, longstanding co-author and author of the acclaimed Nuffield General Election studies, and Neil Stockley, former Director of Policy, Liberal Democrats.
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The Legacy of Jo Grimond - Remembering Jo
Sunday 22 September 2002

There were many at the Brighton Conference who were in no doubt that if it wasnt for a young, charismatic party leader they would have no party at all.
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Old Liberals, New Liberals and Social Democrats
Monday 1 July 2002

At their Autumn Conference, the Liberal Democrats debated their core values and principles in detail for only the second time since the party was formed in 1988.
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Exchange goods not bombs
Saturday 9 March 2002

Globalisation and its costs and benefits are at the heart of much of todays political debate. But intense debates on the liberalisation of international trade are by no means new. Free trade was one ...


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Public Services or State Services? - The Liberal Legacy
Tuesday 19 February 2002

People are concerned as never before with the deterioration of the NHS, the quality and safety of rail services and the standard of education. With Labours promises of big improvements, its controver...


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Speeches and Speech-makers
Tuesday 25 September 2001

The official launch of the Liberal Democrat History Groups new book, Great Liberal Speeches, published by Politicos Publishing. ...


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Post-war Liberalism and the Politics of Race and Immigration
Monday 2 July 2001

In the run-up to the 2001 general election, the issues of asylum and race relations moved to centre stage, with Liberal Democrats winning plaudits for their firm stand against discrimination.
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From Midlothian to Direct Mail: Parliamentary and Political Campaigning
Friday 16 March 2001

On the eve of the first general election campaign of the twenty-first century, this meeting examined the development of campaigning techniques since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
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The Limehouse Declaration and the birth of the SDP
Monday 29 January 2001

On 25 January 1981, four former Labour cabinet ministers - Roy Jenkins, David Owen, William Rodgers and Shirley Williams - published the Limehouse Declaration, publicly signalling their intention to ...


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'The Fruits of the Liberty Tree' - The Liberal Tradition in North America
Sunday 17 September 2000

In a US Presidential election year, we examined the history of the Liberal tradition in North America. The Canadian Liberal Party is one of the most successful liberal parties in the world, in terms ...


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"Methods of Barbarism" - Liberalism and the Boer War
Monday 3 July 2000

"When is a war not a war?" asked the Liberal leader Campbell-Bannerman. "When it is carried on by methods of barbarism in South Africa."
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Liberalism in the West Country
Saturday 18 March 2000

The West Country has a special place in the Liberal tradition. Home to Isaac Foot and his sons, Thorpe, Penhaligon, Pardoe ... For much of the post-war period, the Liberal Party‘s parliamentary ...


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Leaders Good and Bad
Monday 28 February 2000

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...


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Dancing the Charleston Again - Liberal/Labour relations 1918-31
Monday 22 November 1999

Professor Ben Pimlott (Warden of Goldsmiths College and biographer of Hugh Dalton) and Dr David Dutton (biographer of Sir John Simon) reviewed relations between Liberals and Labour during the key per...


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1974 Remembered
Sunday 19 September 1999

The two elections of 1974 formed a peak of the second post-war Liberal revival, giving the party six million votes but no more than fourteen MPs. Participants in the campaigns - including Tim Beaumon...


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Liberalism and Nationalism: Allies or Enemies?
Friday 5 March 1999

Liberals and Nationalists have sometimes shared common aims. But how close are they?
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No More Heroes Any More?
Sunday 20 September 1998

What have Liberal Democrats today to learn from Liberal heroes of the past? Who contributed most to the development of the party and of Liberalism? What common themes bind them together?
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The Legacy of Gladstone
Monday 20 July 1998

In the centenary year of Gladstones death, this meeting looked at three crucial aspects of the life of the most famous Liberal Prime Minister.
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The Struggle for Womens Rights
Friday 13 March 1998

What did the Party and its predecessors achieved for womens rights, from the suffragettes onwards? ...


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Reform of the House of Lords in the Twentieth Century
Monday 19 January 1998

Reform of the House of Lords was one aspect of the new governments manifesto which it seemed in no hurry to implement.
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From Beveridge to Blair: Reform of the Welfare State
Monday 22 September 1997

"Social Insurance and Allied Services - report by Sir William Beveridge" was published in December 1942, and its proposals were passed into legislation by Attlees goverrnment between 1945 a...


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Religion and the Liberal Party
Monday 7 July 1997

"The Liberal policy", stated one nonconformist minister late last century, "makes for the establishment of the Kingdom of God". Our two speakers examined the role that religion an...


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Why didn't the Liberal Party Die? The first Liberal revival, 1959-66
Friday 7 March 1997

After almost thirty years of continuous decline, the leadership of Jo Grimond, and byelection and local election victories, seemed to herald a new era for the Liberal Party. Why did it all go wrong? ...


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Liberal-Tory Pacts: Partnership of principle or struggle for survival?
Saturday 1 March 1997

Michael Kandiah, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary British History, spoke on Liberal-Conservative relations in the 1940s and 1950s. He looked at both the national negotiations which conc...


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Landslide for the Left
Sunday 22 September 1996

Massive Tory defeat .... sweeping opposition landslide victory .... major gains by small third party .... but what does the new government stand for other than opposition to unpopular Conservative po...


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God Gave the Land to the People!
Monday 29 July 1996

The speaker is a former lecturer at the University of Surrey, several times a Liberal candidate and author of The History of the Liberal Party 1895-1970.
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The Legacy of Gladstone
Wednesday 26 June 1996

Colin Matthew joint editor of the Gladstone Diaries; author of the definitive biographies, Gladstone 1809-1874 and Gladstone 1875-1898; Editor, Dictionary of National Biography.
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The European Inheritance
Friday 15 March 1996

Unity in Europe was a central theme for the Liberal Party since Gladstones day, and was an important factor behind the SDPs breakaway from the Labour Party. Yet continental liberal parties have not a...


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The Repeal of the Corn Laws
Wednesday 14 February 1996

The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 split the Tories for a generation, laid the foundations of the Victorian Liberal Party and ushered in nearly a century of free trade orthodoxy in economic policy. ...


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Does New Labour leave room for New Liberals?
Sunday 17 September 1995

The reforming Liberal Governments of 1906-14 helped lay the foundations of the British welfare state; amongst other achievements, they introduced old age pensions, national insurance and the principl...


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Old Heroes for a New Party
Friday 10 March 1995

Each talked about a philosopher, writer or politician of the past who still had something of relevance to contribute to the Partys principles and policies. The aim was to connect the political belief...


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We Can Conquer Unemployment
Sunday 18 September 1994

The subject of the meeting was the influence of Keynes's and Lloyd George's Yellow Book on the problems of conquering unemployment in the 1920s and 1930s. With one of the major policy paper...


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Witness Seminar: The Origins of Community Politics
Tuesday 21 June 1994

Gordon Lishman discussed the background to the Eastbourne resolution of 1970, which first committed the Liberal Party to community politics. Topics covered included the electoral and campaigning cont...


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Old Heroes for a New Party
Friday 11 March 1994

Which of the great philosophers and thinkers of the past had most to offer the Liberal Democrats? Whose influences could be discerned in Party principles and policies?
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Why are the English frightened of constitutional change?
Wednesday 22 September 1993

The reform of Britain‘s constitution has been a watchword of the Liberal Democrats and its predecessors for over 150 years. This is partly because, compared to other countries, constitutional ch...


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Liberals and Labour - Natural Allies?
Wednesday 16 September 1992

The possibility of cooperation between Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party had been much talked about. The twentieth century had in fact seen several examples of such cooperation - including the e...


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Hung Parliaments and Coalition Governments: Learning the Lessons of History
Sunday 8 September 1991

The next election will see a bigger chance of a hung parliament than any fought over the last thirteen years. But what happens if the Liberal Democrats do end up holding the balance? ...


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Survival in the Balance: The Liberal Party after 1945
Monday 17 September 1990

Dr Stevenson examined the history of the Liberal Party after 1945, and its attempt to carve out an identity for itself in a hostile political world. He explored the historical dimension of the contin...


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Englands Bourgeois Revolution: Past, present, future or never?
Thursday 14 September 1989

In the popular view, the Civil War and Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century heralded the "bourgeois revolution" of which Thatcherism has now proved the culmination. Political chan...


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Liberals and Social Democrats
Thursday 29 September 1988

Did the formation of the Social & Liberal Democrats represent the final coming together of the two philosophical traditions united in the Liberal Party of the turn of the century and split by the...



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