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Radical liberals and liberal politics 1906 - c.1924

White, A. D (1980) Radical liberals and liberal politics 1906 - c.1924. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86085) (KAR id:86085)


The ten years after 1914 saw the departure from the Liberal ~arty and the entry into the Labour party of a significant number of prominent Radicals. Nor was it through secessions to Labour alone that the Liberals lost Radical support during this period: a number of Radicals retired prematurely from political life. There were, of course, many other Radicals who served out their political careers as Liberals. The main aim of this study is to explain how and why it was that the early twentieth-century Liberal party was deserted by some Radicals but retained the allegiance of others. An attempt is also made to explain why it was that those Radicals who did make the transition from Liberalism to Labour did so, in most cases, after prolonged hesitation and with some misgivings. It should be made clear, however, that this is not a study of Radical politics at all levels. It focuses on those individuals who formed the Radical wing of the parliamentary Liberal party between 1906 and 1918. Some consideration is given, though, to the attitudes and activities of those Radical intellectuals and publicists who were an important part of the environment in which Radical parliamentarians moved. It has often been suggested that the Radicals who made the transition from Liberalism to Labour did so chiefly because they despaired of the Liberal party giving a hearing to their vievls on peace and foreign policy and because they became exasperated by the wartime failure of the Liberal leadership to unhold such Liberal ideals as voluntary military service. It is argued here that this is not an altogether satisfactory explanation. It is maintained that there were numerous Radicals who remained within the Liberal fold who V'.'ere as strongly committed to the ideals of peace and internationalism - and as exasperated by the wartime conduct of the Liberal leadership - as any of the defectors. It is also pointed out that there were Radicals who defected to Labour who, before doing so, had been supporters of the all-out war policies of the Lloyd George coalition. The central contention of this study is that a full understanding of what induced some Radicals to join the Labour party and others to remain within the Liberal fold cannot be reached unless it is borne in mind that there were fundamental differences in economic outlook within the Radical camp. It is argued that a broad distinction can be drawn between progressive' or social reform Radicals and those who may be described as 'traditional' Radicals. It is further argued that there were two distinct types of 'traditional' Radical: Cobdenite Radicals and single-taxers. All but a handful of the Radicals who made the transition from Liberalism to Labour or who were strongly tempted to do so were, it is suggested, progressive Radicals. It is argued that the attraction of the Labour party for progressive Radicals was not only its foreign policy but also its social and economic policies. Cobdenite Radicals, it is maintained, no matter how great their wartime disenchantment with the Liberal party, exhibited no interest in the possibility of entering the Labour ranks. A number of single-taxers did become members of the Labour party: it is suggested that they did so for reasons which differed from those of their progressive Radical counterparts. It should be made clear that this study contains no attempt to assess the extent to which Radical secessions contributed to the downfall of the Liberal party. What is claimed, however, is that it does make some contribution to an understanding of the pre- war and wartime divisions within the parliamentary Liberal party.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86085
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Uncontrolled keywords: History
Subjects: A General Works > AZ History of Scholarship. The Humanities
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
L Education > LA History of education
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:27 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2022 11:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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