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The Last Liberal Governments, Vol. 2: Unfinished Business, 1911-1914

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The battle of Sidney Street on January 3rd, 1911 ushered in King George V's coronation year and one of the most turbulent periods in modern British history ever recorded. There followed, with scarcely a pause for breath, the political battles over the Parliament and National Insurance Bills, a prolonged and fantastic agitation by Suffragettes; an unprecedented wave of stri The battle of Sidney Street on January 3rd, 1911 ushered in King George V's coronation year and one of the most turbulent periods in modern British history ever recorded. There followed, with scarcely a pause for breath, the political battles over the Parliament and National Insurance Bills, a prolonged and fantastic agitation by Suffragettes; an unprecedented wave of strikes by dockers, railwaymen, miners and other workers which threatened, at one time, to paralyse the economic life of the nation; the introduction of Carson's Ulster Volunteer Force; the Marconi affair, the 'Cat and Mouse Act'; the mutiny of the Curragh; Lloyd George's Land Campaign; the failure of the Buckingham Palace conference in July 1914, which seemed to contemporary observers the inevitable prelude to civil war in Ireland; and, finally, the speech by Sir Edward Grey in the House of Commons on August 3rd 1914 which put an end to party strife and led a united Britain into war with Germany. The author, who has already surveyed the preceding five years of Liberal administration in The Promised Land (see back of jacket), threads his way through the labyrinth of events with a cool head and a light touch. In what is fundamentally a detailed political narrative based to a large extent on unpublished materials, including the Asquith and Lloyd George papers and Cabinet memoranda, the presents an absorbing and often entertaining account of the last Liberal government coming to grips with problems of an unprecedented nature and, for the most part, coping with a fair degree of success. He has something fresh to say about most things, takes issue with some standard interpretations of the period and challenges, in particular, the oft-repeated assertion that the Liberal Party was a spent force by 1914 and that its supercession by the Labour Party only a matter of time. The book concludes with a final survey of the Government's achievements and the things that still remained to be done--the unfinished business of the title--and assesses the impact of New Liberalism on the life of the nation.


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The battle of Sidney Street on January 3rd, 1911 ushered in King George V's coronation year and one of the most turbulent periods in modern British history ever recorded. There followed, with scarcely a pause for breath, the political battles over the Parliament and National Insurance Bills, a prolonged and fantastic agitation by Suffragettes; an unprecedented wave of stri The battle of Sidney Street on January 3rd, 1911 ushered in King George V's coronation year and one of the most turbulent periods in modern British history ever recorded. There followed, with scarcely a pause for breath, the political battles over the Parliament and National Insurance Bills, a prolonged and fantastic agitation by Suffragettes; an unprecedented wave of strikes by dockers, railwaymen, miners and other workers which threatened, at one time, to paralyse the economic life of the nation; the introduction of Carson's Ulster Volunteer Force; the Marconi affair, the 'Cat and Mouse Act'; the mutiny of the Curragh; Lloyd George's Land Campaign; the failure of the Buckingham Palace conference in July 1914, which seemed to contemporary observers the inevitable prelude to civil war in Ireland; and, finally, the speech by Sir Edward Grey in the House of Commons on August 3rd 1914 which put an end to party strife and led a united Britain into war with Germany. The author, who has already surveyed the preceding five years of Liberal administration in The Promised Land (see back of jacket), threads his way through the labyrinth of events with a cool head and a light touch. In what is fundamentally a detailed political narrative based to a large extent on unpublished materials, including the Asquith and Lloyd George papers and Cabinet memoranda, the presents an absorbing and often entertaining account of the last Liberal government coming to grips with problems of an unprecedented nature and, for the most part, coping with a fair degree of success. He has something fresh to say about most things, takes issue with some standard interpretations of the period and challenges, in particular, the oft-repeated assertion that the Liberal Party was a spent force by 1914 and that its supercession by the Labour Party only a matter of time. The book concludes with a final survey of the Government's achievements and the things that still remained to be done--the unfinished business of the title--and assesses the impact of New Liberalism on the life of the nation.

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