Liberal Revival? 1902-1915

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The Liberal Party 1902-1906

Split in 1886 over Gladstones home rule bill had weakened the Liberal Party. The Liberals previous term in office (1892-5) underlined these divisions. 

H.H.Asquith was the real contender for Liberal leadership. However he still depended on his earrnings as a barrister and had not put himself forward for the job.

H. Campbell-Bannerman was the compromise candidate. He had a reputation as a safe pair of hands as he had plenty of government experience. At first he presented an ineffective opposition to Balfour's Conservative gvt. He had an "easy going disposition" which initially made it difficult for him to pull the party together over the issue of the Boer War, but ultimately made him popular across the party. 

By the time HCB took office in 1906, his reputation was rising. There was political intrigue among other Liberals before he accepted office, but he ignored this and began preparing for gvt. 

Mistakes of the Conservatives was another reason for the Liberals victory. Balfours policy decisions on education and tariff reform and the lack of any real social reform programme turned the electorate away from voting Conservative. 

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The Conservative Party 1902-1906

Arthur Balfour, although politically astue, his wealthy aristocratic upbringing, outlook and cool detached maner meant he couldn't relate to ordinary people. 

He believed in parlimentary democracy only as long as the masses voted for the upper classes. 

Some successes: 

  • Entente Cordiale 1914
  • Imperial Defense Committe - navy and army reform.


During this period the Conservatives lost a series of by elections. Resignations from cabinet on policy issues and a lack of decisive leadership. Issues of Education Act and tariff reform > weakness of the Conservatives, they lost popularity and united Liberals. Adverse publicity about the Boer War and Taff Vale Case also upset the electorate. 

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Why did the Conservatives lose the 1906 election?

  • Lack of Social Reform 
  • Boer War 1899-1902
  • Taff Vale 1901
  • Education Act 1902
  • Chinese Slavery 1902-1904
  • Tariff Reform 1903-1905
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Lack of Social Reform

The Conservatives didn't introduce wide-ranging social reform. The onlt notable changes were the 1902 Education Act - provided more funding and a system of secondary education, and a Workmens Compensation Act - ensured employers paid compensation if an employee was injured at work. 


  • Social Reform was not the key issue in the 1906 election. 
  • The fact that poverty and malnutrition had been exposed by the Boer War led to fears about the decline of the British Race/ National Efficiency/ The Condition of England
  • The Conservatives did little to address this whilst there were new ideas amonst Liberals about the state taking more responsible for minimum living standards.
  • Conservatives appeared incapable of appealing to the w/c
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Boer War 1899-1902

Boer War was fought in support of the rights of British gold miners "Ulitlanders" but the real aim was to secure British control of South Africa. 


  • Initially the Boer War had benefited the Conservatives as they won the 1900 "Khaki" election due to a wave of patriotism. It had also split the Liberal Party.
  • However in the long term, the Boer War tarnished the image of the Conservatives, it took a long time to win.
  • Britain was criticised for the methods it used to beat the Boers E.g Concentration Camps. This was immoral, recieved negative publicity at home and abroad and lost m/c support who prided themselves on the civillised British Empire. 
  • It also showed the poor physical state of the w/c. 2/3 recruits unfit for service. The Liberals claimed the Conservatives had neglected growing problems of poverty in Britain. 
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Taff Vale 1901

In 1901, the Taff Vale Railway company in Wales took the railway worker's union to court demanding compensation for a strike. The case went to the House of Lords. The company won and the ion had to pay £23,000 worth of damages. The implication was clear, no union could strike without fearing bankruptcy. 


  • The Conservatives lost w/c and union support because they didnt take the side of the TU's by reversing the deicision of the House of Lords.
  • This encouraged TU's to support the new Labour Party and to campaign against Conservatives in the election. 
  • For the Liberals - Labour candidates in the commons looked to an alliance (Lib-Labs) with the liverals to achieve some of their political aims. Liberals unified against Balfours policies and support from Labour party. 
  • Along with the lack of social reform it seemed to show that the Conservatives were unsympathetic to the working class. 
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Education Act 1902

Before 1902, Anglican and Catholic schools had been funded by churches. After 1902, they were funded from local rates like all other schools. Whilst this refom made provision for education more uniform throughout the country, the non-conformists were outraged that their taxes might be spent on schools they strongly objected to. 


  • Angered the non-conformists. They protested by refusing to pay their rates, over 7000 were prosecuted for non-payment in 1903.
  • The "Non-Conformist Revival" reinvigorated the Liberal Party. Non-Conformists were determined to use the Liberal Party to oppose the Act and the Conservatives who introduced it
  • This act may not have actually lost the Conservative support but it certainly breathed new life into the flagging Liberals. By-elections against conservative candidates were contested and won.
  • In the 1906 elections, the Conservatives achieved the same share of the voted but there was a 25% increase in the Liberal vote. This suggests that nonconformists who may have abstained in 1900 were motivated by acts like the Education Act, to come out and vote in 1906.
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Chinese Slavery 1902-1904

Chinese labourers, who would work for very low wages, were brought in to help rebuild South Africa after the Boer War. They had to work in compounds with very little freedom. They were sometimes flogged as a punishment. 


  • This case caused a moral outcry amonst nonconformists. They objected to the harsh treatment of the Chinese labourers, likening it to modern "slavery". They were also concered about the "nameless practices" which may have gone on amongst men in close proximity, far from home, without their wives and families. 
  • It also angered trade unions and scared the w/c who were already experiencing high unemployment. If the Conservatives were willing to use cheap labour abroad, they might consider using it at home, this would drive down already low wages and cause further unemployment. 
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Tariff Reform 1903-1905

Joseph Chamberlain wanted to introduce Tariff Reform in order to win back support for the Conservatives. Conservatives would impose taxes on foreign goods. Goods coming up from the Empire would be charged a lower level of tax. This would protect British jobs, help pay for social reform, and bring the Empire together. 


  • Tariff reform was a disaster for the Conservatives. It was probably their biggest mistake. It angered both the middle class and working class and helped to unite the Liberal Party. 
  • Voters of all classes were worried that tariffs would mean higher prices for food. 
  • M/c were nervous about the effect of tarriffs on their buisnesses. They had experienced prosperity with free trade.
  • The issue divided the Conservatives who could not agree, split into 3 factions. But it helped to strengthen and unite the Liberals as an issue they agreed on, this enabled them to join together to fight and effective election campaign

Tariff Reform was the final blow for the Conservative Party, it again showed them as unsympathetic to the working class. The Conservatives now seemed disunited. The Liberals by contrast had been reunited under the banner of free trade. 

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Liberals vs Conservatives

Strengthens Liberals 

  • 1901 Taff Vale Case - LRC members supported Liberals - TU's Lib-Labs
  • 1902 Education Act - Nonconformist Criticism recieved through Liberals, united and strengthened their opposition against the gvt. 
  • 1903 Tariff Reform - Split in Conservatives highlighted Liberals strength and unity. 

Weakens Conservatives among w/c

  • 1901 Taff Vale Case - removed striking as a weapon for unions, threat of economic damages. Gvt refused to reverse courts decision. w/c lost a way to secure rights
  • 1902/4 Chinese Slavery - threat of similar low paid labour being brought in to replace strikers
  • 1903 Tariff Reform - w/c see gvt as letting food prices rise - nothing being done - legislative paralysis. Lack of social reform also lost support of w/c. 

Weakens Conservatives among m/c

  • 1899-1902 Boer War - Immoral methods of winning war, eg concentration camps
  • 1902/3 Chinese Slavery - Exaggerated in the press as immoral m/c shocked and outraged
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What motivated the New Liberal Reforms?

New Liberalism - Early ideas of collective action from the government to ensure a minimum standard of living, grew into a movement for social reform,(Although not dominant in 1906). Liberal party moved away from laissez faire and wanted to tackle poverty through state social welfare. New Liberals (Lloyd George and Churchill) thought the government should provide some help to the most vunerable. They didn't want the government to do everything for the individual as it might encourage laziness, they wanted people to take responsibility for themselves, "self help". 

Studies into Poverty - From the 1880's onwards there were several investigations into the causes of poverty. 

  • Charles Booth
  • Seebohm Rowntree

1/3 of people living in poverty. Poverty was caused by low wages, old age and illness NOT idleness. These investigations highlighted the need for state help and may have stimulated the growth of New Liberalism.

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What motivated the New Liberal Reforms?

Inadequacy of Existing Provision - Poor Law (1601,1834) designed only for the desitute. Provided workhouses offered on "deterrent principle" - conditions were therefore prison like. Workhouses were a last resort for people suffering from poverty. Other provision was from unreliable charities. Not all workers could afford private insurance through Trade Unions. Highlighted the need for social reform. 

National Efficiency - Fears that Britain was growing weak. High percentage of men unfit for military service. Britain being challanged in trade and industry (Germany and USA) Concerns helped to shape New Liberalism and highlighted the Inadequacy of Existing Provision. It was particulary influential in causing reforms for children, to ensure the health of the future generation. 

Political Necessity - Liberals were motivated by the need to win votes and support. They felt threatened by the newly formed Labour Party, competing for w/c votes, this focused them on social reform. They realised they might benefit from more radical action. 1906-1908 HCB gvt was very caustious and only introduced reforms for children, voters were unimpresed, reforms not extensive enough. The New Liberals seized the iniative to be more radical in 1908 under Asquith. Political Necessity determined the timings of the social reforms. 

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Liberal Reforms For Children

Motivated by concerns over National Efficiency 

  • 1906 - The Education (Provision of School Meals) Act
  • 1907 - The Notification of Births Act 
  • 1907 - Education Act - medical inspections of all elemenatry 
  • 1908 - The Children's Act
  • 1912 - Grants provided for the medical treatment of children

How Successful?

  •  - Early reforms were under HCB and criticised as too caustious
  • + 1906 act would decrease hunger and increase health, but - relied on local authorities to levy a rate for school meals, not compulsary until 1914, so +successful in the long term
  • + 1907 medical inspections would increase awareness of the bad health of children but - most education authorities chose to ignore the clause to provide free medical treatment, act tightened up in 1912, gvt grants set up in school clinics, +health of children improved
  • + The Childrens Act aimed to decriminalize children, emphasis on rehabilitation, no longer mixed with adult criminals. Sale of tobacco and unsealed alcohol to children was banned
  • + State took responsibility for childrens welfare. 
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Liberal Reforms for the Elderly

Stimulated by the studies into poverty that revealed a cause of poverty was old age. 

  • 1908 The Old Age Pensions Act - introduced a non-contributory scheme, providing 25p a week to those over 70 years of age (37.5p to married couples) as long as their income did not exceed £31 a year) the full sum was only for those not earning more than £21 a year. The scheme enacted through the 1909 budget, cost £8-£10million a year.

How Successful?

  • + 1908 Act provided some help for the elderly in the form of a small pension
  •  - BUT pension wasn't efficient enough to raise an elderly person above the pension line
  • + Pension was a right, non-contributory (no financial burdern), not a charity of poor law so no stigma attached. 
  • + It established a collective principle of State intervention in the lives of the elderly poor.
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Liberal Reforms for the Sick and Injured

  • 1906 - Workmens Compensation Act forced employers to pay compensation to workers injured at work through accidents and related ailments.
  • 1911 - Part 1 of the National Insurance Act (Health Insurance) provided a payment of 50p a week for a person who was off work because of illness. Lasted for 23weeks, after which a disablement payment of 25p a week was paid for 13weeks. A single maternity payment of £1.50 was paid on the birth of each child. For all workers earning up to £160 a year, the state would provide 2d, employer 3d and the employee 4d.

How Successful?

  • + 1906 Act forced employers to pay compensation to injured workers.
  • + 1911 Health Insurance provided in the interests of national efficiency. Worker paid a regular contribution, in return the state would provide free medical attention and medicine. 
  •  - Opposition to Health Insurance from British Medical Council argued scheme interfered with doctors independance, laissez faire politicians argued was unfair to force workers to part with some of their wages. 
  •  - Limited as it only catered for the worker and not his family, excluded majority of workforce, only for 26 weeks. Didn't include orphans and widows (as Lloyd George had wished) objections from private insurance companies. 
  • - No free hospital service, BUT + pointed future gvt in direction of a national health service
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Liberal Reforms for the Unemployed.

  • 1905 Unemployed Workmen Act was renewed by the Liberal Government. Distress committees could be set up with grants to help provide work for the unemployed. 
  • 1909 civil servant William Beverage, inaugurated a plan for a national system of Labour Exchanges. 1910 - 83 Labour Exchanges > 1913 - 430 Labour Exchanges
  • 1911 Part 2 of the National Insurance Act helped 2.5 millions men in industries where the risk of unemployment was highest e.g shipbuilding, construction and engineering. An unemployed person recieved 35p a week for a maximum of 15 weeks as long as they had paid enough into the scheme beforehand. In context the payments were quite low.

How Successful?

  • + 1905 provided work for the unemployed
  • + 1901 plan for labour exhanged advertised local job vaccincies and after 1911 paid out unemployment benefits
  • + 1911 National Insurance - scheme covered over 2mil workers. Unemployment insurance,compulsary scheme for workers in trades most affected by seasonal variations. Weekly contributions from employer, employee and state - BUT - state contribution was too small - scheme was not comprehensive enough, no safety net after 15 week period
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Liberal Reforms for the Workers

Stimulated by Political Necessity - to win and secure w/c votes

  • 1906 - The Trade Disputes Act reversed the Taff Vale decision. 
  • 1908 - Miners were to work a maximum of an eight and a half hour day
  • 1909 - Trade Boards Act provided some protection for exploited workers in the sweated trades, such as tailoring and box making. The act enabled trade boards to fix minimum wages and maximum hours and for inspectors to report employers who ignored the rulings. 
  • 1911- After this date, unemployment benefit was paid out by Labour Exchanges.
  • 1913 - Trade Union Act reversed the Osbourne Judgement (which prevented members of the unions from subsidising the Labour Party) by allowing unions, from a special political fund to subsidise the Labour Party. Optional scheme

How Successful?

  • + 1906 act - established that no case could be brought against a union for damaged caused by strike action - finally made peaceful picketing legal, gave TU's a strong legal position, satisfied w/c and unions
  • BUT - it took a long time to reverse taff vale decision. -Act was more extensive that Liberals felt necessary but they gave in to pressure from Labour to avoid conflict
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How Successful were the Liberal Reforms?

  • Nothing previously to help the vunerable in society. The state had now begun to abandon Laissez Faire. There was a significant increase in government intervention. State assumed responsibility for individuals in the lower classes.
  • The Liberals achieved their aims of supplying a basic minimum. They could not have done much more given the contemporary views on taxation. Liberals were not socialists. 
  • There was some attempt at tackling the real causes of poverty. Reforms had a noticeable effect 4% in poverty in 1936 compared with 10%.
  • A stepping stone to the welfare state created after WW2.
  • Pensions and insurance proved popular with the public. 


  • Liberals can be criticised for not reforming the Poor Law, many still relied on the workhouse after reforms and was not abolished until 1929. 
  • Areas left untouched by the reforms - Housing and Education, Britain still behind Germany
  • Many reforms not extensive or radical enough. The amounts paid out were too small - not comprehensive and not everybody was covered. 
  • Many skilled workers resented compulsory contributions taken directly out of their wages
  • 1909 budget to pay for social reforms was very controversial. > Constituional Crisis
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Conservative Party 1906-1915

Election of 1906, Conservative Party reduced to 157MP's. Protectionists defined the party.

Balfour returned to parliment by by-election, he resumed leadership

Most members of the House of Lords were traditionalist and supported the Conservatives. Balfour took advantage of this and encouraged Lords to vote against Liberal legislation at every opportunity. Salisbury had used this tactic against Gladstones Home Rule Bill - 1894. Salisbury had got away with it but political power was moving away from the landowning elite as democracy increased. Balfours use of it against a Liberal gvt formed from a landslide victory was unjustifiable and undemocratic. 

Balfours policy against a gvt passing ground breaking social reform led to constitutional crisi when the lords rejected the Liberals 1909 budget led to the Liberals calling an election which they won.

Balfour resigned shortly after - bad health or pushed out?

His succesor Andrew Bonar Law, a tariff reformer and good debator revisted the Irish Home Rule question. He was unpopular but the outbreak of war in 1914 gave the conservatives a new national cause to support. 

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British Political System 1909

House of Commons - Lower House of Parliment, Members of Parliment (MP's) were elected. Around 60% of males had the franchise (right to vote)

House of Lords - Upper House of Parliment, Lords or Peers, inherited or appointed. Only the monarch had the power to appoint new Peers, these Peerages were passed on to future generations of those families. 

1. Proposals for new laws are presented for vote in the Commons. These are called bills.

2. Bills which have passed the vote in the Commons go to the Lords

3. Bills could be continuosly vetoed or amended by the Lords and sent back to the Commons. 

4. Bills which have passed the bote in the Lords have been signed by the moarch become Acts of Parliment - Laws

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Constitutional Refom

  • During 19th century, with each step of palimentary reform, the power of the House of Commons increased and conversely the power of the House of Lords diminished. 
  • By 1901, they were equal, a bill could be introduced into both houses and as long as it passed 3 readings in each it would become a law with the monarchs approval
  • BUT House of Lords had final say, they could veto a bill after it passed the commons. It had become custom for money bills (ie budgets) to be raised in the Commons and not vetoed by the Lords. 

As the Commons became more democratic - extension of franchise, and more representative - redistribution of seats, the power of the Lords - unelected representatives of the landed classes, became increasingly questionable.

The Conservatives had an almost invinvible majority in the House of Lords, 2/3 Conservative. 

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Lords Rejection of Liberals Bills

Political game of the Conservatives (who dominated the Lords) under both Salisbury and Balfour to encourage the lords to veto Liberal measures.

The Conservatives in the House of Lords carefully selected Liberal Bills to reject. They vetoed the 1906 Education Act knowing that whis would anger the nonconformists who supported the Liberals and also rejected a Plural Voting Bill and the Licensing Bill. The aim was to demoralise the Liberal government and make them look weak and incompotent.

It pursuaded Liberal feeling that the power of the Lords should be limited especially in a time of increasing democracy. 

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1909 Budget

What did the budget propose?

  • Income tax was increased from one shilling to 1s 2d for those earning over £3000 a year. 
  • A new super-tax of 6d in the £ was imposed on those earning over £5000 a year. 
  • Increased duties were paid on spirits, tobacco and petrol.
  • Death Duties were increased on estates of over £5,000 a year
  • A land tax - 20% on the amount by which land had risen in the value (this was to cash in on the huge profits of landowners who had discovered coal underneath their estates)

Why did the House of Lords Reject it? - Seemed an attack on upper classes

  • Income taxes only affected 25,000 people in Britain, would mainly affect elite Conservative voters or the Conservative Lords/MP's themselves. The notion of progressive taxation was against conservative view of laissez faire. It seemed to punish people for being successful. 
  • Increased duties targeted the wealthy as only wealthy people could afford these luxuries
  • Death duties would hit the wealthy upper-class who would pass on massive inheritances
  • Land tax was most contentious. Liberals moral wing wanted to penalise income that had not been "earned."Land taxes would require surveys of land ownership - intrusion into an indivduals property, which the Conservatives would not accept. The Lords believed it was their role to protect and keep the land they owned and the people who lived on it. 
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Constitutional Crisis 1910

Direct result of Lloyd Georges 1909 controversial budget. May have stemmed from the political game of Conservatives (Balfour and Salisbury) to encourage the Lords to veto Liberal measures.

Liberals (Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith) became increasingly frustrated at the House of Lords tactics in blocking worthwhile legislation. Progressive element of Liberal Party uncomfortable with undemocratic House of Lords. 

Labour Party were opposed to the House of Lords existence.

The Lords Rejected the 1909 budget because it was an attack on the wealthy classes. Additionally, since 1903 the Conservatives had champoined Tariff Reform as a way of funding a programme of social reform. The Budget proposed that reform be funded by taxing the rich and so cut right through this policy. 

Because of the rejection of the bill, Asquith preidctably called a general election, now with a cause to fight for. 

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The General Election January 1910

The Liberals portrayed their campaign as "peers vs people". Lloyd George argued that a few hundred non-elected provelaged Lords were stopping the country from carrying out a serious programme of social reform. He was accused of trying to stir up "class war"

Election of January 1910

  • Liberals - 275 Seats
  • Conservatives - 273 Seats

No party had a majority. Liberals were reduced to a minority government reliant on support of Labour and Irish Nationalists. Irish demanded a Home Rule Bill and wanted powers of the House of Lords cut to allow it to be passed. Liberal MPs wanted this anyway. In view of the elction results, the Lords had to pass the budget through. 

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The Parliament Bill

The Government introduced this bill in 1910:

  • Lords could not reject or change financial bills
  • Other bills could only be delayed by the Lords and passed throough if voted for by Commons three times. 
  • The length of time between elections cut from 7 to 5 years

However this bill would have to pass through the Lords to become law.

Asquith asked the King to create sufficcient numbers of Liberal peers to outnumber Conservatives in Lords. In December 1910 the King agreed to create peers as long as the Parliament Bill was voted for by the electorate. The December 1910 election results were very similar to results in January and so with more MPs for the Parliament Bill than against it, the pressure was put on the House of Lords. In 1911 they begrudgingly passed the Parliament Bill rather than be swamped by Liberal Peers. This became the Parliament Act. 

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Results of the Constitutional Crisis

  • The Lords now reduced to a shadown of its former self and could not get in way of democratically elected Commons. 
  • This had been achieved at a great cost for the Liberals as the two elections of 1910 ended their majority in the House of Commons. 
  • From 1910, the Liberals were dependant on the support of Irish Narionalists who would want Home Rule for Ireland not further social reform
  • Reputations of Liberal leaders were nevertheless enhanced. Particularly Lloyd George and Asquith who had come across as defenders of democracy and shown great political skill. - They had come up with a way to force the Lords to accept the Parliament Bill, a worse threat - swamping the House of Lords with Liberals 
  • Conservative Party was in crisis. They had gained very little votes with the working class. Power of Conservative Lords had significantly decreased. Balfour was forced to resign after criticisms of his leadership. Replaced by a relatively unknown Andrew Bonar Law. 
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Change in Britain's Foreign Policy 1900-1914

Britains foreign policy took an apparent about turn in this period

1900 - "Splendid Isolation" ; no close allies in Europe ; Russia and France Rivals ; if anything, closer to Triple Alliance, particularly Germany

1900 - AIM: Balance of power, protect Empire and Naval supremacy (for empire and trade)

By 1902, Britain had no close allies whilst all of the other Great Powers were involved in some sort of defensive alliance. German Naval Laws highlighted a potential threat to Britain's security and the need for allies in Europe. 

By 1914 - Agreements with France and Russia; Germany emerged as a rival > enemy

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Changing Relations with France

France had traditionally been considered as a rival. However after Fashoda, Britain increasingly looked to make alliances to reduce the potenial of conflict. The agreement following the Fashoda crisis, Anglo-French Convention would set a pattern for the eventual Entente 1904

Why did relations improve?

  • Personalitites - Edward VII State visit to Paris in 1903 was a startling sucess, he changed the attitude of the French public towards Britain. Cambon, the French Ambassador to England was keen to settle disputes and found the Foreign Office willing to listen
  • Changing Relations in the Far- East - By 1903, Possible conflict between Japan and Russia made their respecting allies Britain and France consider their alliances, would they become involved in conflict?
  • Morocco - A revolt in 1902 threatened the Sultan and his capital, Fez. France saw Morocco as a sphere of influence, Lansdowne met the French foreign secretary in 1903 and they began to settle disputes over both Morocco and Egypt. The Russo-Japanese war which broke out in 1904, gave these talks a sense of urgency - Anglo-French agreement in 1904
  • Germany - The main factor pushing Britain towards settling her disputes with France was the increasing threat of Germany. 
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The Entente Cordiale

Signed in 1904, it was a settling of colonial disputes and tensions. It was not a formal or military alliance, simply a friendly agreement. France recognised Britains influence in Egypt and the Nile whilest Britain secretly agreed to the partition of Morocco should the Sultan fall. 


  • No initial military commitment between France and Britain. Thus a German invasion of France would not require Britain to help. It did not make war with Germany inevitable.
  • First step twards a military commitment. 
  • Start of increasing cooperation between Britain and France, they would soon be united in their concerns over German agression
  • It was not an anti-German alliance
  • However this was not how it was seen in Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II became determined to test the new allies' friendship. With this in mind he intervened in the Morocco Crisis 1905
  • The agreement gave France more confidence in their dealings with Germany. E.g their agressive stance in the 1905 Morocco Crisis.
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Deterioration in Anglo-German relations

Why was there a deterioration in relations between Britain and Germany?

  • German Ambition and Kaisers Agression - Initially, after its unification, Germany had friendly relations with Britain (Chancellor=Bismark). However after 1890, under Wilhelm II, there was a growing feeling that German power demanded and deserved "Welt Politik", his overriding principle was to make Germany a world power, through use of threat and force. 
  • Imperial Rivalry - The Kaiser wanted a "place in the sun" for Germany. Colonies were seen as essential to be a world power.Germany gained colonies in East Africa, South West Africa, Cameroon and Togo in the "Scramble for Africa". Germany's attempts to assert itself on the international stage soured relations with Britain, direct threat to her Empire.
  • Boer War - One of the first clashes between Britain and Germany - Kruger Telegram, example of Kaiser interfering. Message from the Kaiser congratulating the Transvaal President (Kruger) on repelling the Jameson Raid by Britain. Stirred Anti-German feeling amongst British. 
  • Naval Rivalry - Britains navy was the basis of her Security, Trade and Empire. German naval laws passed in 1898 and 1900 were a threat to Britains naval supremacy and they triggered a naval race. By 1914, Britain had won with 29 dreadnoughts to Germanys 17. It remained a forever unresolved issue and a key reason for the deterioration of relations
  • Entente Coridale - Prompted the Kaiser to test the friendly agreement, which actually strengthened the entente and left Germany feeling isolated. 
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Moroccan Crises

Algeciras 1905 - Led to further deterioration of Anglo/German relations. Kaiser michief making when he denounced French ambitions in Morocco and supported its independence. At the 1906 Algeciras conference, Britain came out in support of France claims in Morocco - backed by Russia, Spain and Italy. Only its close ally, Austria Hungary backed Germany, Germany defeated and isolated. Germany's plan to weaken the Entente had an adverse effect. 

  • Britain and France moved closer together and started informal military talks
  • In 1907, Britain and Russia came to an understanding. This was partly made possible due to the fact that Russia's defeat by Japan in 1905 had ended the Russian threat in China and India. Same basis as the entente - settling of disputes only.

Agadir 1911 - Further interference from the Kaiser as he tested the Triple Entente. Disorder in Morocco led to France intervention (allowed in terms of Algeciras Conference). French police entered Fez in May. Another crisis erupted as Germany objected. Kaiser sent gunboat "Panther" to Agadir in show of strength. Possibility of war heightened in the short term from an inflammatory threatening speech from Lloyd George, Germany responded by building more dreadnoughts. In the face of war, the willingness of France to compromise and pressure from Russia to moderate demands, Germany agreed to compromise, recognising Frances right to protectorate in Morocco and for a slice of the Congo

  • Increase in naval arms race
  • Possible strengthening of entene - 1912 - secret Anglo/French naval agreement signed. 
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Relations with Germany

Even though they deteriorated:

Grey never abandoned relations with Germany

Haldance was sent to Berlin in 1912 to try to maintain fragile balance of power. Nothing came of it but in 1912, relations were still cordial. Therefore war was not inevitable. 

Right up until 1914, grey insisted Britain had not comitted herself to a military alliance. 

There were periods of warming relations between the two countries and trade between them continued to thrive right up until 1914. In 1913, Kaiser Wilhelm II and his cousin George V jointly attended the marrige of Wilhelm's only daughter, eeach in the others' respective military uniform

It was the tension in te Balkans which tipped the tense situation in Europe into war. Even then, debatable whether Britain would have declared war were it not for the activation of the Schlieffen Plan - avoid war on two fronts and the subsequent invasion of Belgium

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Bosnian Crisis, 1908

  • Austria took advantage of revolt in Turkey and annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
  • This action roused national feelings in Serbia - Increased hostility towards Austria
  • Stirred up Russia protests - protector of Slavs, panslavism
  • Balkans was not an immediate area of concern for Britain and France
  • Austria unwisely pressure Russia to recognise the annexation
  • Russia forced to back down, not strong enough to fight a conflict


  • Russia was humiliated, HOWEVER strengthened in the long term as she embarked on a rearmament programme to strengthen her forces/
  • Emphasised the 2 opposing armed camps in Europe - Triple Entene and Triple Alliance
  • Germany in danger of encirclement
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Balkans War 1912-1913

Britain didnt involve itself directly, in an attempt to prevent hostility esclalating between Austria and Serbia.Balkan League (Serbia, Greece and Bulgaria) defeated the Ottoman Turks. Victory for Balkan nationalism. 

Germany and Austria each had cause for concern at the potential power of the victorious independance Balkan Nations. Austria concerned about growing Serbian influence. 

Grey called a conference of London so settle the territorial outcome of the war. Agreement between Britain, Germany and Ausria, provided general satisfaction of European Powers.


Serbia and Bulgaria immediately feel out over their gains - brief 2nd Balkan War. Bulgaria defeated and large powerful Serbia created. This renewed Austria's anxiety. Germany advised Austria to be restraint. 

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Europe at War 1914

Franz Ferdinand - Heir to Austria-Hungarian Empire - assassinated on visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia, 28th June 1914

  • Austria accused Serbia of complicity in Assassination and declared war on Serbia - 28th July 1914. Russia begins to mobilize her army to protect Serbia.
  • Germany declared war on Russia, then France on 3rd August
  • German troops marched into Belgium (Schlieffen plan, attacking France then concentrating on Russia. 
  • Immediate reaction of Asquith was to make Germanys breach of Treaty of London (Belgium Neutrality) an incident that justifies war. Britain declared war on Germany 4th August 1914.
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Britain's Entry into War

  • Britain concerned at events but hoped it would be contained within the Balkans - didn't affect Britains interests.
  • Germany suggested Britain had other motives than honouring a "scrap of paper" (Treaty of London, Belgium Neutrality)
  • Britain had a moral duty to assist France. Attack on France would threaten Britains security, Britain was anxious about possible German naval activty in the channel.
  • Britain feared the defeat of Russia and France and German domination of Europe.
  • Germany didnt think Britains army was strong enough but army reforms had produced an effective well organised force which delayed German advances in Paris. 
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The Strange Death Of Liberal England

In 1906 Liberals recieved great electoral success. They established a government of energy and talent that passed far reaching reforms in an attempt to tackle poverty and bring benefits for w/c. Reforms were both social and constitutional, more democratic government that acknowledged its social responsbility.Liberals for then faced with the challange of war - a few years after WWI the Liberals had vanished, replaced by the Labour Party...


  • Pre-existing divisions - It is difficult to tell if the early divisions weakened the party and contributed to growth of Labour
  • 1910 election and constitutional crisis- showed that Liberals did not have a secure majority and relied on the support from Irish Nationalists
  • Trade Unions and the growth of the Labour Party
  • The Suffragettes
  • Irish Nationalism 
  • WW1 - huge challange to Liberals. Caused an split in the Liberal Party. The war also benefited the Labour Party.
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Pre-Existing Divisions

Liberal Government formed in 1906 - divisions over Home Rule and Imperialism (1880's and 1890's) seemed to have been left behind.

BUT ideological split still existed between laissez-faire liberals (self-help) and new collectivist liberals (state intervention)

Split didn't interfere with Party's 1906-1914 programme of social reform. 

But difficult to tell if earlier divisions weakened the party and contributed to the growth of Labour. 

The strains of fighting WWI put enormous pressure on these weak points as it posed questions about the degree of government intervention. It caused a split to develop in the party during WWI which the Liberals would never recover from. 

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1910 Election and Consitutional Crisis

Result of the 1910, Liberals only had a minority government. They lost their overwhelming majority to attempt to pass peoples budget and parliment act 1911 - peoples mandate

Liberals now relied on the support of Irish Nationalists or Labour for a majority


Liberals handled the consitutional crisis well, this enhanced the reputations of Liberal leaders. Particularly Lloyd George and Asquith who had come across as defenders of democracy and shown great political skill. 

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Labour Party in 1906

+There was a growing perception of Labour as an alternative to other parties.+Taff Vale and Balfous refusal to introduce legislation for union had increased support of unions for LRC, more money for elections. + 1906 election was successful for labour - 29MP's. + Labour cooperated with Liberal gvt to pass 1906 Trade Disputes Act BUT

- 1903 liblab pact was crucial for the advancement of the Labour party. - Liberal party was not pressured by Labour - not wealthy enough, not strong enough electoral base to compete. Labour failed to make an impact and was criticised:

  • Osbourne case, 1909 and payment of Mp's, Walter Osbourne objected to his Trade Union using his union sub to support labour, case went to House of Lords where decision was made in favour of osbourne making it illegal for TU's to use their funding to support political parties. Without union funding MP's couldn't afford to take their seat. 
  • Labours continuing pact with the Liberals became vital, introduction of payment to Mp's 1911 and retifed with reversal of Osbourne judgement with 1913 TU act - allowed unions to set up own political fund. 
  • Labour recieved criticism from Fabian Society, labour had failed to put its socialist principles into practise to attract w/c, lacked leadership and appeared a wing of the Liberal Party
  • Labour came bottom of the poll in every by-election, 1910-1914 - lost four seats
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Labour Party in 1906

Impact of Trade Union unrest 1911-1914 

  • Period of significant unrest - strikes and lockouts, 
  • A triple alliance of miners, railwaymen and transport workers were formed for mutal support during strike action
  • Trade Union membership doubled, 2mil > 4 mil
  • Tensions within union movement encouraged TU leaders to move to support Labour
  • Rise of Syndicalism - direct action rather than parlimentary action COULD have had a detrimental effect on the Labour Party, but had a limited following in GB

Impact of WW1

  • Outbreak of war in 1914 divided Labour Party but no long term effects on its unity
  • Some Labour members opposed to conflict, some put country first and offered full support
  • Close cooperation between TU's and gvt - industry was essential to war effort E.g munitions
  • TU membership - vast increase in WWI and increase of Labour Party funds
  • War enbaled Labour Party to form strong connections with the w/c and created desire for a more equal society in GB - benefited Labour Party
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The Suffragette Crisis

Impatience surrounding the lack of progress of the suffragists in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (1897) led to the formation of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 by the Pankhursts. They aimed for enfranchisement of women though "deeds not words" and to solve other social injustices suffered by women. (Marrige and Divorce, Education, Working Rights and Conditions and Political Power.) In 1906 the Liberal government dodged the issue of women's suffrage leading to the suffragettes mounting a tough campaign in which they were prepared to break the law. Why did Liberals not give women the vote?

  • Feared that if the vote was only given to m/c and u/c women they would support the Conservative Party and/or they would swamp the male vote. There were more pressing issues. 

Qualification of Women Act (1907) gave women the right to be elected in local councils and become mayor. However a private members bill introduced shortly after was overwhelmingly defeated which caused suffragette violence. The government toughened up on sufffragettes and ordered force feeding for those on hunger strike. This rose public sympathy for women. The government then passed the Cat and Mouse Act (1913) which released suffragettes weak from hunger allowed them to recover and rearrested them.

The Liberals took too long deciding how far to extend the franchise without disadvantaging their electoral prospects, even once they had accepted the principle of femal suffrage in 1912.

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Irish Nationalism

Re-emergence of Home Rule - Salisbury's tough measures to deal with disorder and sturdy reform had quietened the calls for Home Rule. Home Rule Party weak, divided, little open rebellion. BUT John Redmonds Parnellite Nationalists emerged as a 3rd party in the 1910 elections, with over 80 seats, Irish Nationalists held the balance of power. Asquith needed the promise of Irish Nationalist vote to deal with the constiutional crisis. The 1911 Parliament Act meant that the Lords could only delay the passing of the 1912 Home Rule Bill by 2 years. 

Ulster - However Protestant Ulster Unionists threatened to revolt if they were pushed into a Catholic-Dominated Ireland. Mobilised their forces, 100,000 Ulster Volunteers (UVF) under Sir Edward Carson, prepared to use force to defend their right to remain part of the union. New Conservative Leader, Andrew Bonar Law resented the Parliment Act and the power it gave the Irish Nationalists. He promised Conservative help for the Ulster rebels. 

The Curragh mutiny - Liberals accepted that it was necessary to offer a special concession to Ulster. Asquith, with Redmond's agreement, inserted an exclusion clause in the Home Rule Bill. It would allow the people of any Irish county to vote out of a united Ireland. Compromise dismissed by Carson. March 1914, danger of civil war, army officers stationed at Curragh would "prefer to accept dismissal" than fight against fellow Protestants.  Bonar Law implicated in this act. Asquith was criticised for weak handling of this situation.

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Irish Nationalism

Re-emergence of Irish Nationalism - Various movements were emerging at the turn of the 20th century. Irish Republican Brotherhood and remnants of the Fenians resurfaced. Sinn Fein was founded by a journalist Arthur Griffith in 1905 and argued for a seperate independent Ireland but made little political impact before 1914. In Novemember 1913, the Irish Volunteers were formed as a response to the Ulster Volunteers. 

Home Rule for Ireland - Home Rule Bill passed through the Commons for the third time in May 1914. There was still no solution for Ulster and an all-party conference in July failed to find an acceptable compromise. Arms smuggling and gun running by both the UVF and the Irish Volunteers brought Ireland to the edge of civil war. Home Rule was due to become law in September 1914 but when when war broke out it was agreed to suspend the operation of Home Rule until the end of the War. Carsons UVF and the Irish Volunteers signed up to join the war effort. Both sides hoped their loyal action would bring the government around to their point of view. 

Asquith appears to have been relieved to shelve the problem and was criticised for his "wait and see" attitude.In the end, Home Rule failed to offer the solution Ireland required. After the war, there were many troubled yeards ahead for both the Irish people and the British government. 

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  • 1914 wave of patrioism, 1million volunteers, "War over by Christmas", Trade Unions and Suffragettes laid aside their disoutes with the gvt to concentrate on the war effort, despite this war caused problems for the Liberals. 
  • Many Liberals disliked war, necessity of bringing resources and man power (conscription) under gvt control during war time and disagreed with conflict for moral reasons. 
  • Asquith believed in "Buisiness as usual" he appointed Lord Kitchener as secretary for War; left war to be run by "military expert" ; relinquished political control. Asquith had a poo reputation as a war leader. He was too cautious; lacked urgency and decisiveness. 
  • DORA - was a remarkable piece of legislation for a Liberal government as it approved state intervention and gave the government wide powers to introduce restrictions on civilian population whist GB was at war BUT these measures were introduced too slowly
  • LG was seen as a dynamic and effective presence in government. E.g Dilution Agreements
  • Criticism of the gvt mounted during 1915, shortage of men and munitions and alleged shell shortage in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (GB defeated) 
  • WWI severly tested Liberal unity; conscription was very divisive, the shell shortage crisis caused much strain and many traditional Liberals did not accept the need to sacrifice laissez faire principles. 
  • A split developed between Lloyd George (State Intervention) and Asquith (Buisiness as usual) LG replaced Asquith as PM in 1916. The Liberal Party never recovered from the split. 
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Historians View

Strange death of Liberal England

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