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The decline of the Liberal Party 1880 - 1900

Rubinstein, B. David (1956) The decline of the Liberal Party 1880 - 1900. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is designed to be a study if the Liberal Party between 1880 and 1900, undertaken in order to ascertain the reasons for its decline in those year. My attempt is to show that the seeds of the Party's later decay can be found in this period, and that the study of these twenty years is, in fact, essential to an understanding of the crucial changes in the structure of British politics which have subsequently taken place. There were, I feel, several reasons for the Liberal decline. One is to he found in the revolt of many of the middle classes against orthodox liberal utilitarian ideals. Thus, whereas advance bourgeois thinks between 1820 and 1870 had mostly been laissez-faire Radicals of the Manchester School variety, those who followed were socialist, or at least collectivist, in their ideas. A second reason was the revolt of many of the working classes against the misery which was their lot and the gradual adherence to socialism. These two major changes have been taken as background; the major emphasis of this thesis, however, is on the Liberal Party itself. I have studied its leaders, their concepts, their quarrels, and the political events of the twenty years; I have tried to show how Gladstonian Liberalism reacted to the new forces in the late Victorian period and how its failure to do so adequately was in part inherent in its very nature. The Liberal Party was a phenomenon unique to an age which believed in "free enterprise" and a laissez-faire state; once these beliefs were threatened, so too was the party which practised them. Other factors making for Liberal decline included the Home Rule issue, the new Imperialism , and the defection Joseph Chamberlain. None of these, however, was as important as the first; Liberalism, by its very nature, contributed to its own destruction. I have tried to show how this process took place.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1956 B. David Rubinstein
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Sets: Departments > Government

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