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A history of the Liberal Party since 1900

A history of the Liberal Party since 1900

Dutton, David, 1947- author

Most accounts of the Liberal Party are written within the context of the decline of the party. The later 20th century witnessed a resurgence in liberal fortunes & the party, reinvented as the Social and Liberal Democrats, is once more a major force in British politics

Paperback, Hardback, Book. English.
2nd ed.
Published Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013

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Statement of responsibility: David Dutton
ISBN: 0230361889, 0230361897, 9780230361881, 9780230361898
Intended audience: Specialized.
Note: Previous edition: published as A history of the Liberal Party in the twentieth century, 2004.
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: 336 pages ; 23 cm
Subject: Liberalism Great Britain History.; Politics and Government.; Great Britain Politics and government.; Liberal Party (Great Britain) History.


  1. Acknowledgements
  2. Introduction
  3. 1. Strange Death or Edwardian Summer 1902-1916
  4. 2. The Liberal Civil War 1916-1935
  5. 3. So Few and So Futile 1935-1955
  6. 4. Two Steps Forward and one Back 1955-1979
  7. 5. A Cracked Mould and a New Beginning 1979-2001
  8. 6. Right into Government 2001-2011
  9. Conclusion
  10. Notes
  11. Guide to Further Reading
  12. Appendix: The Liberal Performance at General Elections Since 1900
  13. Appendix: Leaders of the Liberal (and Liberal Democrat) Party since 1900
  14. Index

Author note

David Dutton is Ramsay Muir Emeritus Professor of Twentieth Century British Political History at the University of Liverpool, UK.


Once teetering on the brink of oblivion, the British Liberal Party has again re-established itself as a major force in national and local politics. David Dutton's approachable study offers new insights into the waning, near death and ultimate recovery of the Liberal Party from 1900 to the present day.  Discussions of politics, philosophy and performance are all skilfully interwoven as Dutton demonstrates how the party has become, once more, a formidable player on the political stage.


The second edition of this established text offers:

* an entirely new chapter on the coalition government

* a chronology of key events

* numerous suggestions for further reading.


This lively survey of British Liberalism from the era of Campbell-Bannerman to that of Nick Clegg reviews existing literature while offering its own distinctive perspective on one of the most compelling of political dramas.


'Adjectives such as 'comprehensive', 'rigorous' and 'learned' are sure to litter reviews of David Dutton's new history of the Liberal party. It does indeed possess each of these attributes, and more. The book gives a full account of each of the major turning points for the Liberals since is valuable reading.' - Progress Online


Reviews of the first edition: 
"The history of the twentieth-century Liberal Party is about the idea of Liberalism itself, and this book plays an important part in documenting that...David Dutton cites Lady Violet Bonham Carter, who said that the only purpose of politics is the expression of one's deepest convictions - and their translation into facts. Any historian who reminds us of that has performed an invaluable task." - The Rt. Hon. Charles Kennedy, MP

"David Dutton has provided us with a book we have long been waiting for - a scholarly, rigorous and highly readable survey of twentieth-century British Liberal history. It will be required reading for any serious student of British Liberalism." - Duncan Brack, Journal of Liberal History

"The history of the liberal party in the twentieth century is a fascinating subject which David Dutton investigates with clarity, a masterly command of detail, and utter fairness. Everyone interested in British politics should read this book." - Philip M. H. Bell, formerly Liverpool University, UK

"A shrewd and timely analysis of the Liberal Party's fortunes as it sought to come to terms with the historical changes of the last century...Required and well-informed reading for all those interested in the evolving identity of the Liberal Party and its relationship with 'liberalism', the two main parties, and its mutation into the Liberal Democrats." - Ralph White, former Senior Lecturer at Salford University, UK

"In no other title on the history of the Liberal Party is such a varied body of research brought together so succinctly." - Matt Cole, Journal of Liberal History

"David Dutton's History is a timely and thorough examination of Liberal transformation and fortunes since the nineteenth-century...To cover so much ground in a detailed and analytical way makes this book something of a tour de force: it deserves to take its place as the best succinct history we have." - Parliamentary Affairs

"This is a much-needed, well-researched book, which provides a balanced survey of the ups and downs (mainly downs) of the Liberal Party throughout the twentieth century." - T.A.Jenkins, History

"In tone, range and balance this is not only the best single volume general history of the modern Liberal Party but a key addition to any undergraduate reading list concerning Britain in the last century." - Contemporary British History

"Overall, Dutton's book is a pleasure to read. It serves up a synthesis of traditional political party history in a lively and engaging manner." - Matthew Hendley, Canadian Journal of History