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About this book

One of the most charismatic and controversial of British politicians, David Lloyd George had a profound impact on the country; as a Welsh radical, as an Edwardian social reformer and as 'the man who won the war'.

Lloyd George was centrally involved in all the major national issues of the early twentieth century, and in the aftermath of World War I he played a crucial role at the Versailles peace conference and on the world scene of the early 1920s. His life is fascinating in itself and highly valuable as a means to understanding a crucial era in British history. Students hoping to understand the politics of the period that decisively ushered in the British experience of the welfare state, and, through the emergencies provoked by the Great War, a new and highly obtrusive role for government, will find Dr. Packer's book an invaluable aid.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Lloyd George has not lacked biographers. Indeed, he has been one of the most closely studied of all modern British political figures and the stream of scholarship shows no signs of abating. In the last ten years there have been two excellent short surveys of his career, by Martin Pugh and Chris Wrigley, and two multi-volume appraisals, by John Grigg and Bentley Gilbert, are currently underway.1 However, agreement about the subject of these studies seems further away than ever. For instance, while Pugh attempted to place Lloyd George within a consistent ideological framework, Wrigley preferred to examine a number of different themes in Lloyd George’s career, concluding that his main aim was simply ‘getting on’.2 Similarly, Gilbert, whilst producing many interesting new appraisals of aspects of Lloyd George’s career before 1914, has also been at pains to emphasise his disagreement with many of John Grigg’s assessments.
Ian Packer

1. Early Life, 1863–1905

Abstract
The first stages of David Lloyd George’s life, up to his election to the House of Commons at the age of twenty-seven, have been treated in detail by many of his biographers. This interest has been prompted both by a search for the formative influences on Lloyd George’s outlook and a recognition that his life was devoted to a consuming passion for politics as far back as his days as a teenage trainee solicitor in Porthmadog. But his early years have an added significance because, in his subsequent career, Lloyd George made his background an essential part of his public image and, as the occasion suited, a justification for whatever policy he was pursuing.
Ian Packer

2. New Liberal, 1905–14

Abstract
The Tory government led by Arthur Balfour finally resigned in November 1905. It was on the brink of disintegration anyway over its disagreements on tariff reform and Balfour hoped to exploit the continuing divisions in Liberalism between the Imperialists and Radicals, by challenging Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman to form an effective Cabinet that could unite his party. After a brief struggle, the new Prime Minister was successful, forming a carefully balanced administration that included all the leading Imperialists bar Rosebery. Lloyd George did not join in the frenzied attempts of many of his colleagues to beg office, by letter or in person. He simply assumed he would be offered a post, even neglecting to tell Campbell-Bannerman of his whereabouts in London.1 Despite Liberalism’s ten years out of office, most of the places in the new Cabinet were reserved for men who had played some role in the last government of 1895. Only six of Campbell-Bannerman’s Cabinet had never held any ministerial post before and Lloyd George was the youngest of them, confirming his role as a rising star in the party.
Ian Packer

3. War, 1914–18

Abstract
The old myth that Britain was unprepared for war in 1914 has long been exploded.1 The Army actually had a good idea of the kind of war Britain should fight against a German invasion of France. The British Expeditionary Force would provide some limited aid to the French in defending their eastern frontier. Meanwhile, the Navy would strangle German overseas trade and destroy the German fleet in a great naval battle in the North Sea. Britain would thus be able to destroy Germany and restore a balance of power in Europe in a short war with minimal damage to her economy and trade. This was a perfectly reasonable assessment of the likely outcome of events in the summer of 1914. If it had proved correct the Liberal Party would have emerged unscathed from the conflict and Lloyd George’s career would probably have remained within the bounds of the existing party system. Unfortunately for the Liberal Party, the experts’ predictions proved totally inaccurate. No decisive battle was fought on either the Western or Eastern Front and the war settled down to the stalemate of the trenches. By the time the war ended in 1918, over five million British men were in the armed forces, more than 700 000 had been killed and the economy had suffered massive dislocation. But there was no revolution, remarkably little disaffection and a huge upsurge of patriotism. Under the strain, though, the pre-war political system broke asunder, destroying parties and forging new and strange alliances. The ultimate beneficiary of this was Lloyd George, who gained the premiership, something he could not have expected before 1914.
Ian Packer

4. Peace-time Prime Minister, 1918–22

Abstract
The post-war coalition government has usually been seen, both by contemporaries and historians, as very much ‘Lloyd George’s government’. In some ways this is indisputable. The peculiar combination of Tories, Liberals and a few Labour and non-party figures that ruled Britain in 1916–22 would never have come into being but for their decision to support Lloyd George as Prime Minister. Moreover, in 1919 he stood at the height of his authority as one of the three most powerful men in the world, with Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson. The trappings of power surrounded him, marking him out from his colleagues and setting him at the apex of government. In particular, he continued and extended his usual practice of working with groups of experts, in the Cabinet Office, and the ‘Garden Suburb’ of special advisers. Senior members of the Cabinet were, in contrast, often treated with contempt, and collectively they sometimes seemed no more than another group of prime ministerial advisers — as when they were all summoned to Inverness in 1921 to meet their Prime Minister, who was convalescing from influenza. Lloyd George also had a tendency to take over the direction of important matters personally, rather than leaving them to departmental Ministers, especially where foreign affairs, the Irish negotiations of 1921–2 or industrial relations were concerned. In all these senses, the government was very much ‘his’ government.
Ian Packer

5. Twilight, 1922–45

Abstract
Historians have varied wildly in their assessment of Lloyd George’s career after 1922. The earlier view is that the whole period was a sad postscript to the great years of power. Lloyd George was excluded from office, had no achievements to his name and merely confirmed his reputation as a devious power-seeker. However, these ideas were comprehensively challenged in the 1960s and 1970s. Historians like Robert Skidelsky and John Campbell contrasted the failure of Baldwin and MacDonald to counter unemployment with the imaginative Keynesian solutions Lloyd George propounded, especially in 1928–9.1 The interwar period was presented as a conspiracy of dullards to exclude creative politicians like Lloyd George, making him, in Ken Morgan’s words, ‘a dominant and uniquely creative figure’ who ‘overshadowed’ the 1920s.2 In turn, this view has more recently been criticised for overlooking the problems and confusions in Lloyd George’s schemes, thus ensuring that the entire span of his political career is now the subject of debate.3
Ian Packer

Conclusions

Abstract
The most damaging charge laid against Lloyd George has always been that he was merely an opportunist. But contemporary trends in historiography are strongly against the idea that any politician can be satisfactorily viewed purely as a pragmatist whose only concern is power. In recent years, historical inquiry has increasingly focused on unravelling the preconceived ideas and attitudes that underlie political action, and serious attention has been paid to the ideology of even such seemingly unpromising figures as Stanley Baldwin.1 Lloyd George, though, represents a huge challenge to this approach. His career was so complex and protean that almost any assertion about his approach to politics can be contradicted by reference to some part of his life. There have, though, been attempts to place Lloyd George in a consistent frame of reference, notably by Ken Morgan and Martin Pugh.2 Morgan tended to see Wales as the most important thread in Lloyd George’s career. More recently, Martin Pugh has described Lloyd George as part ofa centrist strand of politics, stretching from Joseph Chamberlain to David Owen, which in combining a commitment to social reform with a robust foreign and imperial policy does not fit easily into the party system.
Ian Packer
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