No other British statesman of the twentieth century has left so deep an impress on his times as Lloyd George, save Winston Churchill. Both were architects of victory in successive world conflicts. Both were men of dynamic purposiveness, endowed with courage which only began to reveal its qualities when others faltered and sought compromise. Both had great gifts in the spoken and the written word and in the man-to-man exchange of political conflict. They were men made to appreciate each other, and, at the time of Lloyd George's death, Churchill greeted him as the greatest Welshman since the age of the Tudors.
The contrasts, too, are sharp. A grateful British people denied Churchill post-war leadership because they distrusted his views on reconstruction. Lloyd George was given a resounding, if enigmatic, mandate in the 'Khaki election' of 1918, in part because his social views were known and trusted by the man on the street. Winston Churchill was born to the purple. Lloyd George came up from the ranks.
The career of Lloyd George is the despair of those who have great faith in the value of formal education. He had vocational training in the law, it is true, but his general education, measured in any terms, was meagre. When he became Chancellor of the Exchequer, 'he had never seen a bill of exchange and knew little or nothing of the delicate mechanism by which international trade is regulated'. Of his activities at the Peace Conference of 1919 the historian G. P. Gooch remarks: 'No plenipotentiary ever approached the supremely difficult task of rebuilding a world in ruins with less perfect equipment of precise knowledge.' Yet those who knew him testify to his tremendous intellectual agility and his vast absorptive powers. A rapid briefing on a complex subject, and he was ready for the most trying struggle in the House of Commons. Like many men who lack the patience to read endlessly, he had a passion for extracting relevant and interesting knowledge from everyone he met.
Lloyd George was born in simple circumstances, and he never forgot the tragedy of human frustration and distress. Much of his early career was devoted to social legislation. He sponsored the Health Insurance Act of 1911 which laid the basis of the . . .