British Politics, 1910-1935: The Crisis of the Party System

By David Powell | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgements

The early twentieth century was a time of upheaval in politics as in other aspects of British life. The political changes of the period have been much studied, and the mass of specialist literature on particular topics such as the decline of the Liberal party and the rise of Labour, or the impact of the First World War, has become so vast that it is difficult to retain an overall picture of what was happening or to get a proper sense of the way in which the different parts of the historiographical jigsaw relate to one another. The present volume, while engaging with the main historical controversies, attempts to provide a framework for the study of British politics in the first half of the twentieth century which places the various debates and sub-debates in a pattern that enables them to be seen as part of a continuous story. As well as examining the fluctuating fortunes of individual political parties and the rise and fall of governments, it seeks deliberately to focus attention on the development of the party system as a whole and its relationship to wider changes in politics and society. As the subtitle of the book indicates, this approach is underpinned by the conceptual belief that the events of 1910-35 did not merely comprise a succession of political crises of differing degrees of severity but that together they constituted an underlying crisis of the party system itself, in which ideas and institutions inherited from the Victorian era were subjected to far-reaching challenges which resulted in a more serious threat to Britain's political stability than has usually been admitted.

It will be apparent to specialists in the field how much an overview of this kind is indebted to the work of other historians, although they may not necessarily endorse my emphases or interpretation. I have attempted to acknowledge my debts to the existing literature in the chapter notes and the guide to further reading. In addition, there are a number of individuals I would like to thank for their assistance. Jeremy Black helped me to get the original project for the book off the ground. The publishers at UCL and Routledge showed faith in it at every stage, and I am particularly grateful to Vicky Peters for her unflagging enthusiasm and support. Friends and colleagues have provided much appreciated encouragement. Finally I must mention my wife, Pyrrha, who has been there through it all, again.

-vi-

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British Politics, 1910-1935: The Crisis of the Party System
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface and Acknowledgements vi
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Parties and Politics in Edwardian Britain 10
  • 2 - The Crisis of Partisanship, 1910-14 34
  • 3 - The Crisis of War, 1914-18 58
  • 4 - Coalitionism and Party Politics, 1918-22 90
  • 5 - Three-Party Politics, 1922-4 117
  • 6 - Politicians and the Slump, 1924-31 142
  • 7 - Crisis Resolved: the 1930s and After 171
  • Conclusion 192
  • Notes 199
  • Further Reading 212
  • Index 215
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