THE LIBERAL SUMMER SCHOOL: THE FIRST DECADE
IN more senses than one, the Liberal Summer School movement was the linchpin of liberal and progressive thought during the 1920s. It witnessed the only serious attempts to revive liberalism as an intellectual force; it supplied the Liberal party with a radical ideology that gradually assumed salience and centrality in its programmes; and it served as a source of inspiration, often discreet, sometimes acknowledged, for a wide spectrum of political activists outside the Liberal party, even if its practical influences had to await the advent of another world war. The Liberal Summer School ( LSS) movement is of crucial importance for an understanding of British liberal thought between the wars: in its successes, its failures, its tensions, it mirrored the dilemmas and difficulties of a struggling ideology. A sustained period of crisis will frequently highlight issues and magnify cracks, and so it was with liberalism, whose nature and structure as a belief system was revealed for all to see.
It is interesting that the LSS has not engaged the attention of many scholars of liberalism,1 a phenomenon that itself is characteristic of the considerable problems that faced liberal thought. The British propensity to identify party with ideology not only abetted the rapid decline of liberalism as the party was rent from within and squeezed from without, but has bequeathed a perspective that over- emphasizes the demise of the Liberal party while tending to overlook the partially successful disengagement of liberalism from its institutional fetters.2 That disengagement was not without cost to____________________