a1 University of Bristol
A great deal of published historical work has been devoted to establishing the causes and chronology of the demise of the Liberal party in British politics. The downfall of the Liberals has been ascribed to the inevitable outflanking development of the Labour party; to the mutilation of Liberal principles involved in waging the first ‘total’ war; to the personal rifts and feuds between the rival followers of Asquith and Lloyd George—and to various combinations of these factors. Yet there has been no detailed analysis of the division within the Parliamentary Liberal party during the First World War. Although at the end of 1916 obviously certain Liberals supported Asquith and others Lloyd George, no attempt has been made to examine the way in which the rifts in the party were reflected in political action in the House of Commons during the time of the second coalition government, nor to determine accurately the lines of division in the party. An answer to the question of ‘How did the Liberal party divide during the First World War?’ has proved elusive, although some historians of the period have been more successful than others.