The Strange Survival of Liberal Britain

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The turbulent years of 1895 to 1914 changed Britain’s political landscape for ever. They saw a transition from aristocratic rule to mass politics and heralded a new agenda which still dominates today. The issues of the period – economic modernisation, social welfare and equality, secondary and technical education, a new role for Britain in the world – were complex and difficult. Indeed, they proved so thorny that despite the efforts of the Edwardians they remain among the most pressing problems we face in the twenty-first century. The period has often been seen as one of decadence, of the strange death of liberal Britain. In contrast, Vernon Bogdanor believes that the robustness of Britain’s parliamentary and political institutions and her liberal political culture, with the commitment to rational debate and argument, were powerful enough to carry her through one of the most trying periods of her history and so make possible the remarkable survival of liberal Britain. In this wide-ranging and sometimes controversial survey, one of our pre-eminent political historians dispels the popular myths that have grown up about this critical period in Britain’s story and argues that it set the scene for much that is laudable about our nation today.