Student Question

What led to the emergence of the Liberal Party in Britain in 1860?

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Joseph Chamberlain, an important individual and radical Liberal thinker, had a significant role in the forming of the Liberal party in Britain. He became more imperialist in his outlook as his career went on, eventually becoming an ally of the Tories. Experts argue about the possibilty that because the Liberal Unionists were sympathetic to the Conservative party from the beginning that they were gradually absorbed by them. The Liberal Unionist split (the Revolt of the Whigs) saw rich landed gentry Liberals start to question their party’s growing radicalism and start to wonder whether their real interests lay with the Conservatives. The Liberal Unionist split is now seen by some as the sart of class division party politics. William Gladstone delivered a famous speech on this issue about the masses against the classes hoping to pour scorn on the elitist actions of his former friends. Some saw Gladstone’s leadership, his religious zeal  and perceived need to pander to placate 'the mob' didn't chime with the secular and more rationalist views of other traditional Liberals. His support for home rule in Ireland was also a concern for Liberals who had hoped to keep Ireland on board.

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