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Lloyd George, David, 1863-1945

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Summary Article: Lloyd George, David, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor from The Columbia Encyclopedia

Lloyd George, David, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor (d´ēvôr), 1863-1945, British statesman, of Welsh extraction. Lloyd George was a brilliantly eloquent, forceful, and creative statesman, but he was often unscrupulous and opportunistic in his methods and widely mistrusted.

Early Career

Elected (1890) to Parliament as a Liberal, the young Lloyd George soon became known as a radical and an anti-imperialist. He bitterly opposed the South African War. In 1905 he entered Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's ministry as president of the board of trade, establishing an outstanding reputation for his welfare reforms. In 1908 he was appointed chancellor of the exchequer by Herbert Asquith, later 1st earl of Oxford and Asquith. The rejection by the House of Lords of his 1909 budget, which provided for a system of social insurance partly financed by land and income taxes, led to passage of the Parliament Act of 1911, by which the Lords lost its power of veto (see Parliament).

During World War I

In 1911, Lloyd George made his famous Mansion House speech, in which he warned Germany that Britain would not tolerate interference with its international interests. After the outbreak of World War I, Lloyd George remained chancellor until 1915 when he became minister of munitions. He was then (1916) minister of war before he succeeded (Dec., 1916) in ousting Asquith and formed his own coalition government.

Lloyd George immediately reorganized the structure of the government, creating a small war cabinet of five (which when attended also by representatives of the dominions and India became the Imperial war cabinet) and forming for the first time a cabinet secretariat. His war policy was bold and aggressive, and, although he was often at odds with the military leaders, he was largely responsible for the unification of military command under Marshal Ferdinand Foch. At the Paris Peace Conference (1919), Lloyd George exercised a moderating influence on both the harsh demands of Georges Clemenceau and the idealistic proposals of Woodrow Wilson, and to a large extent he shaped the final agreement (see Versailles, Treaty of).

After the War

A general election in 1918 had given Lloyd George and his coalition a substantial majority, but he was heavily dependent on Conservative support. This fact accounts at least partially for the repressive policy he adopted in Ireland, although he finally concluded the treaty that set up (1922) the Irish Free State. In 1922 the Chanak crisis occurred, in which Lloyd George delivered an ultimatum to the Turks, who, having seized Smyrna from the Greeks, were poised to strike across the neutralized Straits zone. The Turks agreed to withdraw, but in Britain Lloyd George was accused of recklessness. The Conservatives withdrew from the coalition, and his ministry fell (1922).

Lloyd George continued to be active in Parliament and, despite the fact that he was disliked by many Liberals for his treatment of Asquith, served (1926-31) as the leader of the by-then shattered Liberal party. In 1936 he visited and was much impressed by Adolf Hitler, but he later attacked the policy of appeasing Nazi Germany. He was raised to the peerage only a few months before his death.

  • See his War Memoirs (6 vol., 1933-36; 2 vol., 1943) and Memoirs of the Peace Conference (1939).
  • biographies by William George, his brother (1958), M. Gilbert (1968), and F. L. Lloyd George, his widow (1971).
  • K. O. Morgan (1971) and J. Grigg (3 vol., 1973-85).
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