Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation will focus upon Lloyd George's relationship to wartime dissent. This is an important area of study not yet coherently, systematically, and thoroughly treated. This neglect is indeed evident in the transformation of the 'pro-Boer' Radical at the turn of the century into "the man who won the war" in 1918. There have been numerous studies on Lloyd George and the Labour Movement, Lloyd George and the Generals, and Lloyd George as social reformer, just to name a few. But, as yet, there has not been any scholarly examination of Lloyd George and wartime dissent, topics which encompass his views on such issues as censorship, propaganda, the containment of peace-by-negotiation organizations, specifically, the Union of Democratic Control (UDC), the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), and the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and the imprisonment of conscientious objectors.
Two wars were fought by Lloyd George from 1916 to 1918: the first was the arduous military effort on behalf of the "knock-out blow" for total victory, while the second was the domestic campaign to maintain public support for the war. By focusing upon the "domestic war", the Lloyd George Government employed a sophisticated array of tools to buy loyalty and crush dissent: first, by constructing a propaganda machine which pledged the creation of a new post-war Britain in order to justify the hardships at home, the British Government capitalized upon the depth of patriotism throughout the working classes, and, second, by applying the weapons of censorship and persecution, for instance, the trial and imprisonment of E. D. Morel, the secretary of the UDC, the Lloyd George Coalition punished the leading dissenter and demonstrated their willingness to subvert individual rights and liberties. Moreover, the campaign against dissent was aided when key German actions, for example, the decision by the German High Command to adopt a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917, undermined the claims of the dissenters that German peace moves were sincere and that Germany was often willing to negotiate in good faith. In addition, the British Government exploited internal divisions within wartime dissent over the issues of civil liberties and industrial action which prevented the formation of a potentially powerful alliance between peace advocates, civil libertarians, and industrial militants which could pose as a legitimate political alternative to the constitutional government. This ambitious domestic campaign contributed to Lloyd George's reputation as "the man who won the war" and to the rout of dissent in the election of 1918.
This examination of Lloyd George's proscription of wartime dissent has also highlighted the intellectual narrowness and deep internal divisions within the peace movement, the nature of German war aims chronicled by Fritz Fischer, the German historian, who traced the aggressive continuities in Germany's expansive foreign and military policy, and the paradox of Lloyd George's political ascendancy in 1918 and his vilification by the British Left as an enemy of the working classes. The failure of the peace-by-negotiation movement and the success of the "knock-out blow" policy was therefore facilitated by Lloyd George's readiness to devote his tireless energy and demagogic oratory to mobilize the nation's resources--human, material, and psychological--to the defence of the nation.
Harkison, Paul, "David Lloyd George as the "Hammer" of Dissent: The War Premiership, 1916-1918" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3082.