Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Within the extensive literature on British dissent in the First World War, there is a significant lack of study on the critical year of the War, 1917. This thesis addresses this omission by examining the period from December 1916 to January 1918. In the orthodox view of dissent in the Great War, the dissenters became an increasingly powerful political movement which succeeded in capturing the Labour Party and in driving the Coalition Government into accepting a moderate set of war aims. This thesis revises the orthodox view by arguing that by August 1917 dissent was becoming a spent political force whose ideas were coopted by less radical groups who had little or no commitment to real dissenting objectives. The chronological approach focuses on the contribution of five leading representatives of Liberal-Radical and Independent Labour Party dissent: Noel Buxton, Arthur Ponsonby, E. D. Morel, Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden. The analysis reveals that these dissenters assumed the prominent role in the call for a negotiated peace in the first half of 1917. In mid-1917, however, their cause suffered serious setbacks with the Southgate Brotherhood Church Riot of 31 July, the Special Labour Party Conferences of August and the creation of the Government-sponsored National War Aims Committee. Throughout the fall of 1917, the dissenters came under growing Government repression and, for a variety of reasons, increasingly found themselves displaced from their preeminent position in the leadership of the peace-by-negotiation movement. Seen in this light, the Labour Party's 28 December 1917 War Aims Memorandum, Lloyd George's 5 January 1918 speech at Caxton Hall and American President Woodrow Wilson's 8 January 1918 speech to Congress, all attributed to dissenting pressure, in actuality represent defeats for dissent. By mid-February 1918 the dissenters were even further removed from political influence than they had been before December 1916. It has been observed that the dissenters lost the War but won the peace. The epilogue examines this presumed paradox and finds it to be more apparent than real.
Gregory, Andrew G., ""They Look in vain": British Foreign Policy Dissent and the Quest for a Negotiated Peace during the Great War with Particular Emphasis on 1917" (1997). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3356.