on 19 July 2008
This is the third and expanded new edition of Pugh's classic textbook. Pugh deals with his subject matter chronologically, taking us masterfully from the age of Gladstone and Disraeli to the end of the Second World War and the advent of the 1945 Labour Government.
Pugh's book tackles all the most important themes in British politics during the era: The Liberal Governments of Gladstone, Disraeli, the late Victorian Conservative Party, the 'New' Liberalism, the impact of the First World War upon British politics, Conservative electoral hegemony in the inter-war years, the National Government and the impact of the Second World War.
This book will be of use to AS/A2 and undergraduate students, and, perhaps to the general reader interested in the evolution of British politics in this period. The book balances readability, scholarly research and is informed by the latest historical work.
In 1867, Britain had just adopted the Second Reform Act. Though this was a major step towards universal suffrage, it remained several gradations away from modern democracy yet. Its ruling parties were the predominantly agrarian Tories and the Liberals, a ramshackle group still completing its transition from the politics of Palmerston to those of Gladstone. By 1945, it had become the two-party polity we have become accustomed to. This book elucidates the era in between, the long transition made all the more painful and unpredictable by two major wars. The slow collapse of the once invincible Liberals, the surprise yet chaotic rise of Labour, and the multiple Conservative reinventions are all charted here, with due attention to electoral, ideological, and tactical factors. Complete yet clear and to-the-point, Pugh's account reflects the main historical debates as to the forces at play. It is essential reading for students of the period and of general interest in its portrayal of the country's end-transition to political modernity. Finally, British politics have recently become more multi-party again, with the first coalition cabinet in a long while, and the book's account of three-party, interwar politics may in this sense have become relevant anew.