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Herbert Asquith

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Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, Viscount Asquith of Morley, 1925 (September 12, 1852 - February 15, 1928) was the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916.

Born in Morley, Yorkshire. Educated at the City of London School, he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. After graduation he became a barrister, he was called to the bar in 1876. He became prosperous from law from the early 1880s.

He had married Helen Melland in 1877 and they had three children before she died from typhoid in 1891. In 1894 he remarried, to Margot Tennant.

Elected to Parliament in 1886 as the Liberal representative for East Fife, he achieved his first significant post in 1892 when he was made Home Secretary under Gladstone. However the Liberals were out of power for a decade years from 1895, he turned down an offer to lead the party in 1898. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry Campbell-Bannerman from 1905, where he demonstrated his staunch support of free trade. Campbell-Bannerman resigned due to illness in April 1908 and was succeeded by Asquith.

His government had began an extensive social welfare programme, introducing government pensions in 1908. However the government also became involved in an expensive naval arms race with Germany. The financing of this expenditure was funded by an increase in taxation, which together with certain other measures provoked a revolt in the Conservative-controlled House of Lords over the 1909 budget. A constitutional crisis was narrowly avoided and the powers of the Lords were made the issue of the elections of January and December 1910 and were curbed by the Parliament Act of 1911. His efforts over home rule[?] for Ireland nearly provoked a civil war and that was only averted by the outbreak of WW I.

Asquith headed the Liberal government into the war. However following a cabinet split in May 1915 he became head of a new coalition government, bringing senior figures from the opposition into the cabinet. But his performance over the conduct of the war dissatisified certain Liberals and the Conservative Party. The British failures on the frontline and the rising in Ireland were partially blamed on Asquith. Acting to displace Asquith, David Lloyd George managed to split the Liberals and on December 5, 1916 Asquith resigned. He was replaced by Lloyd George as head of the coalition two days later.

Asquith remained leader of the Liberal Party after 1916 and even after losing his seat in the 1918 elections. He returned to the House of Commons in 1923 and was made a peer, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, in 1925. He was not replaced as head of the Liberals until 1926, when Lloyd George succeeded him.

Herbert Henry Asquith's First Government, April 1908 - May 1915


  • 1908 - Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Ripon as Lord Privy Seal, while remaining also Colonial Secretary. Lord FitzMaurice succeeds Sir H.H. Fowler as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Lord Wolverhampton succeeds Lord Tweedmouth as Lord President.
  • 1909 - Herbert Samuel[?] succeeds Lord FitzMaurice at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • 1910 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Wolverhampton as Lord President.
  • 1910 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds L.V. Harcourt as First Commissioner of Public Works. Lord Morley succeeds Lord Beauchamp as Lord President. Lord Crewe succeeds Morley as India Secretary, remaining also Lord Privy Seal. L.V. Harcourt succeeds Crewe as Colonial Secretary. Winston Churchill succeeds Herbert Gladstone as Home Secretary. Sydney Buxton succeeds Churchill at the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Buxton as Postmaster-General. Joseph Pease succeeds Samuel as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • 1911 - Winston Churchill and Reginald McKenna switch offices, Churchill taking the Admiralty and McKenna the Home Office. Lord Carrington succeeds Lord Crewe as Lord Privy Seal. Crewe remains India Secretary. Walter Runciman succeeds Lord Carrington at the Board of Agriculture. J.A. Pease succeeds Runciman at the Board of Education. C.E.H. Hobhouse succeeds Pease at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • 1912 - The Attorney-General[?], Sir Rufus Isaacs, enters the Cabinet. Lord Haldane succeeds Lord Loreburn as Lord Chancellor. John Seely succeeds Haldane as Secretary for War. Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Carrington as Lord Privy Seal, remaining also India Secretary. T. McKinnon Wood succeeds Lord Pentland as Secretary for Scotland.
  • 1913 - Sir John Simon succeeds Sir Rufus Isaacs as Attorney-General.
  • 1914 - John Burns succeeds Sydney Buxton as President of the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Burns at the Local Government Board. C.E.H. Hobhouse succeeds Samuel as Postmaster-General. C.F.G. Masterman succeeds Hobhouse at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • March, 1914 - Asquith temporarily succeeds Seely as Secretary for War.
  • August, 1914 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Morley as Lord President. Lord Emmott succeeds Beauchamp as First Commissioner of Public Works. Walter Runciman succeeds John Burns as President of the Board of Trade. Lord Lucas succeeds Runciman at the Board of Agriculture. Lord Kitchener succeeds Asquith as Secretary for War.
  • January, 1915 - E.S. Montagu succeeds C.F.G. Masterman as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Herbert Henry Asquith's Second Government May 1915 - December 1916


  • 1915 - E.S. Montagu succeeds Churchill at the Duchy of Lancaster
  • January, 1916 - Sir Herbert Samuel succeeds Sir John Simon as Home Secretary
  • 1916 - Lord Crawford succeeds Lord Selborne at the Agriculture Board. Arthur Henderson becomes Paymaster General. Lord Crewe succeeds Arthur Henderson at the Education Board. Lord Robert Cecil becomes Minister of Blockade.
  • June, 1916 - On the death of Lord Kitchener, Lloyd George succeeds him as Secretary for War[?]. E.S. Montagu succeeds Lloyd George at the Ministry of Munitions. T. McKinnon Wood succeeds Montagu at the Duchy of Lancaster. H. Tennant succeeds Wood as Scottish Secretary.

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