New Journal of Liberal History just published – including Jo Swinson’s reflections on her time as leader

The autumn issue of the Journal of Liberal History has just been published in time for conference. Its contents include:

Jo Swinson as leader. Interview with Jo Swinson on her political beliefs, her career as a coalition minister, and her five months as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Read the interview to find out how she thinks the party could have handled the tuition fees issue better, why calling for an early election in 2019 was the right thing to do, why the revoke policy was adopted, and what she thinks is the most important characteristic of a Lib Dem leader (hint: it’s not what any of the other former leaders we’ve interviewed have said).

Liberal Democrat leadership performance. Comparative table covering Ashdown, Kennedy, Campbell, Clegg, Farron, Cable, Swinson and the Davey / Brinton / Pack interim leadership. Data includes the leader’s personal ratings (highest and lowest), the party’s ratings (highest and lowest), best and worst election outcomes, and numbers of MPs, MEPs, councillors and party members at the beginning and the end of their term of office. 

The two Henry Redhead Yorkes, radical to liberal. Liberal Democrats are used to thinking of Dadabhai Naoroji as the first Liberal black or ethnic minority MP (in the 1892–95 parliament), but as Amanda Goodrich demonstrates in her fascinating article, he was not – he was preceded by Henry Galgacus Redhead Yorke, who was Whig / Liberal MP for York from 1841 to 1848. The article focuses on him and his father, Henry Redhead Yorke, who was previously seen as an English revolutionary radical from Derby but was in fact a West Indian creole of African/ British descent whose mother, Sarah Bullock, was a slave from Barbuda. Neither of these men were identified at the time as of BME origin. 

Another Madam Mayor. The career of the second woman ever to be mayor of an industrial town – Meriel Cowell-Stepney, Lady Howard, who served as mayor of Llanelli in 1916. This acts as a supplement to its author Jaime Reynolds’ article in an earlier issue on the first Liberal women mayors; his work in bringing to light this hitherto largely unknown aspect of Liberal history is the kind of topic the Journal of Liberal History was established to encourage. 

The Journal also includes a report of our meeting in July, on the Lib Dem performance in the 2019 general election, with John Curtice and James Gurling; and reviews of Fieldhouse et al, Electoral Shocks, reviewed by Duncan Brack; Cowley and Kavanagh, The British General Election of 2015 and The British General Election of 2017, reviewed by Michael Steed; and Illingworth, Sheelagh Murnaghan, reviewed by Michael Meadowcroft.

Subscribers should have already received their copy of the issue. Anyone else can have purchase a copy via our website ( – and, if you take out an annual subscription now, you’ll get this issue together with the next year’s worth (four further issues).

The Liberal Democrat History Group will of course be present in the virtual exhibition at our online conference, so do feel free to come and chat to us. And we’re organising a fringe meeting on Saturday at 1200, ‘Liberals with a radical programme: the post-war welfare state, Beveridge and the Liberal Party 75 years on’. Professor Pat Thane (Birkbeck College) and Dr Peter Sloman (University of Cambridge) will discuss the role played by Liberal thinkers and politicians in the system of social security introduced after 1945. All welcome, if you’re registered for conference!


* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and former Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.

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