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In that book, ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England’, Dangerfield’s thesis was ‘that between the death of Edward and the War there was a considerable hiatus in English history’ and that ‘it was in 1910 that fires long smouldering in the English spirit flared up, so that by the end of 1913 Liberal England was reduced to ashes.’ But what exactly is this concept of Liberal England?Although much of the book is spent discussing the Liberal party and parliamentary politics, clearly Dangerfield does not mean that the Liberal Party died in this period.Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party shortly after Tony Abbott came to the leadership in late 2009.
By Liberal England we mean the widespread support for a set of ideas deemed liberal.
Importantly, though support for the Liberal party usually meant the support of Liberal ideas, the converse is not necessarily true, since those who support a party other that the Liberals may still hold liberal ideas.
Thus we can see that liberal ideas (liberalism) have changed and evolved.
The original set of liberal ideas, or liberalism, were the creation of the dual revolutions which occured at the end of the 18th century: the Industrial revolution and the intellectual revolution known as the Enlightenment.
What is important to us is less an understanding of why Classical Liberalism came to prominence but of what it consisted and why it died, for died it surely did. Smith’s basic theme was that the wealth of nations and therefore the wealth and welfare of everybody was best increased by a capitalist system where there was minimal state interference.
This assumption of laissez faire as it came to be called, i.e.Fraser had been a critic of the party's adoption of economic rationalism in the 1990s.He sought the federal presidency of the Liberal Party in the mid-1990s but withdrew when it became clear he could not win.After 1846 (until the mid 1870s) liberal ideas became basic principles accepted across party division and across the country.This liberalism, supported by the hard fact that it worked (British economic supremacy was unquestionable as witnessed by the Great Exhibition of 1851), and seemingly unassailable was to not last more than a lifetime, undermined by the very ideas which had made it so undeniably right, and its demise was to be quick.When one considers the ‘world triumph of British arms, commerce, industry and ideas’ that the ‘hundred years which opened with …the publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and closed with the onset of the first great Depression’ saw, it is not surprising that many should ‘mistake a unique moment of success for a permanent condition’ and think that Progress would go on forever and that Progress was to be had through capitalism and middle-class liberalism.Liberalism was the creed of the middle-classes, and as such was most swiftly adopted in England where the Industrial revolution and the consequent sharp growth of the middle class power and numbers were first felt. Taylor goes as far as to suggest that ‘Old-fashioned [classical] British liberalism really ended in 1874’, and even though this may be slightly exaggerated, classical liberalism was certainly gone by the close of the nineteenth century.Thus though liberalism was the intellectual creation of the Enlightenment -particularly of English writers and philosophers such as Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Paine, the Mills (father and son), Ricardo- the growth of its support, (the growth of a Classical Liberal England) was due to economic and concomitant social changes beginning in the late 18th century. The origins of classical economic theory which was a major pillar of classical liberalism is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations published in 1776.non-interference of the state in the lives of the individuals of which it consists, is the mainstay of classical liberalism.And although it was initially an economic argument (which provided the main support for Free Trade, the keystone of the Liberal Party’s economic policy right up to its disappearance as a political force in the mid-thirties), it also reinforced the social ideas of freedom which insisted on no or minimal state intervention on the ground that any interference by the state would reduce the individual’s freedom of action which was paramount.