Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

A Life on the Left: George Lansbury (1859—1940): A Case Study in Recent Labour Biography

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2004), 87, (1), 147–165.


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‘The most lovable figure in modern politics’ was A.J.P. Taylor’s verdict on the British Labour pioneer, George Lansbury. Marxist SDF organiser, rebel East End MP, suffragette ally, Christian socialist editor of the militant Daily Herald, imprisoned Labour mayor, anti-imperialist, republican and pacifist-Lansbury’s political trajectory was often stormy from his days as a Gladstonian Liberal Party agent to his leadership of the British Labour Party during the 1930s Depression. His career throws significant light on the myths, traditions and crises of the British Labour Party — from its origins as a parliamentary pressure group to a party of national government. However no comprehensive account of Lansbury’s life appeared for 50 years after Raymond Postgate’s authorised biography in 1951. This article draws on research for a new study of Lansbury-started under ‘Thatcherism’ and completed in the era of ‘New Labour’ — which attempts to evaluate his varying roles as a pioneer in the British Labour history.

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Author details

Shepherd, John

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