H.H. Asquith and David Lloyd George, c. 1916

H.H. Asquith and David Lloyd George, c. 1916.
© Bonham Carter Trustees

Marking 100 years since H.H. Asquith became Prime Minister

100 years ago H.H. Asquith (1852-1928) became Prime Minister. In continuous office for over eight years from 1908 to 1916, he was at the helm of a government which re-modelled the British political landscape and introduced innovatory social measures. The introduction of old age pensions, national insurance, and employment exchanges, and the reform of the House of Lords, are among the developments chronicled in Asquith's papers and those of his political colleagues held at the Bodleian. Long standing issues such as Irish home rule and women's suffrage also had to be addressed. The final phase of Asquith's premiership saw him cast as a war leader in August 1914, with British entry into the First World War, and head of a coalition government from May 1915 until his resignation in December 1916.

In his retirement Asquith weeded his papers very thoroughly. The collection which now survives at the Bodleian is overwhelmingly political and largely official. By contrast the papers of his second wife, Margot Asquith (1864-1945) and his elder daughter, Violet Bonham Carter (1887-1969) include much material of personal and political interest. These collections, and the letters Asquith wrote to two of his confidantes, Venetia Stanley (1887-1948) and subsequently her sister Sylvia (1882-1980) bring richness and depth to the narrative of Asquith's life and times.