Herbert Asquith

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Herbert Asquith

Herbert Henry Asquith, (12 September 1852 – 15 February 1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916. He was the longest continuously serving Prime Minister in the twentieth century until early 1988. As Prime Minister, he led his Liberal party to a series of domestic reforms, including social insurance and the reduction of the power of the House of Lords. He led the nation into The First World War, but a series of military and political crises led to his replacement in late 1916 by David Lloyd George. His falling out with Lloyd George played a major part in the downfall of the Liberal Party. Before his term as Prime Minister he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1905 to 1908 and as Home Secretary from 1892 to 1895. During his lifetime he was known as H. H. Asquith before his accession to the peerage and as Lord Oxford afterwards. Asquith was elected to Parliament in 1886 as the Liberal representative for East Fife, in Scotland. He never served as a junior minister, but achieved his first significant post in 1892 when he became Home Secretary in the fourth cabinet of Gladstone. He retained his position when Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Roseberry took over in 1894. The Liberals lost power in the 1895 general election and for ten years were in opposition. In 1898 he was offered and turned down the opportunity to lead the Liberal Party, then deeply divided and unpopular, preferring to use the opportunity to earn money as a barrister. In the 1906 election the Liberals won their greatest landslide in history. In 1908 Asquith became prime minister with a stellar cabinet of leaders from all factions of the Liberal party. Working with Lloyd George and Winston Churchill he passed the "New Liberalism" legislation setting up unemployment insurance and ending sweatshop conditions; he set the stage for the welfare state in Britain. In 1908 he introduced old age pensions.
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