David Lloyd George

by Alan Sharp

The end of the First World War saw Britain at the height of its power. Its fleet and air force were the largest in the world. Its armies had triumphed in the Middle East and spearheaded the final offensives on the Western Front. Britain now had to translate this military victory into the achievement of its war aims and future security and prosperity. Its main negotiator at the forthcoming peace conference would be its prime minister, the ebullient and enigmatic David Lloyd George, the ‘Welsh Wizard’ – ‘the man who had won the war’. Lloyd George’s energy had maintained the war effort through the dark days of 1917 and early 1918, but now he anticipated, with relish, the prospect of winning the peace. Few were better equipped. He was a skilled and accomplished negotiator with the knack of reconciling the apparently irreconcilable. His admirers, of whom there were many, pointed to his brilliant and agile mind, his rapid grasp of complex questions and his powers of persuasion. His critics, who were also numerous, distrusted his sleight of hand, fleetness of foot and, frankly, his word. His six months in Paris in 1919, as he pitted his wits against formidable world leaders like Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau, were among the most enjoyable but exhausting of his life. This study investigates the extent to which Lloyd George succeeded in his aims and evaluates the immediate and longer-term results of his negotiations for Britain.

PROFESSOR ALAN SHARP is Provost of the Coleraine Campus at the University of Ulster. He joined the History Department at Ulster in 1971 and has been successively Professor of International Studies, a post in which he helped to set up degrees in International Studies and, later, International Politics, Head of the School of History and International Affairs, and since 2006 Provost of the Coleraine Campus. The focus of his teaching and research has been 20th-century international history and British foreign policy after the First World War, with a particular emphasis on the making and implementation of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 on which he is an internationally recognised expert. His major publications include The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris, 1919 (1991) and two edited collections, Anglo-French Relations in the Twentieth Century: Rivalry and Cooperation (2000) co-edited with Professor Glyn Stone, and a special edition of Diplomacy and Statecraft in September 2005, co-edited with Professor Conan Fischer, entitled The Versailles Settlement; Enforcement; Compliance; Contested Identities also published as After the Versailles Treaty (2007). He has also published widely on the Foreign Office under Lord Curzon and the foreign policy of the Lloyd George government.

 

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