‘An endlessly fascinating account of a truly seismic moment in British history. Peter Clark records that moment by introducing us to the first non-aristocrats to govern this country. It’s a mystery why nobody thought to tell this amazing story before but nobody could have told it better. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully expounded.’
‘At the centenary of the first Labour government in 1924, Peter Clark fluently and lucidly illuminates British politics in the early decades of the twentieth century, giving insightful short biographies of the Labour cabinet and a sharp account of their nine months ‘in office but not in power’, and shows how the 18-year-old Labour Party was taken from the fringe of significance to being the alternative for Government.’
‘The events of 1924 changed British political history forever. A good study of the government and its principal actors was long overdue. Now, on the centenary, we have it.’
‘The Men of 1924 is a compelling account of the remarkable group of politicians who shaped not only a seminal moment in Labour Party history but also influenced our national story for many years afterwards.’
The new Cabinet of January 1924 consisted, as governments had for generations, of twenty white, middle-aged men. But that is where the similarities with previous governments ended, for the election of Britain’s first Labour administration witnessed a radical departure from government by the ruling class. Replacing Stanley Baldwin’s Conservatives were Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour, the majority of whom had left school by the age of fifteen. Five of them had started work by the time they were twelve years old. Three were working down the mines before they entered their teens. Two were illegitimate, one was a foundling, three were of Irish immigrant descent. For the first time in Britain’s history the Cabinet could truly be said to represent all of Britain’s social classes.
This unheralded revolution in representation is the subject of Peter Clark’s fascinating new book, The Men of 1924. Who were these men? Clark’s vivid portrayal is full of evocative portraits of a new breed of politician, the forerunners of all those who, later in the last century and in this one, overcame a system from which they had been excluded for too long.
PETER CLARK is a writer and translator, and Research Associate at SOAS, University of London. He worked in the overseas service of the British Council for over thirty years, has translated novels, plays and history from Arabic, and written books on Istanbul and Marmaduke Pickthall. He is the author of Dickens’s London and Churchill’s Britain.
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