‘The people’s bread’: a social history of Joseph Chamberlain and the tariff reform campaign

Oliver Betts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


As the election results of late January were declared, evening after evening, and the columns of small ‘M’s denoting elected members of the new 1906 Parliament that supported the Prime Minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, chased the opposing ‘O’s across the graph that topped each morning’s issue of The Times, the paper itself became increasingly confident about the causes of the Liberal landslide. On the morning of 17 January, the day before the Birmingham polls were called and Joseph Chamberlain’s own constituency result declared, The Times mused that for all the confidence Tariff Reform organisers had about the result, it would be, crucially, a limited one. ‘The further they go afield the more difficult does their task become of getting “the man in the street” to realize that the “big loaf versus little loaf” cry is a meaningless shibboleth’, the paper concluded.1 As more results came in and the sheer scale of the Liberal victory became apparent, the more the press was willing to venture into analysis. Two days before, on the 15th, the Manchester Guardian had already passed judgement on the results in Lancashire. ‘A candidate had only to be a Free Trader to get in’, it argued, ‘he had only to be a Protectionist to lose all chance.’2 By the 20th the Spectator felt able to declare that the fact ‘that the election was fought and won on the issue of free-trade is beyond dispute’.3
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJoseph Chamberlain
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon
EditorsIan Cawood, Chris Upton
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2016


  • free trade
  • social history
  • foreign competition
  • Unionist candidate
  • electoral reform

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