Asquith was British Liberal prime minister from 1908 to 1916, introducing significant domestic reform and taking Britain into World War One.
Herbert Henry Asquith was born in Morley, West Yorkshire on 12 September 1852. His father was a wool merchant. Educated at Oxford, Asquith became a lawyer and in 1886 Liberal member of parliament for East Fife. He quickly made his mark and in 1892 Gladstone appointed him home secretary. Out of office for a decade from 1895, he returned to his legal career. In 1906, the Liberals returned to power and the prime minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman appointed Asquith chancellor of the exchequer.
Early in April 1908 Campbell-Bannerman resigned, dying only days later, and Asquith became prime minister. In order to finance ambitious welfare legislation and the building up of the Royal Navy to counter the perceived threat from Germany, the chancellor, David Lloyd George, introduced a radical budget in 1909. The House of Lords rejected it and in 1910, Asquith announced a plan to limit their power, threatening to create enough new pro-reform peers to swamp any opposition. The resulting Parliament Act, passed in August 1911, ended the Lords' veto over financial legislation passed by the House of Commons.
In 1912, Asquith renewed attempts to introduce home rule in Ireland, provoking fierce opposition in Ulster and among the Conservative opposition. Civil war over the issue in Ireland was only averted by the outbreak of the war in August 1914, when the Home Rule Bill was shelved.
In May 1915, the government fell after a crisis over munitions shortages, and Asquith formed a coalition government. However, the failure of the Dardanelles expedition and continuing stalemate on the western front put increasing pressure on Asquith. 1916 was even worse with the Easter Rising in Dublin and the Battle of the Somme with its massive casualties. The long-awaited introduction of conscription was insufficient to quell dissent and Asquith was blamed in the press for military failures. In December he resigned and was replaced by Lloyd George, who had been intriguing against him. Asquith never held office again. In 1925 he accepted a peerage as earl of Oxford and Asquith. Asquith died on 15 February 1928.
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