Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

(1836—1908) prime minister

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British statesman and Liberal prime minister (1905–08), responsible for reuniting the party after it was split by the Boer War.

Born in Glasgow, Campbell-Bannerman became an MP in 1868 and served under Gladstone as financial secretary to the War Office (1871–74, 1880–82), parliamentary and financial secretary to the Admiralty (1882–84), and chief secretary for Ireland (1884–85). As secretary for war in 1886 (a post he held again in 1892–95), he removed the main obstacle to reform of the armed forces by persuading the commander-in-chief, the Duke of Cambridge (the queen's cousin), to resign. He became Liberal leader in the Commons in 1899, and came into conflict with the Liberal imperialists by his condemnation of the British concentration camps in South Africa. He later healed the wounds in the party and, succeeding Balfour as prime minister in 1905, led the Liberals to a landslide victory in the 1906 election.

Campbell-Bannerman put together a brilliant cabinet, which included Asquith, Lloyd George, Haldane, and Churchill. Though the House of Lords blocked much of the Liberals' proposed legislation, the government passed some important reforms – the Trade Disputes Act 1906, the Merchant Shipping Act 1907, and the Patents Act 1907. It also gave self-government to the Transvaal (1907) and the Orange River Colony (1907). Ill-health forced Campbell-Bannerman to resign in 1908, and he died seventeen days later.

Subjects: British History.