British Liberal politician, prime minister 1905–08, leader of the Liberal party 1898–1908. The Entente Cordiale was broadened to embrace Russia during his premiership, which also saw the granting of ‘responsible government’ to the Boer republics in southern Africa. He was succeeded as prime minister and Liberal leader by H H Asquith, who had effectively led the House during Campbell-Bannermann's premiership, as the latter was dogged by ill health.
Campbell-Bannerman was born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow High School, Glasgow University, and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1868 he successfully contested Stirling Buroughs as a Liberal in the general election that followed the Reform Act of 1868. In 1871 he became financial secretary to the War Office. He was again financial secretary for war, 1880–82, secretary to the Admiralty, 1882–84, and was given cabinet rank in 1884, becoming chief secretary for Ireland.
In 1886 he announced his adherence to his leader, William Gladstone, when the latter declared himself in favour of Irish home rule, and was secretary for war in 1886, fulfilling the same office in the government of 1892–95. When Harcourt resigned the Liberal leadership in 1898, Campbell-Bannerman was selected for the vacant post. The outbreak of the Boer War, and the opposition of Campbell-Bannerman to the imperial policy of a section of the Liberal party, led to still graver differences, but in 1901 a meeting of the party unanimously confirmed him in his leadership.
In 1905 the Unionists resigned and King Edward VII sent for Campbell-Bannerman. At the election that followed, the political pendulum swung, the Liberals being returned with a large majority. The principal proposals of his government were an Education bill, an Irish Councils bill, and a Plural Voting Abolition bill, all of which were either rejected or previously altered by the House of Lords. Amongst the important measures that were passed were the Small Holdings Act, a Trades Dispute Act, the Patents Act, and the Merchant Shipping Act. Campbell-Bannerman was also a supporter of women's suffrage. Almost immediately after his acceptance of the premiership Campbell-Bannerman began to fail in health. The leadership of the House passed for all practical purposes into the hands of Asquith, and Campbell-Bannerman ultimately resigned less than three weeks before his death.
Campbell-Bannerman was the son of a strong Conservative who, as Lord Provost of Glasgow, was knighted in 1941. His elder brother, James Alexander Campbell, was a Conservative MP from 1880 to 1906. He assumed the name Bannerman in 1872 under the will of a maternal uncle.
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