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    • Published online: 01 March 2001

The years 1920–5 constituted a pivotal phase in the development of twentieth-century British politics. At the same time, Ireland continued to be a potentially explosive issue despite the signing of the 1921 treaty. This was so because the agreement failed to resolve the dispute at the heart of the Irish question: namely, whether or not Ireland would be a united or a divided nation. This problem was particularly acute for the Conservative party, as it could revive splits between former Coalitionists and die-hards and, further, would hinder efforts aimed at winning over Liberal votes during the crucial 1924 general election. When Labour's first government was unwillingly forced to confront the Irish problem, Stanley Baldwin and his Conservative colleagues worked to contain the quarrel between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Only by doing so could they then concentrate on other issues which were more likely to attract support for the tories and, further, to ensure that their party and Labour would dominate British politics to the exclusion of the Liberals.

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I would like to thank Professor David Stevenson, Ms Andrea Heatley, and Dr Cynthia DeMarcus for reading early drafts of this article and for their helpful suggestions. Research for this article was made possible by grants from the University of London's Central Research Fund and by the Royal Historical Society.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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