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In 1935 in New York the publishing house of Harrison Smith and Robert Haas published George Dangerfield's The Strange Death of Liberal England. Now, fifty years later, the book is as vital, if not more so, as when it was first published. It was quite appropriate that the book, and its author, were celebrated last Spring at a meeting of the Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies at San Luis Obispo in California, quite close to Santa Barbara where Dangerfield lives overlooking the Pacific ocean. Even nicer, perhaps, is that in this year we shall see Halley's Comet again, which Dangerfield remembers having seen as a child, and being told that it would not appear again in his lifetime. The comet appears on the first page of the book (heralding the dazzling prose to come), observed by the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, from the deck of the Admiralty yacht Enchantress, “to blaze forth the death of a king”: Edward VII.
The Strange Death of Liberal England has had, eventually, a strong impact upon the historical profession, as well as something of an odd history. The original publishers quite soon went out of business and the book was not kept in print in America. It was published a year later in England for the first time by Constable, but in a slightly truncated form without the important epilogue on Rupert Brooke. Over the next twenty-six years it was a book known only, I believe, by a few, recommended by word of mouth and not, on the whole, given much attention by the historical profession or the reading public.