Earl of Oxford and Asquith
Term of Office:April, 1908 - December, 1916
PM Predecessor:Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
PM Successor:David Lloyd George
Date of Birth:12 September 1852
Place of Birth:Morley, Yorkshire
Political Party:Liberal

Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith (September 12, 1852 - February 15, 1928) served as the Liberal Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916.

Born in Morley, Yorkshire and educated at the City of London School, he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. After graduation he became a barrister and was called to the bar in 1876. He became prosperous in the early 1880s from practising law.

He married Helen Melland in 1877 and they had three children before she died from typhoid in 1891. In 1894 he remarried, to Margot Tennant. He was known as Herbert Asquith in his youth, but from the time of his second marriage, at his wife's urging, he used the more prestigious-sounding Henry Asquith.

Elected to Parliament in 1886 as the Liberal representative for East Fife, he achieved his first significant post in 1892 when he became Home Secretary under Gladstone. The Liberals went out of power for ten years from 1895, and he turned down an offer to lead the party in 1898.

The Liberal Party won a landslide victory in the 1905 general election, and Asquith became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He demonstrated his staunch support of free trade in this post. Campbell-Bannerman resigned due to illness in April 1908 and Asquith succeeded him as Prime Minister.

The Asquith government began an extensive social welfare programme, introducing government pensions in 1908. However it also became involved in an expensive naval arms race with Germany. The financing of this expenditure required funding through an increase in taxation, which together with other measures provoked a revolt in the Conservative-controlled House of Lords over David Lloyd George's 1909 budget. Such a clash had not occurred for over a hundred years.

Asquith narrowly avoided a constitutional crisis, made the powers of the Lords the issue of the elections of January and December 1910, and curbed those powers by the Parliament Act of 1911. The price of Irish support in this effort was Irish Home Rule, which Asquith delivered in legislation that was ultimately suspended owing to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Asquith's efforts over home rule for Ireland nearly provoked a civil war in Ireland, only averted by the outbreak of a European war.

Asquith headed the Liberal government into the war. However following a cabinet split in May 1915 he became head of a new coalition government, bringing senior figures from the opposition into the cabinet. But his performance over the conduct of the war dissatisified certain Liberals and the Conservative Party. Opponents partially blamed a series of political and military disasters (including the failed offensives at the Somme and Gallipoli (1915- 1916)) and the Easter Rising in Ireland (April 1916) on Asquith. Acting to displace the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George managed to split the Liberals and on December 5, 1916 Asquith resigned. Lloyd George became head of the coalition two days later.

Asquith remained leader of the Liberal Party after 1916 and even after losing his seat in the 1918 elections. He returned to the House of Commons in 1923. Asquith played a major role in putting the minority Labour government of 1924 into office, elevating Ramsay MacDonald to the Prime Ministership.

Raised to the peerage as Viscount Asquith of Morley and Earl of Oxford and Asquith in 1925, Asquith retired to the House of Lords. The Liberals did not replace him as head of the party until 1926, when Lloyd George succeeded him, healing the split in the Liberal Party.

Asquith died in 1928. Two daughters outlived him: Margot and Violet (who became a well-regarded writer) His son Raymond Asquith was killed at the Somme in 1916.

Herbert Henry Asquith's First Government, April 1908 - May 1915

  • September 1908 - Lord Wolverhampton succeeds Lord Tweedmouth as Lord President. Lord FitzMaurice succeeds Lord Wolverhampton as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • October 1908 - Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Ripon as Lord Privy Seal, while remaining also Colonial Secretary.
  • June 1909 - Herbert Samuel succeeds Lord FitzMaurice at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • February 1910 - Winston Churchill succeeds Herbert Gladstone as Home Secretary. Sydney Buxton succeeds Churchill at the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Buxton as Postmaster-General. Joseph Pease succeeds Samuel as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • June 1910 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Wolverhampton as Lord President.
  • November 1910 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lewis Vernon Harcourt as First Commissioner of Public Works. Lord Morley succeeds Beauchamp as Lord President. Lord Crewe succeeds Morley as India Secretary, remaining also Lord Privy Seal. Lewis Harcourt succeeds Crewe as Colonial Secretary.
  • October 1911 - Winston Churchill and Reginald McKenna switch offices, Churchill taking the Admiralty and McKenna the Home Office. Lord Carrington succeeds Lord Crewe as Lord Privy Seal. Crewe remains India Secretary. Walter Runciman succeeds Lord Carrington at the Board of Agriculture. Joseph Albert Pease succeeds Runciman at the Board of Education. Sir Charles Edward Henry Hobhouse succeeds Pease at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • February 1912 - Lord Crewe succeeds Lord Carrington as Lord Privy Seal, remaining also India Secretary. Thomas MacKinnon Wood succeeds Lord Pentland as Secretary for Scotland.
  • June 1912 - The Attorney-General, Sir Rufus Isaacs, enters the Cabinet. Lord Haldane succeeds Lord Loreburn as Lord Chancellor. John Seely succeeds Haldane as Secretary for War.
  • 1913 - Sir John Allsebrooke Simon succeeds Sir Rufus Isaacs as Attorney-General.
  • February, 1914 - John Burns succeeds Sydney Buxton as President of the Board of Trade. Herbert Samuel succeeds Burns at the Local Government Board. Sir Charles Edward Henry Hobhouse succeeds Samuel as Postmaster-General. Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman succeeds Hobhouse at the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • March, 1914 - Asquith temporarily succeeds Seely as Secretary for War.
  • August, 1914 - Lord Beauchamp succeeds Lord Morley as Lord President. Lord Emmott succeeds Beauchamp as First Commissioner of Public Works. Walter Runciman succeeds John Burns as President of the Board of Trade. Lord Lucas succeeds Runciman at the Board of Agriculture. Lord Kitchener succeeds Asquith as Secretary for War.
  • January, 1915 - Edwin Samuel Montagu succeeds Charles Frederick Gurney Masterman as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Herbert Henry Asquith's Second Government May 1915 - December 1916

  • October, 1915 - Sir Frederick Smith succeeds Sir Edward Carson as Attorney-General.
  • November, 1915 - Edwin Stanley Montagu succeeds Churchill at the Duchy of Lancaster
  • January, 1916 - Sir Herbert Samuel succeeds Sir John Simon as Home Secretary. Lord Robert Cecil becomes Minister of Blockade.
  • June, 1916 -
  • July, 1916 - On the death of Lord Kitchener, David Lloyd George succeeds him as Secretary for War. Edwin Samuel Montagu succeeds Lloyd George at the Ministry of Munitions. Thomas MacKinnon Wood succeeds Montagu at the Duchy of Lancaster. Harold John Tennant succeeds Wood as Scottish Secretary. Lord Crawford succeeds Lord Selborne at the Agriculture Board. Henry Edward Duke succeeds Augustine Birrell as Chief Secretary for Ireland.
  • August, 1916 - Arthur Henderson becomes Paymaster General. Lord Crewe succeeds Arthur Henderson at the Education Board.

Asquith was one of a select group of historical persons who are numerologically interesting because their birth date and their death date are numerical anagrams of each other. 12 September 1852 = 12.9.1852; 15 February 1928 = 15.2.1928. These both contain the group of numbers 1122589. Other people who have a similar pattern in their dates are the soprano Tatiana Troyanos, the pianist Geoffrey Parsons, and the actor Victor Jory.

Preceded by:
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Followed by:
David Lloyd George
Preceded by:
New Creation
Earl of Oxford and Asquith Followed by:
Julian Asquith