William Ewart Gladstone

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gladstone, William Ewart


Born Dec. 29, 1809, in Liverpool; died May 19, 1898, in Hawarden. English statesman.

Gladstone was born into the family of a rich merchant. He was educated in the exclusive aristocratic school at Eton and graduated from Oxford University, where he studied theology and classical literature. In 1832 he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Tory Party. He gradually understood, however, that the development of capitalism and the strengthening of the bourgeoisie had rendered the old Tory position hopeless, and he began to orient himself toward the Liberals.

From 1843 to 1845, Gladstone was minister of trade in the Peel government and from 1845 to 1847, minister of the colonies. From 1852 to 1855 he was chancellor of the exchequer in Aberdeen’s coalition government, and from 1859 to 1866 he was chancellor of the exchequer in the Liberal government of Palmerston. During the Civil War in the USA (1861-65), Gladstone supported the southern slaveowners. In 1868 he was elected leader of the Liberal Party. From 1868 to 1874, Gladstone was prime minister. His government brought about reform in primary education, legalized the trade unions (simultaneously introducing punishment for picketing of establishments by strikers in their struggle against strikebreakers), and introduced the secret ballot. After the defeat of the Liberals in the parliamentary elections of 1874, Gladstone led the opposition to Disraeli’s Conservative government.

As head of the government from 1880 to 1885, Gladstone continued the expansionist foreign policy of the Conservatives. In 1882, his government sent English troops to seize Egypt. Cruelly suppressing the national liberation movement in Ireland, the Gladstone government simultaneously made insignificant concessions. The defeat of English troops in the Sudan and complications in Ireland led to the fall of the Gladstone government. Gladstone headed the government for a short time in 1886, introducing in Parliament a bill on home rule for Ireland, the defeat of which caused him to retire. The fight over this question continued for a long time. When he headed the government again from 1892 to 1894, Gladstone got a bill on home rule for Ireland through the House of Commons, but the House of Lords defeated it. He again went into retirement, and his political career, which had lasted more than 60 years, was over.

Without due foundation English historiography has created for Gladstone the fame of a great statesman. Marx applied the expression “great” in quotation marks to Gladstone, calling him “an arch-hypocrite and casuist” (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 35, p. 149).


Gleanings of Past Years, 1843-1878, vols. 1-7. London, 1879.
Bassett, A. T. Gladstone’s Speeches. London, 1916. (Descriptive index and bibliography.)


Erofeev, N. A. Ocherki po istorii Anglii, 1815-1917. Moscow, 1959.
Knaplund, P. Gladstone’s Foreign Policy. New York-London, 1935.
Batticombe, G. Gladstone. London, 1956.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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