British Political Facts 1900-1960 – By David Butler and Jennie Freeman

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The title, British Political Facts 1900-1960, provides a reasonably close
delimitation of the scope of this book. British indicates that we have been
concerned with the domestic history of the United Kingdom. But it is not
possible to set precise boundaries to the term ‘domestic and we have perhaps
strayed beyond them by listing Colonies, Governors-General, and some
Ambassadors.Political is potentially ambiguous, but we have used it to stress that our interest is in the power of the state. We have tried to list the principal
people who were involved in the government of Britain at any moment in
this century; we have recorded election results – as providing the basis for
political authority — and major legislation — as representing its use; we have assembled, in summary form, statistical data which show some of the social and economic background to all political action.Facts indicates that we have tried to eschew political judgements as far as
possible. Some value judgements may be implicit in our selection of material,
but we believe that virtually everything here would be acceptable as non-
controversial evidence in debates over the nature of twentieth-century British history. It is a waste of time to argue about verifiable questions of fact. But it is also a waste of time to assemble facts except as a basis for argument. Because in this book we have stuck rigidly to facts, it does not mean that we overrate them. Analysis of our past and present situation is far more important than mere fact-gathering. Unlike Martha we are fully aware which is the better part.1900-1960 is a somewhat arbitrary period – but any historical period must be arbitrary. Our terminal date, December 31, 1960, was determined by the availability of material in 1961-2; perhaps a second edition will
carry the record forward. Our opening date was a numerological accident -but it would be hard to find a better watershed without going back at least to 1885, which because of space, and still more because of the availability of data, was impracticable. We have endeavoured to treat every one of our sixty years equally, providing as full and exact data about 1901 as about 1959.With some statistics this has proved impossible and some of our time-series are regrettably discontinuous.

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