Rhetoric and the Liberal Party, 1959-1974

  • Alex C Beck

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This thesis grounds historical analysis in rhetorical theory to build upon narrative studies of the Liberal Party in the period 1959 to 1974. It uses the particular case study to further our understanding of rhetorical theory as applied to political analysis. Liberal Party oratory in the mid-twentieth century has thus far been neglected, but there is a developing body of rhetorical theory, and especially the concepts conceived of within rhetorical political analysis, which can be used to examine its rhetoric. This thesis will deploy the tools of rhetorical political analysis to build upon the existing literature, taking inspiration from the work on specific speeches, arenas of rhetoric, and techniques of rhetorical expression. It will consider appeals to ethos and the Liberal conception of its implied audience, their potential voter, in order to centre the importance of audience within RPA. It will consider how Liberal rhetoric shifted from a valuesframe in the 1960s to one of crisis in the 1970s, to foreground such processes as creative acts of definition and construction. It will then analyse Liberal out-of-election-time campaigns to interrogate differing appeals to internal and external audiences and the debate surrounding the rhetorical situation, arguing that the Liberals used these campaigns to create moments for Liberal progress outside of elections. This thesis will argue that the most productive research comes in combining political history and rhetorical analysis. It will use analysis of rhetoric to learn more about the Liberal Party’s activity, and, by grounding rhetorical theory in historical examples, it will in turn require the theory to be refined. To learn more about political parties, we need to continue to develop better analytical tools to understand the role of rhetoric in political activity.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJames Freeman (Supervisor) & Hannah Charnock (Supervisor)

Cite this