The four presenting crises of this short period were the Conservative (Tory) Party's sabotage of the governing Liberals' legal process to enact the supremacy of the House of Commons over the House of Lords; the traumatic divide in Irish nationalism which pitted the island's Catholic majority against Protestant Ulster, secretly abetted by the Tory leader; the upper class women's suffrage rebellion led by the Pankhursts which employed rioting, arson and bombs to agitate for extension of the franchise; and a militant working class movement which evolved from demands for union recognition and a minimum wage through a series of violent general strikes that seemed pointed toward an anarcho-syndicalist revolution. The mildly conventional Liberal Party of that day had no answers for all this ferment (and in fact has been a minor element in British politics ever since.)
All this is fascinating, but the bare facts do not convey the pure delight of Dangerfield's book. This is history as snark, biting and sometimes scathing about the follies of the figures of the day, but also ultimately gentle in its treatment of their unheroic flailing. I often laughed out loud while reading it.
Here's a taste of the style, describing the indomitable and more than slightly crazed upper class element in the women's uprising:
Victorian notions of respectability must be killed and there were deaths in the women's revolt, as in the other uprisings described here, though among these women the casualties were mostly a few of the women themselves. It is also worth noting that "Votes for Women" finally began to progress when the excited "respectable" ladies of the Pankhurst faction found themselves allied, not entirely willingly, with working women.
Dangerfield writes in the light of not only what all historians know -- how the story came out -- but also in the looming awareness of that the disruptions of that time turned into the as-yet-unimagined horror of the Great War. The 1914-18 conflict swept all these ripples away and changed the landscape of British democracy forever.
This book is not easy going for an early 21st century reader in the United States. We don't talk or write like this. But I found it delightful -- and quite unique among narrative histories.