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History audio

The history of Downing Street told through audio. Listen to landmark speeches, notable remarks and more.

Ramsay MacDonald speaks about World Peace and unemployment

Ramsey MacdonaldBy 1929 the worldwide economic depression had raised the level of unemployment in Britian to well over two million. On this 78rpm record, the equivalent of a party political broadcast in the days before televison, Labour Party leader Ramsay MacDonald spoke about the two outstanding issues of world peace and unemployment, which were to dominate the next decade. The Labour Party went on to win the election, but MacDonald's second period as Prime Minister was to end in bitter splits within the party.

Chamberlain returns from Hitler talks

Ramsey Macdonald In September 1938 Neville Chamberlain, Conservative Party Prime Minister, made three visits to Germany for talks with Adolf Hitler that he hoped would avert a war.

The third of these produced the 'Munich agreement' in which Britain and France conceded to Hitler's demands for control over the Sudetenland, a region of Czechoslovakia inhabited primarily by German-speaking people.

As he stepped off the aircraft on his return to Britain Chamberlain held up a signed piece of paper and made this short speech.

Welcoming the United Nations

Ramsey Macdonald The United Nations was established in the aftermath of the second world war to give peace a more secure foundation through international cooperation and collective security.

The organisation officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 and the first general assembly, attended by 51 nations, was held the following January at Caxton Hall in London.

Having won a landslide victory in the 1945 general election, Prime Minister Clement Attlee represented Great Britain. His speech to the assembly was widely circulated as a commercial disc.

Lloyd George's "People's Budget"

Ramsey Macdonald David Lloyd George was the longest serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 20th century, before becoming Prime Minister in 1916.

His "People's Budget" of 1909 was one of the most controversial of all time. It proposed a large increase in the tax burden on the landed classes to pay for higher social spending.

The House of Lords vetoed the new budget leading to a constitutional crisis and two general elections in 1910. The 1911 Parliament Act cemented the supremecy of the House of Commons in the Constitution and prevented the upper house from vetoing any public legislation that originated in and had been approved by the Commons.

Listen to Lloyd George explain why the new taxes were being intoduced:

Asquith speaks on the budget

Ramsey Macdonald In 1909 a controversial budget proposed a large rise in taxes to pay for a programme of social reform and rearmament. 

Asquith took the lead in what was the first concerted effort in Britain to use commercial sound recordings to win over public opinion.

Hear Churchill

Winston Churchill On 18 June 1940, barely a month after taking office, Winston Churchill delivered the famous "this was their finest hour" speech.

It was the third of three speeches made during the Battle for France in the early period of the Second World War.

The others were the "Blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech of 13 May 1940, and the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech of 4 June 1940.

Gladstone speaks!

Winston ChurchillThe following recording is the only known recording of the four-time Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, made in 1888.

It is the second of three cylinder recordings made by Gladstone between 1888 and 1890, and made with the intention that it be delivered to Thomas Edison in the United States. Colonel Gouraud, Edison's representative in London, introduces the speaker.