Herbert Fisher

Herbert Fisher was born in London in 1865. Educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford and in 1888 achieved a first class degree and was elected to a fellowship. While a tutor in modern history at Oxford University, Fisher published several books including Bonapartism (1908), The Republican Tradition in Europe (1911) and Napoleon (1913).

In 1916 Herbert Fisher was elected MP for the Hallam division of Sheffield and David Lloyd George appointed him as President of the Board of Education. As part of the reconstruction legislation promised by Lloyd George during the war, Fisher began work on a new education act. Passed at the end of the war, the 1918 Education Act made attendance at school compulsory for children up to the age of 14. Other features of the legalization included the provision of ancillary services (medical inspection, nursery schools, centres for pupils with special needs, etc.).

Fisher remained in the government until the fall of David Lloyd George in 1922. He retired from the House of Commons in 1926 and in his final years concentrated on his three volume History of Europe (1935). Herbert Fisher died in 1940.

Primary Sources

(1) On 15th October, 1918, Virginia Woolf had tea with Herbert Fisher, Education Minister in David Lloyd George's government.

"We've won the war today" he said at once. "The Germans have made up their minds they can't fight a retreat. The General Staff has faced the fact, and they've had what I think the considerable courage to admit it. There is now a good prospect of a complete defeat of the German army."

Foch says "I have not had my battle". Despite the extreme vindictiveness of our press and the French press, Herbert believes that we are going to balk Foch of his battle, partly because the Germans will accept any terms to avoid it. "Lloyd George has told me again and again that he means to be generous to the Germans. We want a strong Germany, he says."

So we talked on. I tried to think it extraordinary but I found it difficult - extraordinary, I mean, to be in touch with one who was in the very centre of the very centre, sitting in a little room at Downing Street where, as he said, the wireless messages are racing through from all over the world, a million miles a minute; where you have constantly to settle off-hand questions of enormous difficulty and importance - where the fate of armies does more or less hang upon what two or three elderly gentlemen decide.