AQA A2 History Unit 3M (HIS3M) - The Making of Modern Britain, 1951-2007

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A2 History Unit 3M
The Making of Modern Britain, 1951-2007
Modern Britain 1951-64 ­ Politics & Economy
Conservative Dominance, 1951-57
Reorganisation of the party following the shock defeat in 1945 was important to this.
Labour infighting between Bevanites and Gaitskellites.
1951 marked the end of austerity and the start of the post-war boom.
The Conservatives recognised public approval of the Attlee legacy:
o NHS was already seen as iconic.
o Welfare state could not be rejected, nor a total reversal of nationalisations.
The new government accepted the existence of the post-war consensus.
Age of Affluence
Conservative government was lucky in its timing ­ came to power just as economic
recovery was beginning.
Economic indicators pointed upwards from 1952.
Weekly wages were going up ­ (£8.30 in 1951 to £15.35 in 1961).
Boom in car ownership.
Home ownership increased thanks to cheap mortgages ­ Harold Macmillan built
300,000 houses as promised as housing minister.
Food rationing ended completely in 1954.
Surge in ownership of consumer goods such as TVs, fridges, new furniture.
Butler gave £134 million tax-cuts in the run-up to the 1955 election.
The 1955 Election
Churchill had retired after turning 80.
Eden called a general election immediately, for his own mandate.
National press was overwhelmingly in favour of the Conservatives.
Voters were happy with rising living standards.
Eden won with a majority of 70 ­ although Labour's vote still held up fairly well.
Attlee retired and was replaced by Gaitskell
Eden to Macmillan

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High hopes for Eden ­ foreign policy specialist with progressive ideas.
Ruined by Suez Crisis, October 1956.
Eden was seen as weak ­ came under attack from Labour and sections of the press.
He had lied to the House of Commons ­ his prestige was badly tarnished.
Suez split the Conservative party ­ a rebellion from nearly 40 Conservative MPs.
Pressure from the US exposed British financial weakness ­ led to a run on the pound.…read more

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After 1959 election defeat, splits widened.
CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) pressed for unilateral disarmament.
Many Labour left-wingers joined in with CND protests.
Also faced opposition from trade unions over nuclear weapons.
Labour missed chance to modernise by getting rid of a clause that committed the
party to nationalisation.
Gaitskell faced clear opposition from the left, so he backed down.
Labour political position slowly improved in the 1960s.
Gaitskell died in 1963 ­ replaced by Harold Wilson ­ electoral prospects were better.…read more

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General Election of 1964
Labour won by just 3 seats.…read more

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Birth rates ran consistently ahead of death rates throughout the post-war era and
medical treatment improved under the welfare state.
Inward migration ­ particularly from West Indies and parts of the New
Commonwealth after 1948.
However, outward migration was higher in the 1950s and 60s:
o 1950s ­ Britain received 676,000 immigrants while 1.32 million left to live
o 1960s ­ Total inward migration was 1.25 million whereas outward migration
was at 1.92 million.…read more

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Education Act aimed to give equal status to grammar schools, technical
schools and secondary moderns ­ this never materialised in practice.
Secondary modern schools were seen as receptacles for Eleven Plus failures.
Robbins Report of 1962 led to the expansion of higher education ­ new universities
sprang up in Lancaster, Warwick, York and elsewhere.
Changing Attitudes to Class
Britain in 1951 was a conformist society with easily recognisable class distinctions.
By the late 1950s, there were signs of a gradual breakdown of old social restrictions.…read more

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Modern Britain 1951-64 ­ Foreign Policy
By 1951, Britain had already had to face up to the prospect of imperial decline.
WW2 had left Britain badly damaged and in the shadow of the USA and USSR.
Independence already granted to India and Pakistan in 1947.
However, the illusion of power took a long time to die and had profound effect ­
delayed Britain involvement in European integration until 1973.
It was only after Suez in 1956 that the illusion began to fade.…read more

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During the 1950s, the pressures of colonial independence became harder to contain.
France, Belgium and Portugal faced these pressures too.
In the early 1950s, British leaders thought they could manage a gradual transition
from Empire to Commonwealth.
The Suez Crisis of 1956
The Suez Canal was an important trade route ­ it was the main route connecting the
Mediterranean through to Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
80% of Western oil imports passed through the canal.…read more

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Britain and Europe, 1955-63
The Schuman Plan set out the proposals for a Coal and Steel Community promoting
rapid economic reconstruction ­ it was to be the foundation of economic
cooperation across Europe, a scheme strongly supported by Britain and the USA.
At any time up to 1957, Britain could have easily entered the EEC, but Britain saw it
as vital for continental Europe, not for Britain ­ things changed quickly.…read more

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The negotiations finally reached a seemingly successful end in January 1963, until de
Gaulle vetoed the application ­ the other members had all agreed.
His intervention caused bad relations between Britain and France for some time, and
it was his veto that blocked British entry to the EEC in 1967.
Britain's Position in the World by 1964
The special relationship had been strained by Suez and Britain resented American
pressure to join the EEC.…read more





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