Making of Modern Britain 1951 - 2007

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The Making of Modern Britain
Politics and the Economy, 1951-1957
The Attlee legacy and the Post War Consensus
The Britain of 1951 was moulded by its recent history, of the nation's collective memory;
was the great depression of the 1930's as it was seen in 51 as a time of mass
unemployment and misery.
was the world war, which in 51 was seen as a "good war" in which the nation
had come together by heroic national effort and shared sacrifice.
was the rebuilding of the nation under the Attlee government, above all the
establishment of the welfare state.
Public and political opinion was that they wanted to avoid the first 2 but felt that the 3rd
would create a fairer and better future for Britain.
Key Terms:
Welfare State ­ Using the recommendations of the Beveridge report, Labour implement
a National Health Service and the system of National insurance.
Nationalisation ­State ownership of key industries. The demand for the state control,
enacted that the government had the right to direct the key aspects of the economy in
order to create social justice and efficiency.
Post ­ War Consensus 1951 -64 ­ Broad level of agreement between political parties on
what were the major domestic and foreign issues and how they were to be handled ­
Historians on the Attlee Legacy:
Hennessey, Positive View, Attlee legacy as the foundation stone of all that is best about
post-war Britain ­ "Reconstructing a nation a third of whose wealth had melted on the
heart of the war". "Took the first steps towards changing the empire into a
Coates, Negative view as he felt that Attlee's legacy had failed socially ­ "power had
not shifted between classes" as "Social transformation had not come".
Barnett, Negative as thought that the Legacy had created a state depended nation ­
"The illusions and dreams of 1945 faded away one by one" and had instead left behind
"The dank reality of a segregated, unskilled, and unhealthy working class, hanging on
the nipple of state paternalism".

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Conservative Political Dominance 1951-57
There were several key reasons for the long Conservative dominance after 1951:
was the reorganisation of the party after the dislocation caused by the war.
2 was the infighting between Bevan and Gaitskell in the Labour party that badly
weakened the party.
and probable the most important was that 1951 marked the end of "austerity"
and the start of the Post-War boom.…read more

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Historical opinions on post-war consensus:
Hennessey ­ Attlee set foundation stone of all that is best about post war Britain `the
fusion of myriad hospitals and private practices into a National Health Service, the
transfer of a workforce of 2.3 million people into nationalised industries, the Attlee
government also took the first steps towards changing an empire into a
Lawson ­ `Attlee government of 1945-51 set the political agenda for the next quarter
century.…read more

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Exam Question (Similar to one above) ­ Explain why there was a post-war consensus.…read more

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Hennessy suggested "one has to be careful not to
overdo the depiction of the old warrior in his final premiership".
There were tensions within Churchill's government as Butler and Macmillan didn't get on
very well; a rivalry that lasted throughout the 13 years of Conserv dominance. Relations
also became strained between Churchill and Eden as Eden frequently became
impatient as it seemed obvious to him and other that Churchill should step down.…read more

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Ironically his down fall was foreign affairs!> Suez Crisis 1956.Ends in disaster, military
operation called off in humiliating circumstances as Britain withdraws due to American
pressure and pressure on economy.
Diplomatic and military fiasco ­ turning point for Britain's illusion of imperial power.
Political crisis ­Eden seemed weak, lost in a policy he was supposed to be the
master of. Came under heavy attack from Labour in parliament and sections of
national press e.g. Manchester Guardian.…read more

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In the summer of 1957 (after Suez) there was major financial crisis:
Inflation was rising because wages were running far ahead of productivity.
There was also a run on the pound, with the danger that the pound would have to
be devalued against the $.
Thorneycroft, Macmillan's chancellor, believed in "monetarism" as he wanted to limit
wage increases and cut the money supply. However other cabinet members were
strongly opposed to this as they believed it would cause unemployment and cutbacks in
housing.…read more

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Concerns over ideology of Labour ­ stance on nuclear weapons (some voters
disliked some left wing Labour's strong UD stance), Europe and clause IV.
- Nuclear Weapons: led to trade unions challenging Labour leadership with
Cousins (Trade union) leading the fierce opposition to Gaitskell. 1959
Blackpool and Scarborough Party Conferences saw battles fought over
direction of party. Gaitskell famously promised to "fight and fight again to
save the party we love" after which he was defeated over nuclear
disarmament.…read more

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By the late 1950's, it was becoming clear that economic growth in Europe was
leaving Britain behind and that the trade with the empire and the commonwealth
was not sufficient to keep up.
Britain VS Europe:
However now faced with this realization Macmillan reversed his party's previous policy
and decided it was essential for Britain economy to be joined with Europe's.…read more

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Unemployment 2%
·Year by year, more prosperous and equal
·Comparisons with other countries misleading ­ Germany and Japan had no choice in
completing restructuring their economy and infrastructureand had not been allowed to
spend on defence (Britain spent 7% of GDP on this).
Barnett ­Economic Decline!
·1970's inevitable culmination oflong term economic decline
·Failed to control spending or face down wage demands from unions
·British industry failed to modernise
·Britain's world trade ­ ¼ 1951 to 1/10th 1975
·Technical education neglected
·Low productivity vs.…read more


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