British Governments 1945-1990


Clement Attlee

Clement Attlee, Labour

PM from 1945-1951

  • Believed empire was needed to remain a world power.
  • Wanted to maintain a good relationship with the US.
  • Didn't want European integration- sees Empire as more important.
  • Wanted to defeat Communism.

Key events in this time:

  • Decolonisation of India (1947) and Palestine (1948)
  • Joined intergovernmental organisations e.g. OEEC and Council of Europe
  • Joined NATO
  • Colonial Development scheme e.g. East Africa Ground Nut Scheme
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Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, Conservative

Served as PM 1951-55

  • Wanted a United States of Europe
  • Wanted to maintain a good relationship with US
  • Fought Communism 
  • Wanted to maintain British Empire.

Key events:

  • Sent troops to fight against Communism in Korean War.
  • Didn't join supranational organisations such as EDC and ECSC.
  • Malayan Emergency (1948-1960)
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Anthony Eden

Anthony Eden, Conservative

Served as PM 1955-57

  • Wanted to maintain good relationship with US.
  • Didn't want close links with Europe.
  • Wanted to maintain the British Empire.

Key Events

  • Suez Crisis - fell out with US.
  • Restored relationship with US by end of 1950's.
  • Didn't accept the Treaty of Rome or join the EEC in 1957.
  • The Suez Crisis sped up decolonisation.
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Harold Macmillan

Harold Macmillan, Conservative

Served as PM 1957-63

  • Maintained a good relationship with the US.
  • Wanted closer integration with Europe to solve economic problems in Britain.
  • Recognised nationalism as a problem in the empire and encouraged decolonisation.

Key Events:

  • Shared nuclear secrets with US and bought Polaris. (1963)
  • Founded EFTA to promote trade (1959)
  • Applied to EEC but wanted to keep special terms - application failed. (1961)
  • Winds of Change speech (1960)
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Harold Wilson

Harold Wilson, Labour

Served as PM 1964-70

  • Wanted closer integration with Europe due to economic difficulties.
  • Was willing to accept Treaty of Rome.

Key Events:

  • Applies to join EEC in 1967 fails as De Gaulle saw Britain's economic weakness as their only reason to apply.
  • Devaluation of the sterling (1967) - convinced De Gaulle that economy was still weak. 
  • De Gaulle falls from power (1969) - left door open for Britain to reapply to EEC.
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Edward Heath

Edward Heath, Conservative

Served as PM 1970-74

  • Pro-European - believed joining the EEC would bring prosperity to the country.

Key events:

  • Applied to EEC 1970 - successful.
  • Played down relationship with US to appeal to the EEC.
  • Talks stalled over agriculture so Heath interevenedby holding talks with French PM Georges Pompidou. Pompidou trusted Heath so agreed to admit UK to EEC.
  • UK join EEC (1st Jan 1973).
  • Labour referendum by Wilson on withdrawal from the EU (1975) - 68% voted to stay in EU.
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