1950-64 britian


eden as PM part 2

Eden decided to take military action during the Suez crisis in 1956 ending in the disaster which destroyed his reputation as a leader. Eden came under heavy attack from the labour party in parliament and sections of the national press. He was accused of lying to the commons. 

It also caused problems within the tory party. The colonial minister resigned and there was a rebellion of nearly 40 tory MPs. the pressure from the US exposed UKs financial weakness causing a run of the pound. He resigned in 1957

The Tory party was not seriously damaged by the crisis and Macmillian succeeded him as MP.

Macmillan’s main rival was butler. But butler was not as popular in the party as he was in the country. His reputation had been damaged by introducing 134 million tax cuts before the 1955 election which then had to be reversed after the election as the economy overheated. Macmillan was seen as the safe option

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eden as PM part 1

When Eden took over power in 1955 there were high hopes for the party, especially when Eden called a general election and increased the tory majority from 17 seats to 60. Bulter became chancellor and Macmillian became foreign sectary. Tory’s won 345 seats and 49.7% of the vote compared to 277 and 46.4% for labour.

 Almost all of Edens's previous political experience had been in foreign policy and within 6 months some in the Tory party were voicing their concerns with his leadership and lack of experience and interest in domestic affairs became more apparent. He was nervous to make decisions and conscious about his lack of knowledge on economic issues.

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macmillan as PM

Party unity was restored without lasting splits. Economic prosperity continued to gain the approval of the voters and for 5 years he appeared to be in full control of affairs. In 1959 Macmillan called a general election.

By now his nickname was supermac and he led the tories to a majority victory of 100 seats. Tories won 365 seats and 48.8% and labour won 258 seats and 44.6% of the vote.

The post-war boom was continuing. The labour party was divided and increasingly occupied with their own civil war

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domestic policies under the tories

Most conservatives accepted many of the reforms of the labour party. Attitudes towards industry, trade unions, and social policy were going to be very different from the 1930s because of the war years as it made people more accepting of state intervention. The NHS had already become iconic. So the new government accepted the post-war consensus

Post-war consensus is an understanding that after ww2 there was a great deal of agreement between the main political parties on major issues such as:

  • Mixed economy

  • Support of the NHS and the welfare state

  • Full employment

  • Working with trade unions and employers

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housing and education under tories


In 1952 the tory manifesto promised to build 300,000 houses a year. This would rebuild the housing stock destroyed during the war and replace many of the slums, Macmillan as housing minister oversaw this.


The tories also continued the tripartite system in education which had developed after the Butler act of 1944. Three kinds of schools emerged; the grammar school, technical and secondary modern schools. Children would take an 11+ test in their last year of primary to see what type of school they would go to. Financial restraints under Churchill meant that most schools were secondary or grammar schools though Eden did try and start to focus more on technical education. By 1960s some people thought the system was unfair.

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social reforms under tories

Social reforms:

 The clean air act of 1956 aimed to prevent the smog of the early 50s and the housing and factory acts aimed to improve living and working conditions. Bulter as home secretary was more liberal than most conservatives- the homicide act of 1957 restricted when the death penalty would be imposed and in 1957 the Wolfenden commission recommended that homosexuality should no longer be criminal.

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labour divisons -1951-64

The labour party was suffering from deep internal problems and these intensified during the 50s. The splits in the labour party widened during the late 50s. Both Gaitskill and devan stood for leader when Attlee stepped down. Gaitskell was seen as being more on the right of the labour party while devan was left wing. Gaitskell won. The left-wingers wanted the labour party to be more socialist and there was also opposition to the party leadership from the trade unions and simmering divisions over nuclear weapons. Initially, Bevan opposed to the UK developing unclear weapons but in 1957 he announced his opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament. However many left-wing labour MPs joined the CND and links between labour and CND may have turned some voters aways

Until the late 1950s, the unions had been happy with full employment and their leaders were moderates. However, in 1956 left-winger frank cousins became the leader of the most powerful unions TGWU. cousins then led fierce union opposition to Gaitskell over nuclear weapons.

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part 2 labour divisons -1951-64

Despite this labour entered the 1959 election with some confidence. Gaitskell was a confident and effective campaigner promoting moderate policies that labour thought would be popular. After the extensive defeat, the divisions became even more apparent and battles over the direction of the party were fought out at the annual party conference’s . in 1959 just before the general election, Gaitskell put forward the idea of the abolishment of clause 4 which committed the party to nationalisation. It soon became clear however that opposition from the left-wing and from some union leaders would be great so he backed down without putting it to the vote.

Labour’s political position slowly improved after the 1960s. It appeared more united. cultural shifts in the country made the public more critical of the Tory government by the beginning of the 60s. And in 1963 after the death of Gaitskell labour elected Wilson as leader.

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reasons for conservatives fall from power

Harold Macmillan nickname supermac reflect his political success. From 1962 however, this began to slip, from 1961-63 multiple events came together to weaken his grip on government and he resigned in 1963.

By the early 1960s, there were growing concerns over the economy.britian made an application to join EEC in 1961 which was rejected in 1963. Macmillan himself began to lose his political touch. He radically shuffled his cabinet in July 1962 sacking ⅓ of it. This was known as the night of the long knives. It was intended to strengthen the government but actually weakened it. Macmillan was seen as clumsy and out of touch and the economic situation also continued to cause concern. Worse still in the early 1960s, a series of spy scandals shook the party. Macmillan’s positions were finally undermined by serious illness and he resigned in 1963. Macmillan had not prepared anyone to succeed him and the party faced a divisive power struggle. There were two obvious candidates butler and Hailsham and in the end Home emerged as the leader.

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post war boom part 1

 The conservatives came into power at the beginning of economic recovery. The general patterns of the 50s were one of the economic improvements. Food rationing came to an end in 1954. The austerity of wartime was over and the people were enjoying higher living standards and wages. There was a shift acceleration in birth rate leading to a fast-growing population. By 1961 there were 5% more people in Britain than in 51.

The global economy was booming as countries rebuilt after the war. This lead to a sustained increase in overseas trade which brought high levels of earnings from exports and investments. This with rising demand at home ensured full employment. By 1955 only 200,000 people were unemployed. Although the numbers employed in traditional occupations such as mining and fishing fell there was a huge expansion in electrical and engineering work and more jobs in industries relating to cars, steel and other metal.

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post war boom part 2

In addition service industries that ranged from financial to transport and sales were growing. By 1960s 5 million people were employed in it. 

Economic growth and low employment brought rising wages and most people enjoyed a massive rise in income. In the run-up to the 1955 election, there was 134 million in tax cuts.

The improvements in world trade in the late 50s enabled Britain to import about 29% more goods than it had in 51 for the same number of exports. Britain enjoyed a higher income per head than any other major country except for the US. the late 50s were years of optimism, more jobs more money more goods better housing and the new welfare state. People had money to spend on cars appliances luxuries and entertainment

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part 1 balance of payment issues and stop - go pol

The economic picture was not a positive as the growth of affluence might have suggested. The growth in wages was outstripping the rate of increase in production and this caused inflation. The conservative government constantly had to work out how to maintain growth and employment at the same time as keeping prices steady. It was difficult to persuade trade unions that their members should not have high wage increases particularly in some industries where they were not gaining as much as other industries. Government controls had to be used to curb excessive inflation and taxation remained high, both to control excessive spending which would lead to an increase in imports and to pay for the rising cost of public services.

Although higher salaries had created a larger internal consumer demand they did not encourage manufacturers to increase their export trade which would have helped boost the export industries. This led to a trade deficit which helped cause problems with the balance of payments.

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part 2 balance of payment issues and stop - go pol

The pressure from the US over the Suez Crisis exposed Britain’s financial weakness and started a run on the pound and Macmillan’s chancellor Thornycroft wanted to limit wage increase and cut the money supply but other ministers strongly opposed it because it would lead to increased unemployment and cutbacks in housings.

The crisis and the divisions in the cabinet carried on through the summer of 1957 but in the end, Macmillan sided with those ministers who wanted to keep up the expansion of the economy and in 1958 Thornycroft resigned with his junior minister resigning as well.

However, this financial crisis did not do lasting damage to the popularity of the tory party which improved dramatically by 1959.

The economy expanded so much that in the run-up to the 1959 election there were tax cuts of 370 million. The general air of consumer affluence reflected in the tax cuts is a key factor in Macmillan’s re-election in 1959.

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part 3 balance of payment issues and stop - go pol

In 1961 worries about the economy overheating forced the government to introduce a pay pause to hold down wage inflation and ask for a loan from the IMF. the economic difficulties facing the tories by 1962 were familiar ones; the balance of payment and stop and go economics.

It was also becoming clear that economic growth in Europe especially west Europe was leaving us behind and that trade with the empire and commonwealth was not sufficient to keep up. Therefore MacMillan decided it was essential for Britain's economy to be joined with Europe’s. in 1961 application was a symbol of the sense of failure in bringing about economic modernization. rejection of the application to join EEC in January 1963 was a serious setback for Macmillan economic policies. in autumn 1963 the Beeching report was published as part of the review into cutting public expenditure. recommended massive cuts in Britain's railway network including the closure of 30% of the rail network. this left many people isolated in rural areas

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british society in 50s

Britain in 1951 was a country still shaped by the experience of the Second World War. there were widespread visible signs of war damage. much of British social life looked to the past, regional and class loyalties were strong. However, it was not static. experiences of the war have caused social change so had the introduction of the welfare state in post-war years. children born in the baby boom after the war would grow up in a very different society than that of their parents.

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rising living standards in 50s

In Britain in 1951  infrastructure was run down and badly need modernizing. there was a desperate need for housing development to replace War damage and to deal with the decay of housing stock that has been neglected. pre-war slums were cleared and new towns were built. the shifts and population as the slums were cleared this meant that established traditional Communities for broken up.

 from 1952 most economic indicators pointed upwards. men's weekly wages for going up from 8. 830  in 1951 to 15.35 to in 1961. there were was massive increases in private savings. food rationing ended completely in 1954.  homeownership increased health with easy access to cheap mortgages.

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the impact of affluence and conumserism in 50s

The surge in ownership of Goods such as TVs washing machines refrigerators,  we bought on hire purchase. and a visible sign of affluence was the advertisement industry,  especially after ITV was launched in 1955 and people became used to Glossy adverts. Affluence enabled new leisure opportunities.  by 1960 there were 10 million televisions in use and it was estimated that 50% of the population watch TV in the evening. the television was becoming more important than the radio.

 people also had more time and money to do hobbies such as gardening which became popular in the 1950s and TV programs started to reflect these interests.

 there was a booming in car ownership which rose by 25% between 1957 and 1959 creating greater demand for new Roads to be built which increased employment. car travel training ideas of holidays and leisure and commuting by car began to push housing developments further outside cities and towns. between 1957 and 1963 1200 miles of new or graded main roads were completed.  holiday camps reach their peak popularity in the 50s, 60000 people holiday each week to Butlins however only 2% of the population but able to go on holiday abroad.

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class and establishment in the 50s

In 1951 Britain was a conformist Society with an ingrained respect for authority. class loyalty was still strong when it came to general elections. in the 1951 election, 65% of working-class people vote for Labour Party and 80% of middle-class voters for the Tories.  by the late 50s, there were signs of a shift in attitude hinting at the gradual breakdown of old social restrictions. the Suez Crisis of 1956 exposed lying and manipulation by the government and the CND formed and encourage their tendency to challenge authority. the establishment was a term of the informal networks that connected the Social and political elite. these were privileged people normally male who had influence or Who The People Who who mattered. such as politicians' civil servants judges Bishops diplomat's offices and leaders and businesses. critics of the establishment believed that Britain was being held back by a ruling elite. depth perception of the ruling elite was that it blocked Talent from the outside of the establishment and try to hide his own mistakes. the Conservative government 51 and 64 to be dominated by the establishment.

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position of women in 50s

Women were seen as housewives in the 50s the ideal woman was a wife and a mother. the average age of marriage is 21 and 75% of all women were married and only one in 5  women went out to work in 1951. The family allowance which is paid to women was supposed to ensure that women do not need to work and the welfare state was based on nuclear families and full employment for men. bank accounts with men's names making women largely financially dependent on their husbands.

 although by 1964 the number of women working had Risen it was uncommon to see married women especially those with children to go to work. trade unions tended not to support women as they believed that this will lower wages and many believe that if mum went out to work it would damage their children. there were some improvements are mainly for the middle class as equal pay for teachers in 1952 and civil servants in 1954 were introduced.  Women's Lives in the home were improved by new labor-saving devices. between 1957 and 1959 the number of households owning a washing machine rose by 54% and a refrigerator by 58%

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immigration and race in 50s

By 1958, 210,000  NZ commonwealth immigrants had settled in Britain- 75% of the male working to support families back home.  public attitudes to immigration when mixed as for some there was a general feeling of tolerance and getting along but there were many unpleasant examples of racism from host Communities and resentment against immigrants.

 at the same time, there was also Big migration from Britain- in the 1950s for returning received total of 676,000  immigrants seeking permanent residence well 1.2 million left. the authorities regarding immigration as economically desirable as they filled many important low-wage jobs and hoped that social tensions would ease eventually over time.  but by the 1950s perceptions were altered by racial tension. in August 1958 in Nottingham Gangs of white youth went on what they called n**** hunts and in Notting Hil London riots broke out.

 this racial violence was brought national attention. in 1962 the Commonwealth immigration act was passed

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youth culture in 50s

During the 1950s that was for the first time, teenagers had a culture. young people increasingly had more time to themselves. they dressed differently listen to different music and went to new coffee bars rather than old tea houses. the post-war baby boom had been of the number teenagers had swelled. in 1960 teenagers for 10% of the population which made them more economically important. they had access to money to buy records and fashion and by the late 1950s or magazine and they had programs aimed specifically at this group. in the early 1950s teddy boys with the most obvious youth subculture. they were seeing as a worrying phenomenon and its links with delinquency and rise in crime. by the late 1950s, they replaced by rockers and mods. there were a number of clashes between mods and rockers in the early 1960s and it would grab the nation attention.

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EETA and attempts to join EEC in 50s part 1

The Schuman plan of 1950 set out the proposals that are cold and steel community that would integrate French and German heavy industry in order to promote rapid economic reconstruction and also to bind together the historic enemies and eliminate the dangers of future Wars between them.  this would be in the foundation of the European Economic Community. this scheme was strongly supported by Britain and the United States as an important contribution to the security of Europe. this was seen as vital at the beginning of the Cold War. The UK did not initially become involved there were a number of reasons for this

  • There were very few politicians are journalists in favour of Britain taking up the leadership role in Europe that was on offer.

  •  the left tended to be suspicious of free-market principles behind the common market the right tended to regard the preservation of traditional trade links with Australia Canada and New Zealand as far more important and those with Europe.

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EETA and attempts to join EEC in 50s part 2

  • there was a belief that this was an issue for continental Europe: France was been overrun and occupied and German was a deadly wartime enemy while Britain had won the war.

  •  it was an assumption that Britain was still a great world power

  •  wanted to balance his involvement in with Europe while maintaining the special relationship with the United States

The EEC took shape at an international conference in 1955. The British delegation was present to observe and to encourage but not to join.  the EEC was dominated by the partnership between France and Germany.

at the time it wasn’t clear how successful it would become within a very short space of time and British attitudes began to shift.

in 1959 Britain totally in the formation of the European Free Trade Association. this was only moderately successful and a new organisation and was not able to match the economic growth in the EEC

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EETA and attempts to join EEC in 50s part 3

in 1961 the Macmillan government submitted Britain's application to join the EEC. the fundamental reason for Britain's change of mind was economic.  they hoped that joining the EEC would:

  • Boost industrial production for the large-scale export market 

  • increased industrial efficiency with greater competition

  •  economic growth with rapid economic expansion already seen in the EEC

 the United States was also keen to see Britain join the EEC first two reasons seeing Britain as a vital link between Europe and America.

 Despite its application to join the EEC Britain wanted to keep his position in 2 other areas of world affairs the Commonwealth and the United States. this made negotiations with EEC extremely difficult and complex. the EEC had already developed detailed economic structures that Britain and found difficult to conform to.

 the negotiation seemed to reach a successful conclusion in January 1963 but at the last minute, the French president vetoed and blocked Britain's application

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relations with USA and USSR in 50s

In the post-war period, Britain and the US stayed as allies and oppose the expansion of communism across Europe.  Britain had become a founder member of NATO in 1949. and British troops were stationed in West Germany. Britain and the US remain close allies in the Cold War. Britain supported do United Nations in Korea and also worked with the USA to stay in West Berlin.

 in many respects, it appeared that Britain had kept its place at the international top table.  however, it does not mean that the special relationship was not sometimes placed under strain, like the burgess and Maclean affair and Britain's relationship with the EEC and the Suez Crisis.

 on the other hand, Britain was militarily overstretched and very dependent on American power.

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debates over nuclear weapons in 50s

The Labour Party after the war had committed Britain to develop an independent nuclear deterrent. the US had stopped sharing its nuclear secrets with Britain so if Britain wanted to become a nuclear power it would have to do it by itself.

 Churchill continued this policy and Britain's first test of the atomic bomb in 1952. this made Britain the third country in the world to develop nuclear weapons but by this point, the US and USSR already developing the more powerful hydrogen bomb.

 concerns over these developments led to the formation of the CND in 1958. rapidly became the most powerful pressure group in Britain backed by many intellectuals and mobilizing middle-class protesters. they wanted to reject nuclear weapons and instead follow a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament.n 1958 the US had once again agreed to share nuclear technology with Britain under the mutual defence agreement. Britain's own rocket project Blue Streak was abandoned in 1960. it was replaced by dependence on the Americans submarine weapons system. as it became clear that Britain would not have an independent nuclear deterrent some in the labour party started to become more sceptical as supporting a pro-nuclear policy.

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the korean war 1950-53

At the end of the Second World Korea which have been previously ruled by Japan was occupied by the Soviet Union in the North and by the United States in the south. government will set up each one claiming to be legitimate. in 1950 forces from North Korea supported by the Soviet Union and China invaded the south. the United Nations come down the action and sent in the forces to combat the Invasion. over 20 countries supplied troops Britain sent over 90,000  soldiers. there was heavy fighting was altogether stalemate a ceasefire was agreed in 1953 and over 1000 British troops had died. the Korean War showed how the Cold war was being fought across the whole world it also demonstrated Britain's willingness to contribute and continue to play a major role in world affairs despite economic constraints. it was also clear that the US was a greater power

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suez crisis of 1956 part 1

The Suez Canal was the main artery connecting trade routes from the Mediterranean through to the Indian Ocean and beyond Asia Australia and New Zealand. it was a vital route for oil shipments 80% of Western Europe oil imports pass through the canal. the emergence of Egyptian independence with deeply worrying for Britain's interest. the US and Great Britain had planned to invest in the Aswan dam but pulled out in 1956. in response, new nationalist leader Nasser announced that nationalization of the Suez Canal company finance needed for it.

Nasser’s actions seem to play Egypt on the Soviet side of the Cold War. Britain's Prime Minister Eden was considered an expert on foreign policy. but his understanding of the situation with influenced both by his belief that Britain was an imperial power and his experience in opposing appeasement in the 1930s. He saw Nasser as an evil dictator and most of his cabinet agreed with him. he was encouraged both by France and Israel.  in a secret meeting held in Paris at which Britain France and Israel agreed on a plan of action.

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suez crisis of 1956 part 2

Israeli forces would invade Egypt and British and French forces would then intervene. the excuse for intervention would be to enforce peace on Egypt and Israel but in real effectively to seize control of the Suez Canal. The details of these plans were concealed from parliament and from the Americans. the military action did not go as smoothly as they planned. it caused a storm of political protest in Britain. the Labour Party oppose the conflict anti-war protests were held and public opinion was split on the need for intervention. even more importantly the US opposed the action and Britain was simply not strong enough in 1956 to stand up to the American pressure and was plunged into serious financial crisis.  Edens's reputation was fatally damaged and that Britain's position in the world now have to go through a fundamental reassessment in a number of ways. brought into question Britain’s reputation as a force of good in the world. secondly, it highlighted the inability of Britain to act without the support of the US. thirdly It brought into sharp relief the impact that Britain's Economic and financial policy had on their direction of foreign policy. finally started to undermine the relief and in the new global situation after world war 2 Britain was still one of the world's major powers.

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1951 Britain's retrieved from the Empire had already begun. The decision to withdraw from India in 1947 was the most dramatic example of this. during the 1950s the pressure of colonial independence movements became harder and hard to contain. British Forces found themselves fighting again National Independence movements in Malaya Kenya and Cyprus. Britons rulers believe they can manage the gradual transition from the Empire to the new commonwealth and that colonial resistance movement could be controlled until their people were ready for independence. nobody had any idea of the sudden rush to independence that was waiting to happen.  when the mau mau rebellion broke out in Kenya in 1952 it was assumed that it would be quashed by the military. difficult to contain the rebellion in Kenya had already demonstrated the problems with Britain's colonial policies. and after the Suez Crisis British policymakers began to reconsider the pace of decolonization. British decolonization was completed more swiftly and with far less violence than was the case with other colonial powers and by 1964 the transition from Empire to commonwealth seemed to represent a significant achievement.

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