The affluent society: Britain 1951-64

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The government of Winston Churchill

  • 1951-55
  • WC had to carry on the Atlee legacy because of popular public opinion
  • He was ill and had a stroke in 1953
  • left the cabinate to run the country and liked to be more of a father figure


  • gradually ended rationing + finnally in 1954
  • consolidated welfare state and NHS spending
  • maintained nationalisation of key industries (barr iron and steel)
  • gradual economic recovery from war meant a giveaway budget of £134m in 1954
  • WC's previous governments 1.2m Pre-fabs finished building in 951


  • continued support of the USA in the Korean war
  • continued development of the UKs nuclear arsenal to become a world super power
  • struggled to maintain control of the empire (mau-mau uprising)
  • Strengthend links with the USA through their "special relationship"
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The government of Harold Macmillan

  • tories elected in 1955 
  • eden resigned in 1957over the suez crisis
  • MM came to power in 1957-63
  • famous-youve never had it so good


  • New consumer products made in the UK could boost the economy and start the cycle of prosperity.
  • Full empolyment and the lowest unemployment rate in history (1%), and wages went up faster than inflation.
  • New hire purchase schem created a market demandmeant that women had more free time due to the new availability of labour saving devices.
  • Mail catalogues meant people could see what they wanted to buy and people were desperate for the products advirtised.
  • Commercial television meant thaqt the educative BBC was no longer the only TV channel avialable, but there was commercial channels available as well which in turn boodted the consumer boom.
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British economy 1951-64

  • Economic trouble was on the horizon using the stop-go economics policy.


  • Rising inflation and out of control wages meant that things were getting very expensive.
  • Balance of payments crisis meant British goods were too expensive and they had a B of P deficit which was rising fast.
  • Old factories from the industrial revolution could not compete with the one being built new in othe countries after the war: Due to rising wages B was paying workers more money for the same level of output as their counterparts.
  • The government had a VERY difficult time in trying to cut wages because of the trade unions immense power.
  • The British share of the world market was fading fast along with their empire and they were caught up and overtaken by other countries such as America.

                           l 1950  l 1964 l

Home ownership  l 25%   l 44%  l

TV ownership       l  4%    l 91%  l

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Conservative decline of 1959-1964 Part 1


  • In the 60`s people started to take the rip out of the government, it seemed to be the younger generation attacking the older one.
  • Old school conservatives seemed to be in the main fireing line which inevitabily weakened macmillan.


  • Macmillan won the election with a giveaway budget  but he was overheating the economy.
  • This lead to austerity measures being suddenly imposed ultimatley causing an increase in voter discontent.
  • Orpington April1962 marked the start of a run of defeats for the conservatives.


  • In July 1962 the government had run into difficulties and rumours of dissent reached macmillan.
  • Thinking it made him look strong and decisive, macmillan called 7 of his cabinate in and sacked them, but this backfired on him and made him look like he was panicing.
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The conservative decline of 1959-64 Part 2


  • Britain applied to join the EU in 1961 but was refused in 1963, this was a huge embarressment to Macmillan.


  • When gaitskill died of a heart attack in 1963 he was replaced by the immensly popular Harold Wilson who stopped the old bickering and united the party providing a very strong oppostion to the Macmillin government.


  • the defence secretary having and affair with a russian spys mistress caused national scandal.


  • Macmillan resigned in 1963 and Hulme was persuaed to become the primeminister for a year in oct.1963.
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Class and the establishment 1951-64


  • People didnt mix between the rigid class structures and localities didnt mix with each other.
  • Possibly because of the closely knit communities that stemmed from Britain being a heavily industrialised country.
  • There was a very strong sense of class differentaition.


  • The upper classes went to privete school, Middle classes went to grammer school and lower classes went to an elementary school.
  • An expensive education prepared the uper classes for a life of power and responsability and most towms had a grammer school for the children who passed the 11+ (usually middle class).
  • the working class went to an elementary school until they were 14 when they left to go and work. Their education consisted of the 3 r's.


  • each class had a different role but all were interdependant on each other.
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Women and Family life in the 50's


  • Most families adhered to the traditional nuclear modal with men being treated as the breadwinners.
  • Single parents were frowned upon and were often taken to mental istitutions, children bor out of wedlock were often given up for adoption and told they were orphans.


  • As Marriage was seen as the only real way to leave home wa to get married and so it was a veery common occurance to get married early, even though you had to be over 21 to marry without perental consent as co-habiting was frowned upon.


  • no labour saving devices meant someone had to stay at home to get all the work done, this lot often fell to the women. Most new labour saving devices were kitchen and laundry ones and so were all aimed at women.


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Women and Family life in the 50's continued

  • At school Boys did 'male' subjects like wodwork whilst the women did 'female' subjects like home economics. Even though there was equal opputunities for men and women in both maths and English, only 1% of women ever went to university.


  • Homosexuality was illegal in the 50's even though the Wolfden report tried to change this and decriminalise homosexuality for consenting adults over the age of 21. However public opinion meant that this was not realised til ten years later in 1967.
  • Alan Turing was convicted of homosexuality in 1952 and commited suicide two years later in 1954.


  • labour saving devices gave women ore time which enabled them to get jobs, and the introduction of contreception in 1961 meant that they could control when they had children so that they could have a career first.
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Teenagers and youth culture from 1951-64 part 1


  • Teenagers didnt exist, you were either a child or an adult


  • As a part of the butler education act, secondary schools were introduced meaning 11-15 yr olds mixed together as a different sub-group to the children.
  • there were a lot of well paid , unskilled jobs available for teens so they had much more disposable income and because national service ended in1960, they also had a lot more time on their hands. What did they do with it and the money?
    • FILMS the first teen movie ("the wild one" 1953) was banned because it disrespected adults.
    • ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC, this was developed by a 30yr old man called Haley who produced a film to go with his music. When teens saw this they rioted and smashed up a cinima.Elvis released his first song in 1953 which soon became a hit in the UK.
  • Teddy boys emerged starting small scale riots and violence in the middle of england.
  • By 1957 there was a TV program aimed at teenagers featuring pop music an the latest music. 
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Teenagers and youth culture from 1951-64 part 2


  • Mods wore smart clothes and rode scooters whilst rockers wore leathers and rode motorcycles.
  • Margate and Brighten were very much easy traveling distnce and so they would congregate there at weekends and take part in organised riots.

The reponse of the press to each development of this new British youth culture was one of moral frenzy and panic. They thought that traditional British values were being eroded and disregarded and feared a complete disintigration of society. 


  • mods and rockers had organised roits in Margate and Brighton
  • At Brighton the fighting went on for two days with the police being barely able to contain it.
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EFTA and attempts to join the EEC


  • Britain assumed they were still a mojor super power and so wanted to maintain a relationship with Europe whilst keeping the special relationship with America.
  • The EEC was launched, without Britain, in the treaty of Rome in 1957.
  • French president Charles de Gaul was determined to protect the treaty from 'le Anglo saxons'.
  • Britain took the lead in the formation of the EFTA but it never posed any competition to the EEC.


  • MacMillans government applied to join the EEC in 1961 hoping that it would increase industrail efficiency with greater competition and boost industrialisation for a large scale export market.
  • Britain wanted to keep their position with the USA and the common wealth as well though, which made negotiations very difficult (the chief negotiator was Edward Heath).
  • In 1963 it looked like they were about to successful, but de Gaul used his veto to block the application.
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Relations with and towards the USA and USSR


  • Britain and America had stayed as allies in opposing the spread of communism.
  • Both were founder members of NATO
  • Britain supported the UN in Korea and the US in sustaining west Berlin during the Berlin blockade.
  • Macmillan maintained a very good relationship with Kennedy who in turn kept him informed about the events of the cuban missile crisis.


  • two high ranking British officials defected to the soviets with there being fears about there being a 'third man' still around who was tipping them off.
  • America feared that there was still vital information that had been shared with the British that was leaked to the soviets, this put considerable stran on the 'special relationship'.

Britain was however still militarily overstretched and so depended quite heavily on America.

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Relations with and towards the USA and USSR (part


  • Earnest Bevin said in 1946 that he didn`t want any ther countries involved in the making of Britains nuclear arsenal so they couldn't have any power over if and when it was used.
  • Churchill continued this policy but by the time they had developed it, the USA etc.. had already started to make a  'H' bomb. 
  • The CND began in 1958 and quickly a very powerfull pressure group with the backing of intellectuals and Labour MPs who mobalised the middle class to support them.
  • America shared  their nuclear technology with Britian in 1958 and so as Britain was no longer going to be having independant techology, lots of labour supporters started to be quite skeptical aboutg the whole idea.


  • Brtain was the second biggest contingent after the USA, when they sent 90,000 soldiers 1000 of whom died.
  • This demonstrated that Britain was still willing to play a big part in world politics.
  • it also showed the America was still superior 
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Relations with and towards the USA and USSR (part

SUEZ 1956

  • Colonel Nasser nationalised thethe suez canal in response Britain and America pulling out investment from the Ashwan dam, but this seemed to put Egypt on the soviet side.
  • Primeminister Anthony Eden arranged a top secret meeting with France and Isreal at severes in which he aranged a plan wherein Britain could seize control of the dam under the guise of intervening from the Isrealis.
  • The Labour party was opposed to it, the public protested about it and America opposed it.
  • Britain was not strong enough to stand up to America and so finally pulled out.
  • This seriously damaged Britains credability as they were now not only seen as untrustworthy but they were viewed as the USAs 'lapdog' and as having no backbone.
  • this also severly undermined Britains position as a major world super power.
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  • Britain withdrew from India in 1946
  • Britan thought in the early 1950s that they could gradually transition out of the empire.


  • One of several violent nationalist uprisings in the 50's.
  • the leader Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned but later became Kenyas president
  • the Mau Mau fighters were reported to have committed many attrocities, but later tales of the treatment of prisoners at Hola Prison damaged the British reputation.
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