The Making of Modern Britain 1951-1964

The Making of Modern Britain.

Post-War Britain.

Clement Atlee:

-          Leader of the Labour party 1935-1955.

-          After the war served as PM form 1954-1951.

Major Acts as PM:

-          National Health Service (NHS) Act 1946 – healthcare free to citizens.

-          National Insurance Act 1946 – working persons pay contribution to be entitled to a range of benefits.

-          Nationalisation – Coal, electricity and transport.

-          Improved Childcare – reformed services for orphaned and deprived and set regulations for child minders (standards of facilities, methods etc.)


Peter Hennessy: ”The Atlee legacy is the foundation stone of all that is best of Post War Britain”.

Nigel Lawson: “Atlee’s government set the political agenda for the next quarter of a century.”

The Economy 1951.

-          Post- war economy faced Britain with huge problems.

-          Economy damages and massive debts.

-          Relied on financial aid from the USA.

-          Nationalisation – hope to modernise.

-          Rationing coming to an end – consumer good expensive and scarce

-          However, remained optimistic – competitors i.e. Germany suffered worse.

-          Britain still exporting and manufacturing many goods.

Britain’s World Position:

-           Part of the alliance that won the war.

-          Held a great Empire.

-          Ally of the USA.

-          One of 5 permanent council members of the United Nations.

-          However – war weakened Britain’s power.

-          Colonial power decreasing.

-          Withdrawal from India 1947 – decline in imperil status.

-          Couldn’t compete with the USA and Soviet forces.

-          Rejection to join the EEC = mistake.


Society 1951:

-           Very few homes owned, TV’s or cars

-          Rationing and consumer goods shortages – not popular.

-          Industrial towns

-          Married women didn’t really work.

-          Still class divides – middle class vote conservative, working class vote labour and support trade unions.

Post-War Consensus.

Why the Conservatives won:

-          Disappointment in post-war economy and rationing.

-          Atlee called the election too early – Labour may have retained power otherwise.

-          Labour disunity – Bevanite quarrel, Korean War – not popular.

-           Labour exhausted and out of touch.

-          Conservatives brought new youthful eager MP’s and ideas.

-          Reorganisation of the Conservative party.


Post-War consensus –

-           Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Hugh Gaitskell and Current R.A. Butler formed consensus upon: finance economy, welfare state “Butskellism”.

-           Maintaining full employment.

-          Cooperation with the TU’s

-          Continue reforms i.e. NHS and Welfare state.

Churchill’s re-election 1951.

-           Roy Jenkins described him as “gloriously unfit for office”.

-          Churchill – aging and increasingly unwell – 80years old when finally resigned   in 1955.

-          Inactivity in domestic affairs.

-          However – under Churchill ‘The Age of Affluence” – lucky in timing –        economic recovery

From 1951:



served as PM from 1951-1954*


1945-1951* even

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