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In international terms, Britain was bankrupt. Labour, nonetheless, set about enacting the measures that in some cases had been its program since the beginning of the century. Nationalization of railroads and coal mines, which were in any case so run down that any government would have had to bring them under state control, and of the Bank of England began immediately.

In addition, road transport, docks and harbours, and the production of electrical power were nationalized. There was little debate.

The Conservatives could hardly argue that any of these industries, barring electric power , was flourishing or that they could have done much differently. It regularized the de facto nationalization of public assistance, the old Poor Law , in the National Assistance Act of , and in its most controversial move it established the gigantic framework of the National Health Service , which provided free comprehensive medical care for every citizen, rich or poor. Bevan emerged at this time as an important figure on the Labour left and would remain its leader until his death in Yet by it had been overtaken by the economic crisis, which had not abated.

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Post-war consensus

The loan from the United States that was supposed to last four years was nearly gone. Imports were cut to the bone. Bread, never rationed during the war, had to be controlled. Britain had to withdraw support from Greece and Turkey , reversing a policy more than a century old, and call upon the United States to take its place. Relief came with U.

Labour and the welfare state (1945–51)

Secretary of State George C. Any country in the Eastern or Western bloc was entitled to take part.

Although the Soviet Union immediately denounced the Marshall Plan as the beginning of a division between the East and the West, all western European countries, including Britain, hastened to participate. Britain, not entirely by coincidence, was also beginning its withdrawal from the empire. Most insistent in its demand for self-government was India. The Indian independence movement had come of age during World War I and had gained momentum with the Massacre of Amritsar of The eventual solution, embodied in the Government of India Act of , provided responsible government for the Indian provinces, the Indianization of the civil service , and an Indian parliament, but it made clear that the Westminster Parliament would continue to legislate for the subcontinent.

The act pleased no one, neither the Indians, the Labour Party, which considered it a weak compromise, nor a substantial section of the Conservative Party headed by Churchill, which thought it went too far. Agitation in India continued. Further British compromise became inevitable when the Japanese in the spring of swept through Burma to the eastern borders of India while also organizing in Singapore a large Indian National Army and issuing appeals to Asian nationalism.

Post-war consensus - Wikipedia

During the war, Churchill reluctantly offered increasing installments of independence amounting to dominion status in return for all-out Indian support for the conflict. These offers were rejected by both the Muslim minority and the Hindu majority. The election of a Labour government at the end of World War II coincided with the rise of sectarian strife within India. The new administration determined with unduly urgent haste that Britain would have to leave India.

This decision was announced on June 3, , and British administration in India ended 10 weeks later, on August Burma now Myanmar and Ceylon now Sri Lanka received independence by early Britain, in effect, had no choice but to withdraw from colonial territories it no longer had the military and economic power to control. The same circumstances that dictated the withdrawal from India required, at almost the same time, the termination of the mandate in Trans-Jordan , the evacuation of all of Egypt except the Suez Canal territory, and in the withdrawal from Palestine , which coincided with the proclamation of the State of Israel.

However, like the notion of national unity during World War II, this interpretation can also be seen largely as a myth produced by politicians and the press at the time and perpetuated since. National interest was framed in terms of the postwar situation—that is, of an economically exhausted, dependent Britain, now increasingly caught up in the international politics of the Cold War.

Attlee himself was in poor health, and Ernest Bevin , formerly the most politically powerful man in the cabinet, had died. More-radical members of the party, led by Aneurin Bevan, were growing impatient with the increasingly moderate temper of the leadership. Library availability.


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