Modern British History

Modern British History

Labour Govt, 45-51

The period of 1945 to 1951 was ruled by the Labour Party through Prime Minister Attlee. The Labour government increased the welfare state and nationalized about 20% of the economy. In 1951, the party lost power to Winston Churchill’s Conservative Party and eventually remained out of power for the next 13 years.

William Gladstone

Born in 1809, Gladstone, a Liberal politician served as Prime Minister in four separate terms spanning from 1868 to 1894. He is most remembered for his stance against abolition of slave trade, one that was interpreted to protect his family that practiced the trade. Despite his achievements, he failed in his foreign policy as one of his general was captured in Sudan.

1870 Education Act

The Act was the first legislation to deal with the provision of education in the country. It formulated school boards to spearhead the establishment of schools in areas that had no schools before. The Act, however, failed in its system of inspections by limiting the number of subjects.

Irish Land League

In 1879, the Land League was founded in Ireland incorporating land agitation movement groups. The political organisation aimed to help poor tenants from exploitation by the landlords. The organisation led to the Land war in which tenant evictions were resisted violently.

Crises on the Periphery

Britain’s invasion of Egypt and the continuous stay in the country had led to the scramble for Africa. The result was a rise in disparate and discontented factions in the African country that threatened the situation. Later, Britain sent troops to the region to secure property rights and restore order.

John Maynard Keynes

John Keynes was an influential economist whose ideas revolutionized the modern economics. In 1930, he challenged the ideals of neoclassical economics and the ideals of a free market. The influence however wavered in the 1970s due to the increased inflation rates.

Indian Mutiny

The Indian Mutiny was a widespread but unsuccessful rebellion against British rule in India during the years 1857 to 1858. The mutiny led to the abolishment of the British India Company and its replacement with the direct rule by the British government.

1867 Reform Act

The Act led to the partial enfranchisement of the male working class in England and Wales. Essentially, it increased the number of voters from one million in the two countries. The main goal of the Act was to help the Conservative Party but it ended up losing in the election.

Boer War

The Boer War began in South Africa in 1899 pitting the Afrikaners of the Orange Free State against the British Empire. The war lasted up to 1902 when the resistance was crushed completely leading to the signing of peace agreement.

Profumo Affair

The Profumo affair was a political sexual scandal involving a 19 year old girl and John Profumo in 1961. Although Profumo resigned from the government, it tainted the image of McMillan’s government in bad light.

Home Rule

Home rule refers to devolution or self-government of the smaller units of government in the United Kingdom. It was formulated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and formed a bulk of the political relationships between Britain and Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Suez Crises

The Suez crisis was marked by an invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel in 1956. The invading troops aimed to overthrow President Nasser from power and regain control of the Suez Canal. However, United States and the Soviet Union forced the invaders to withdraw thereby humiliating Britain.

Irish Famine

The Irish Famine started with a blight of the potato crop in Ireland and lasted between the years 1846 and 1850. The result was death of one million people through hunger and sickness. In addition, people migrated into other countries such as United States and Britain thereby depopulating the island country.



Essay Question 1

Soon after the First World War, the Labour Party assumed the government and ushered in the welfare state. The party had promised that it was a socialist party and that the government would take over the running of key industries. The conditions after the war set a good precedent for the election of the Labour Party (Marr, 2009). The citizens did not wish to go to war again and were tired of the lack of peace in the country. Particularly, Churchill Winston, the former president had demanded for the unconditional surrender of the Nazi government but most of the people felt that the country should have been given an option. The welfare state marked years of improved education and healthcare for the citizens

One of the key changes was based on the national Insurance Act of 1946 which shaped the structure of the welfare state. Employed people, the government and employees were required to pay insurance and the money then used to the benefit of those who did not work. The insurance also offered payment benefits for funerals, maternity leave and pension for widows. In addition, the Education Act provided for the establishment of free secondary education for children of up to the age of fifteen years. Later, the Family Allowance Act provided benefits to children over the age of fifteen years that were unemployed.

The motivation for these reforms was driven by the need to reconstruct the country after the First World War. In addition, the government felt that they needed to provide instruction to the younger generation for the goal of industrialization and innovation to be achieved. Eventually, the reforms in the healthcare and education sectors were successful in maintaining the living standards of the British citizens at significant levels.


Essay Question 2

The Scramble for Africa was the increase in the claims for the African territory amongst the European countries each of which conflicted with the other. The period took place from 1880 and ended just before the start of the First World War. In fact, it is estimated that the scramble for Africa was the main reason for the eruption of the war. Before the Scramble for Africa, European dominance in the region was minimally low at about 10 percent. However, by 1914, only Ethiopia and Liberia were independent of the European control.

In 1884, the Berlin Conference was initiated to regulate European colonization of the African continent. The conference became the starting point for the conquest of Africa mainly for trade. The European countries saw Africa as a potential area for exploring resources and doing their trade and this led to each of the countries hoping for a stake of the pie. The conflicts between the European countries were to be avoided through the formal agreement laid down in the Berlin Conference. Essentially, each country was given a portion of the continent under mutual agreement that they would not interfere with the colonies of the other European countries.

The Europeans in their scramble for Africa argued that they had a moral responsibility of civilizing the continent from the backward culture that it practiced. In addition, the Europeans felt that they were entitled to governing the people of Africa until they were mature enough to govern themselves. The decolonization of the continent was evidence that the Europeans were only exploiting the continent. They imparted little skills or knowledge to the people of Africa and left them with huge debts to pay.


Essay Question 3

In 1800, the act of Union was passed thereby bringing together Britain and Ireland and forming the United Kingdom (Marr, 2009). While the move was projected to help in the netter representation of Ireland, the opposite was true as Ireland began experiencing problems in the after years. The Act of Union had led to the abolition of the Irish parliament and provided for the nation’s representation in the legislative organs of Britain. This fact led to the legislators spending most of their time in London and way from Ireland. The effect was that the clamor for Ireland decreased and led to stagnated growth of the economy. These problems continued up to the independence of Ireland in 1923.

One of the problems that the island country faced was the lack of industrialization. The problem was occasioned by the fact that the legislative arms of the entire kingdom were stationed in London and far away from Ireland. The clamor for Ireland reduced leading to lower investments and a reduced development of the country. In addition, another problem was the continued famine in the 1840s that led to massive death of Irish people. The cause of the famine was started by potato blight thereby leading to a failure by the peasant farmers to pay the English landlords. Eating of the contaminated potatoes increased the death of the lives coupled with hunger.

Essentially, the problem of emigration also plagued the country as more people moved into other countries thus depopulating the island country. In addition, the ongoing sectarianism was a problem for the nation as the ruling class was largely Protestants. All these factors contributed to the calls for independence and eventually yielded fruits in 1923 when Ireland was accorded its independence.

Essay Question 4

The 1960s ushered in a period of social transformation leading to a permissive society in Britain. The period is regarded as a time that led to the discovery of sex and drugs among the young people. The permissive society was achieved through the loosening of social inhibitions and taboos. The uptake of sex education in the British schools led to a surge in the sexual behaviors among the youths leading to promiscuity. The establishment of child-centered education system in Britain also led to an increase in student intakes. During this period, the British government spent more money on education than it did on defense.

The legalization of abortion in 1967 led to more freedom in undertaking abortion. The young people did not worry too much about the risks of having sex because after all they could procure abortions. In addition, the passage of the Divorce Reform Act in 1969 changed the family patterns of the country. This meant that people could walk in and out of marriages at will thus leading to a permissive society. In addition, sexually explicit content was allowed in literature thus allowing previously shocking practices to become the norm. the television media also contributed to the permissive society as issue dealing with sexuality were programmed.

While the permissive society in Britain achieved more freedom and rights for the citizens, it also led to decay in the morality of the people. Families were broken from divorces and children left school due to premarital pregnancies. In contrast, the permissive society had the advantage of disseminating information about sexuality to a large number of people. The decisions of the people and especially the young ones therefore depended on their ability to make the right choices.



Marr, A. (2009). A history of modern Britain. London: Pan.

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