State expansion and “consensus” in Attlee’s Britain, 1945-1951

Cambridge, David (2015) State expansion and “consensus” in Attlee’s Britain, 1945-1951. BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    This dissertation is concerned with examining the idea of a post-war consensus among both the political establishment and the wider general public. The period 1945-1951—presided over by the reformist Labour Party and Prime Minister Clement Attlee—is justifiably cited as a period of radical transformation; a watershed moment in modern British history wherein the implementation of universal welfare, public ownership and centralised fiscal policy occasioned a radically transformed society. Initial entries into the historiographical debate had argued that this transition had been smooth; that Labour and its programme courted the approval of a remarkably engaged and enthusiastic electorate; concomitantly, political strife was supposedly kept to a minimum, under the auspices of patriotism.

    The aim of this research project has been to fashion a more complete picture of opposition to the post-war reform project. Making use of Mass Observation reports and newspaper articles, together with official party rhetoric, it will examine the support for Labour and the left at a popular level, including how far election results themselves should be conflated with widespread and enthusiastic support; and thereafter consider the explicit conservative (small “c” and big) resistance that emerged from the ashes of the 1945 defeat. The evidence collected will show that the picture of a country firmly behind a coherent post-war recovery plan is unsustainable; that Labour’s popularity in 1945 was tenuous and underwent incremental decline in the years that followed, while the Conservative Party endeavoured to fashion a vision of a country distinct from those in government—even on the issues which supposedly underpinned the “consensus” politics of mid-twentieth century British history.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2015 08:36
    Last Modified: 08 Jun 2015 08:36
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/17310

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