20th-century Britain



06/20/1837 - 01/22/1901

Queen Victoria dies


Edward VII

01/22/1901 - 05/06/1910

George V

05/06/1910 - 01/20/1936

Edward VIII

01/20/1936 - 12/11/1936


George VI

12/11/1936 - 02/06/1952

Elizabeth II

02/06/1952 - Present

Prime Ministers

3rd Marquess of Salisbury

06/25/1895 - 07/11/1902

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil
Second Boer War and Khaki election; Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Last Prime Minister to serve entirely from the House of Lords

Arthur Balfour

07/11/1902 - 12/05/1905

Nephew of the Marquess of Salisbury.
Had poor relations with Edward VII; his cabinet was split over free trade; establishment of the Committee of Imperial Defence; Entente Cordiale; Education Act 1902; Taff Vale case.

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman

12/05/1905 - 04/07/1908

Restored autonomy to Transvaal and the Orange Free State; Anglo-Russian Entente; first Prime Minister to be referred to as such in Parliamentary legislation

Herbert Asquith

04/07/1908 - 12/07/1916

Hung Parliaments. Liberal Welfare Reforms; People's Budget; Old Age Pensions Act 1908 and National Insurance Act 1911; Parliament Act 1911; Suffragettes and the Cat and Mouse Act; Home Rule Act 1914; World War I; Easter Rising.

David Lloyd George

12/07/1916 - 10/19/1922

Welsh-speaking: only Prime Minister whose mother tongue was not English. End of World War I; Paris Peace Conference; attempted to extend conscription to Ireland during the First World War; Chanak Crisis.

Andrew Bonar Law

10/23/1922 - 05/20/1923

Canadian-born: only Prime Minister born outside the British Isles. Became Prime Minister following Conservative backbenchers' decision at the Carlton Club meeting to withdraw from the Lloyd George Coalition.

Stanley Baldwin

05/23/1923 - 01/16/1924

Called a general election to gain a mandate for protectionist tariffs but failed to gain a majority; resigned after losing a vote of confidence.

Ramsay MacDonald

01/22/1924 - 11/04/1924

Hung Parliament; minority government reliant on Liberal support. First Labour Prime Minister; did not have a majority so could not introduce radical legislation; settled reparations with Germany following World War I; Zinoviev letter.

Stanley Baldwin

11/04/1924 - 06/05/1929

Treaty of Locarno; signatory of the Kellogg-Briand Pact; Pensions Act; enfranchisement of women over 21; UK General Strike of 1926.

Ramsay MacDonald

06/05/1929 - 06/07/1935

Wall Street Crash in 1929.
National Government after 24 August 1931. MacDonald expelled from the Labour Party.

Stanley Baldwin

06/07/1935 - 05/28/1937

Edward VIII abdication crisis; started rearmament but later criticised for failing to rearm more when Adolf Hitler broke Germany's Treaty of Versailles obligations.

Neville Chamberlain

05/28/1937 - 05/10/1940

Attempted to maintain "peace for our time" through appeasement of Germany, settling the Munich Agreement; widely criticised following the German Invasion of Poland and consequent outbreak of World War II; resigned after failing to form a Coalition Government.

Winston Churchill

05/10/1940 - 07/26/1945

World War II; led a Coalition Government; foundation of the United Nations; proposed what would eventually lead to the European Union; Beveridge Report. Following the ending of his all-party coalition, Churchill formed a "caretaker" government

Clement Attlee

07/26/1945 - 10/26/1951

Initiated the post-war consensus; introduced nationalisation of utilities; foundation of the National Health Service; extended national insurance scheme; Independence of India and the end of the British role in Palestine; foundation of NATO; beginning of the Cold War; the Berlin Blockade and the resulting Berlin Airlift; the start of British involvement in the Korean War.

Sir Winston Churchill

10/26/1951 - 04/07/1955

Domestic policy interrupted by foreign disputes (Korean War, Operation Ajax, Mau Mau Uprising, Malayan Emergency).

Sir Anthony Eden

04/07/1955 - 01/10/1957

Egyptian nationalisation of the Suez Canal; which sparked the Suez Crisis

Harold Macmillan

01/10/1957 - 10/19/1963

The UK applied to join the European Economic Community for the first time, the application split the Conservatives and was vetoed by Charles de Gaulle; acceptance of Keynesianism; Rent Act 1957; Wind of Change speech; Notting Hill race riots and New Commonwealth immigration; beginning of Beeching Axe; Night of the Long Knives; Cuban missile crisis; Profumo Affair.

Sir Alec Douglas Home

10/19/1963 - 10/16/1964

Renounced his peerage in order to stand for the House of Commons.

Harold Wilson

10/16/1964 - 06/19/1970

Social reforms, including legalisation of abortion, abolition of capital punishment and decriminalisation of homosexuality; Rhodesian U.D.I.; adopted, then abandoned, the National Plan for the economy; Devaluation of the pound; foundation of the Open University; disputes with trade unions over In Place of Strife and prices and incomes policy.

Edward Heath

06/19/1970 - 03/04/1974

U-turned over intervention in industry; negotiated Britain's entry to the European Community; Violence due to Northern Ireland's "Troubles" peaked; the Sunningdale Agreement agreed; Three-Day Week; Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; called early election in backfiring attempt to confront striking miners.

Harold Wilson

03/04/1974 - 04/05/1976

Hung parliament. Ended dispute with miners; Social Contract with trade unions over the economy; Health and Safety at Work Act; Renegotiated terms for EC membership, then 1975 referendum validated entry; North Sea oil; Cod War.

James Callaghan

04/05/1976 - 05/04/1979

ternational Monetary Fund loan to support the pound; the Lib-Lab pact; enacted devolution to Scotland and Wales but referendums stopped them; breakdown of relations with trade unions and Winter of Discontent.

Margaret Thatcher

05/04/1979 - 11/28/1990

First female Prime Minister of the UK. Falklands War; sold council housing to tenants (right to buy); miners' strike 1984–85; privatisation of many previously government-owned industries; decreased the power of trade unions; negotiation of the UK rebate towards the European Community budget; Brighton hotel bombing; Sino-British Joint Declaration; Anglo-Irish Agreement; Westland Affair; abolition of GLC; Section 28; the "Poll tax" and Poll Tax Riots; Lockerbie bombing; the end of the Cold War.

Sir John Major

11/28/1990 - 05/02/1997

Early 1990s recession; Gulf War; ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and the Maastricht Rebels; forced exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism ("Black Wednesday"); the Downing Street Declaration (initiating the Northern Ireland peace process); Privatisation of British Rail; The National Lottery; Citizen's Charter; Sunday Shopping

Tony Blair

05/02/1997 - 06/27/2007

Hong Kong handover; Death of Diana, Princess of Wales; Independence for the Bank of England;Ecclestone tobacco controversy; Belfast Agreement; Human Rights Act; devolution to Scotland and Wales; House of Lords Reform; Minimum wage introduced; 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia; Fuel protests; creation of Greater London Authority and Mayoralty of London; 2001 foot and mouth crisis; War in Afghanistan; Iraq War; top-up fees introduced for university tuition; Civil Partnership Act; All forms of Magic Mushroom Class A; All forms of Cannabis moved from Class B to C; Constitutional Reform Act; 2005 London bombings; Cash for Honours scandal; Identity Cards Act; introduced student fees.



Key Events

Second Boer War

10/11/1899 - 05/31/1902

See Lecture 2 for impact: income tax doubled

People's Budget (1909)



07/28/1914 - 11/11/1918


9/3/1939 - 9/2/1945

Women's Movement

John Stuart Mill’s petition


Pre-war: majority of women did not want the vote

1870 - 1918

1870s up to 1918, emphatic anti-suffragist claim was that the majority of women did not want the parliamentary vote
o Plausible
o Silent majority
o Female anti-suffragists organised tests of public opinion
Pre-war, remarkably consistent results: opposition generally outnumbered supporters by 2 to 1 (Bush)

New Zealand first country to enfranchise women


formation of the NUWSS


National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies - led by Millicent Fawcett

55% of single women in paid employment

1900 - 1918

Martin Pugh: The role of women had already changed by the Edwardian period. Work was a necessary part of women’s lives (14% of married women in paid employment) He points to the changing history of marriage, early male mortality and how such changes had already impacted on the women's movement, as unmarried middle-class women often struggled to support themselves

1900-1918: Only 4 measures concerning women

1900 - 1918

Contrast shows that there was a definite politicisation of women's rights after 1918

formation of the WSPU


Women's Social and Political Union under Emmeline Pankhurst’s leadership (later nicknamed the ‘suffragettes’ by the Daily Mail)

formation of the Women's Freedom League (WFL)


Example of in-fighting and divergent tactices

Formed by a break-away faction of the WSPU in response to Emmeline Pankhurst’s leadership (deemed ‘tyrannical’ by the future WFL)

Women's National Anti-Suffrage League (1908)

  • Women's National Anti-Suffrage League formed in 1908
  • Demonstrates just how deeply these social conservative values were entrenched
  • Women's league that acted in consultation with anti-suffrage parliametarians, including Asquith

Mayhall's 'Defining Militancy' case studies

1908 - 1909

o 3 main examples show ‘militancy’ at a pivotal moment within the campaign for the vote:
- WSPU's 1908 "rush" on the House of Commons (see p.353-)
- WFL's 1908 "grille protest” (p.357-)
- WFL’s 1909 "siege" of Westminster

Contraception condemned by C of E

1908 - 1930

1908: Church of England pronounced contraception as theologically, socially and morally wrong (remained this way until 1930)

1910-12: rift opened between suffragists

1910 - 1912

1910-12: rift opened up between democratic and equal franchise suffragists (the question of married and working-class women)
On what grounds would suffrage be granted was the major set-back

Parliament Act of 1911


Stripped the Lords’ veto

Sped up women’s suffrage, but more a symptom of the changing political climate

Conciliation Bill defeated (1912)


Exposes major flaws of the suffrage movment's firm non-party stance - leads to pact with Labour later in the year

Bow & Bromley election (1912)


Pankhurst-backed candidate defeated

Shows WSPU not appealing to the public - unsavoury behaviour suffragettes alienating?

Emily Davidson


Epsom Derby

Asquith retraction


1918-29: Huge number of reforms

1918 - 1929

Women's legislation which Included the Sex Disqualification Act (1918), The Law of Property Act (1922) and the Age of Marriage Act (1929)

1919 Sex (Removal of Disqualifications) Act
o Recognised need for sexual equality in law, but did little to enforce it
1923 Matrimonial Causes Act
o Divorce still expensive and demeaning
1937 Matrimonial Causes Act
o Extended grounds for divorce to desertion, cruelty, insanity and drunkenness
o A.k.a. The Herbert Act (framed in Christian terms to make as inoffensive to the Church as possible)
o However did not much alter divorce rates (although enabled Mrs Simpson to get the divorce which would provoke the abdication crisis)
o ~1940s: only 7% of marriages ended in divorce

Representation of the People Act (1918)


Universal male suffrage, vote for female householders over 30
Tripled the electorate, from 7.7 million to 21.4 million

USA enfranchises women


although individual states had done so sooner

Lambeth Conference


Abortion and birth control caused profound ideological disagreements
- War compelled Church to debate it at Lambeth Conference
- Clergy not unanimous

Equal Franchise Act (1928)


granted women the same voting rights as men

Lady Asquith on suffragettes' appearance (BBC)


Lady Asquith (Lord Asquith’s daughter) commented on the suffragettes’ un-aesthetic appearance on a 1968 BBC TV show

Carlton Club admits female members


Vote passed to allow women to become full members of the Carlton Club. Anne Widdecombe becomes the first full female member in June.

Popular Culture

Interwar period

11/1918 - 9/1939

Cable Street Riots


Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists (BUF) marched in London's largely Jewish East End. Met by police and left-wing counter-protestors - victory for the Left


Race Relations & Immigration



Arguably the beginning of the Holocaust and led to thousands of Jews trying to emigrate from Germany and Austria. Many found homes in the UK (e.g. Sigmund Freud)



Symbol of West Indian immigration.
Arrived at Tilbury

Commonwealth Immigration Act (1962)


Post-war Consensus

Post-war consensus?

7/26/45 - 4/5/79

From Attlee to Callaghan


Thatcher's Britain