To what extent was there a social and economic revolution in Britain after the Second World War Essay
The Second World War had a major impact economically and socially on an international basis. The countries that managed to avoid the full impact were the countries that kept themselves to themselves, the countries that refused to participate in the war, though it was evident that due to the damage that had spread during World War II, that everywhere would suffer. Britain was no exception to this – in fact, some Historians have even said that the end of WWII was the beginning of a social and economic revolution. Some believe that this is a ridiculously over-exaggerated analysis of the reforms and developments that came out of the devastation.A lot of negative or gradually failing situations came into stark light after the end of the war, such as education, health services (including dentistry and optical care), finance, and the welfare of the working class and elder generation of Britain. When Labour came to power in 1945 under the power of Clement Atlee, a quiet yet very organised and dedicated leader, they had much to deal with, perhaps more than they had expected. This could have been seen as a negative point, as the Conservative party and Winston Churchill were probably aware of the exact problems that Britain were to face, and devised solutions. However, Labour made no hesitations in trying to sort out these problems.This is of course, a key point to consider; the fact that Labour got to work trying to stabilise Britain – but that it took some time. It is the first real fact that makes us consider whether it was in fact a revolution, or just long thought-out ideas that worked well after being carefully organised.Economically, Britain wasn’t as badly damaged as other European countries, such as France and Germany – however, it still required drastic action. In 1946, a world-wide wheat shortage necessitated bread-rationing, and from 1946-1947, there was even a ration on simple things to grow such as potatoes. If it hadn’t been for the Marshall Plan in regards of America, then Great Britain would never have been able to pull out of this. (The Marshall Plan was devised by George Marshall. Marshall offered American financial aid for a programme of European economic recovery.) Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, backed Marshall’s plan for obvious reasons, and it led to Harry S Truman signing a bill authorising $5,300,000,000 to Europe.Of course, this is another important factor; revolutions are usually sudden, and are not aided by other countries, even allies; Britain needed help with getting their economy back to how it was originally before the war, and nor was it sudden. It was four years before the payments stopped, and Britain could finally stand alone.Industries such as coal-mining, steel and iron, and the railways soon found themselves un-used and no longer needed – Atlee and the Labour government didn’t deal with it until a lot later on, with steel and iron being denationalised and then renationalised later on.Britain had a lot to improve. Despite the economic problems, Clement Atlee and the Labour Party managed to create an impressive programme of reformist legislation, that secured the welfare state in the same way as the Beveridge report. The National Insurance Act of 1946 consolidated and extended existing schemes of contributions towards state benefits for sickness, unemployment and old age. The National Assistance Act of 1948 did the same for the relief of poverty. In 1944, though it was at a time before Clement Atlee’s reign, the Education Act was brought into the light, and children could no longer leave school until the age of 15 and also that there were to be three types of school; grammar, technical and comprehensive. All of these were free to attend.The most obvious and perhaps fondly looked upon reform was most probably the National Health Service, put into place by Aneurin Bevan in 1946. It provided free medical, dental and hospital services, though in actual fact, the NHS didn’t come into play until 1948.The reforms are one reason that could be “pro” of the idea of there being a social/economic revolution in Britain. They solved certain important problems quickly and without much restraint from the public – this could be an example of revolution.But if there was a possibility of it being a revolution, the strongest argument would be to mention the social after-effects of the war, the strongest being the change in the womans’ role in the war. Throughout WWII, women had been taking over the men’s jobs in factories and the whole industry was basically run by women. This liberated them to want to continue this after the war ended; they had managed to prove to the men and the leaders of Britain that they were just as capable as the males as working machinery and working long hours. This continued throughout the years after the war.If there was any plausible argument that proved a revolution economically and socially, it would only really lie in the way that Britain came together at the end of the war to sort things out. They didn’t resist the government’s plans, and when the opportunities afterwards rose for women to have the same scope as men, the majority of the British in an almost patriotic sense stayed open-minded to the changes that had occurred whilst the male population had been off fighting for their country; in fact, the most accurate thing to say would be that they were still fighting a war – just a war against themselves and their old ideals.