Irish War of Independence
Foreign Secretary, Winston Churchill,
authorised a force of predominantly ex-soldiers, the Black and Tans, to go to Ireland and fight against the IRA. The Black and Tans were known for their para-military style of fighting.
Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies by Prime Minister
, David Lloyd George.
1921 (6th December)
This Act ended the Irish War of Independence. It provided for the partition of Ireland with Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom with the rest of Ireland becoming the Irish Free State.
1922 (15th November)
The Coalition government had come under increasing criticism from the Conservatives. In a bid to increase his majority, Lloyd George called a general election. The election was won by the Conservative Party and Andrew Bonar Law became Prime Minister. Liberal Winston Churchill lost his seat and was no longer a Member of Parliament.
1923 (23rd May)
Andrew Bonar Law resigned as Prime Minister due to ill health. Stanley Baldwin took over as Prime Minister.
1923 (6th December)
Stanley Baldwin called a general election. He was seeking public approval for his leadership and for the introduction of trade tariffs. Although the Conservatives gained the most seats they did not have a majority in the House of Commons and the Labour Party formed a minority government with Ramsay Macdonald as Prime Minister.
1924 (29th October)
Another general election was held and the Conservatives gained a majority. Stanley Baldwin returned as Prime Minister. Winston Churchill was elected as Constitutionalist MP for Epping and sat in the House as a Conservative MP.
1924 (6th November)
Stanley Baldwin appointed Churchill to the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Winston re-joined the Conservative Party.
Winston Churchill presented his first Budget. On the advice of the Bank of England, Churchill restored the British currency to the gold standard. As predicted by economists, this led to deflation and rising unemployment. This was particularly felt in the coal industry where the higher rate of the pound increased the price of coal and led to a marked decline in exports. Churchill lost popularity for this decision.
Winston Churchill reduced the pension age to 65 years from 70 years and reduced the rate of income tax for lower paid workers.
1926 (10th March)
This Royal Commission was led by Sir Herbert Samuel to investigate the problems in the mining industry. The Commission recommended that miners should accept a wage cut in order to maintain production but that their hours would not be increased.
1926 (4th – 12th May)
The mine owners and miners had rejected the terms of the Samuel Commission. The General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a general strike seeking to protect both the wages and hours of miners. Around 1.75 million workers joined the strike. By 11th May many workers had begun returning to work. On 12th May the TUC agreed to accept the proposals of the Samuel Commission and called off the strike.
1929 (30th May)
A general election was held. The Conservatives Lost the election. Ramsay MacDonald, head of the Labour Party became Prime Minister of a minority government.
1929 (29th October)
Wall Street Crash
The New York stock market crashed and investors lost billions of dollars. Repercussions were felt across the World.
Statute of Westminster/ British Commonwealth
This statute established the Commonwealth. Former member countries of the British Empire retained the British monarchy as head of state while gaining autonomy.
Churchill resigned from the shadow cabinet because he disagreed with Stanley Baldwin’s decision to support giving greater power to India by making it a dominion. He felt that this would lead to India demanding independence and he firmly believed that the Empire was the key to Britain remaining a World Power.
1931 (24th August)
To deal with the worsening economic conditions caused by the Wall Street Crash, MacDonald decided to form a National Coalition government.
Mohandas Gandhi arrived in Britain to represent the Indian National Congress at the London Round Table Talks. Gandhi spoke to the assembly putting forward the case for greater autonomy for India.
1931 (27th October)
A general election was held and the National coalition government won the election. Although elected as a member of the National government, Churchill was not given a Cabinet position largely because of his views on India.
1931 (3rd December)
The House of Commons voted on Dominion Status for India. Churchill had tried to persuade members of his own party to vote against the proposal but he had little support. Disillusioned he left Britain for the United States where he was to give a series of lectures.
Winston Churchill took a trip to Germany to visit the battlefields his ancestor, John Churchill Duke of Marlborough, had fought at during the War of the Spanish Succession. While in Germany he witnessed first-hand the activities of the Nazi Party
1933 (30th January)
Winston Churchill urged the government to rethink its reduction in military spending in the light of the rise of Nazi Germany.
Nazi Germany withdrew from the League of Nations after a referendum showed the German people wholly in favour of the withdrawal.
Government of India Act
Although Churchill and 85 other MPs voted against increased powers for India, this act was passed and became law.
In defiance of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Adolf Hitler began expanding the German army and order the creation of an air force (Luftwaffe). He also introduced conscription. Winston Churchill again spoke out urging the government to rethink spending cuts on the military.
1935 (7th June)
Ramsay MacDonald resigned as Prime Minister and Stanley Baldwin took over as leader of the National Coalition.
1935 (18th June)
Anglo-German Naval Agreement
This agreement between Britain and Germany, allowed Nazi Germany to build a naval fleet. Stanley Baldwin felt that the agreement would help to limit German military expansion. Churchill disagreed and called it a weak decision.
1936 (20th January)
King George V
died and was succeeded by his eldest son David who became King Edward VIII.
King Edward VIII
wanted to marry Wallis Simpson
, an American divorcee and when he was told this was constitutionally impossible he decided to abdicate in favour of his brother. Churchill supported the King and believed that a way forward could have been reached, but he was in a minority and once again clashed with Baldwin who held an opposing view.
1937 (28th May)
Stanley Baldwin retired and Neville Chamberlain became Prime Minister. Chamberlain decided to adopt a policy of appeasement towards Hitler.
1938 (14th March)
Anschluss with Austria
Adolf Hitler made a triumphant entry into Vienna as Germany and Austria were united.
Winston Churchill was increasingly critical of Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards Adolf Hitler and Nazi aggression.
Churchill urged Chamberlain to threaten Germany with war if it invaded Czech territory. Chamberlain refused.
1938 (30th September)
Chamberlain, Daladier of France, Mussolini of Italy and Hitler met to try to prevent an outbreak of war in Europe. It was decided that Adolf Hitler could take the Sudetan region of Czechoslovakia in return for a promise that he would make no further land grabs.
1939 (15th March)
In direct contravention of the Munich Agreement, Hitler sent his troops into Czechoslovakia. He occupied Bohemia and set up a protectorate over Slovakia.
1939 (31st March)
Chamberlain made a guarantee to Poland that Britain would defend Poland if Germany invaded on condition that Poland mobilised its army and resisted German invasion.
1939 (1st September)
World War Two
began when German troops invaded Poland. Polish forces fought back but were no match for Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack.
1939 (3rd September)
At 9am Britain and France issued an ultimatum to Germany demanding that they withdraw troops from Poland. Germany had until 11am to comply. Germany did not comply and Britain and France declared war on Germany.
1939 (3rd September)
Chamberlain reappointed Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty and became a member of the War Cabinet.
1939 (13th December)
Battle of the River Plate
The British victory in this battle was warmly welcomed by Churchill who made much of the victory.
1940 (16th February)
Around 300 British sailors who had been captured during the Battle of the River Plate, were being held prisoner on board the German ship Altmark. The Altmark was spotted by the Royal Navy but fled into neutral Norwegian waters. Winston Churchill ordered HMS Cossack into Norwegian waters and told Captain Philip Vian to board the German ship and liberate British prisoners. Churchill made much of the victory.
Churchill was concerned about German activity in the Baltic Sea. The War Cabinet decided to mine Norwegian waters to stop Germany ships entering Norwegian waters. However, due to disagreements with France the operation was delayed.
1940 (9th April)
Germany invaded Norway
Following the Altmark incident the Germans mistrusted Norwegian neutrality and invaded and occupied Norway.
1940 (7th – 8th May)
There was criticism of the War Cabinet following the German invasion of Norway. The Labour Party called for a vote of no confidence in the government which it lost. However, the vote showed that there was growing dissatisfaction on all sides.
1940 (9th May)
Neville Chamberlain tried to form a National Coalition government but the Labour Party refused to serve under his leadership.
1940 (10th May)
Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It was believed that France would be next.
1940 (10th May)
Knowing his position was untenable, Chamberlain agreed to step down. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of a National Coalition government. Although Churchill was not particularly well liked by either party he was considered to be the best man for the job. To give himself complete control over the progress of the war, he made himself Minister of Defence.
1940 (13th May)
Blood, toil, tears and sweat speech
Churchill made this speech to the House of Commons. It emphasised that the path to victory would be a long one.
1940 (14th May)
The Local Defence Volunteers (Home Guard) was created. Largely formed of older men they are trained to protect the Home Front in case of invasion.
1940 (14th May)
Winston Churchill asked President Roosevelt for help.
1940 (26th May)
The British Expeditionary Force had been pushed back to the beaches at Dunkirk.
1940 (30th May)
Winston faced calls from some members of his cabinet to pull out of the war. Churchill argued in favour of continuing and won the vote.
1940 (4th June)
Dunkirk Evacuation/ Fight on the Beaches Speech
The Royal Navy helped by a flotilla of ‘little ships’ had managed to rescue more than 330,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk. Churchill made his ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ speech.
1940 (11th June)
Churchill ordered troops to North Africa to clear Italian troops from Libya and Egypt.
1940 (16th June)
Fall of France
France fell to the invading German forces. Churchill believed that Hitler would turn his attention to Britain next.
1940 (18th June)
Finest Hour Speech
Winston Churchill made this speech in the wake of the Fall of France and to praise the forces of the British Empire that would continue the fight against Nazi Germany.
1940 (18th June)
French Government in Exile
Following the fall of France, Charles de Gaulle had arrived in England and formed the French government in exile. He made a broadcast which included an appeal for America to join the war ‘..there are in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day.’ Despite working with Churchill, De Gaulle did not trust the British and believed that Churchill sought more power for Britain over France.
1940 (10th July)
Battle of Britain
This was a prolonged air battle fought between the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe.
1940 (20th August)
Never was so Much Owed Speech
Winston Churchill made this speech which contains the infamous phrase ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’. The few are the men of the Royal Airforce who fought the Battle of Britain.
1940 (25th August)
Bombing of Berlin
Churchill ordered the bombing of Berlin in retaliation for the devastating attacks on Portsmouth and London the previous night.
1940 (7th September)
Battle of Britain/ The Blitz
The German Luftwaffe began a programme of daily and nightly bombing raids on key British cities.
1940 (16th November)
Against the advice of his military, Churchill sent some British troops from North Africa to help Greece which was in danger of falling to Germany.
1941 (11th January)
Mussolini had requested support from Hitler. The Nazi leader responded by sending the Afrikakorps to northern Africa. This left British troops in North Africa out-numbered.
1941 (9th February)
Winston Churchill appealed to the United States to help the British War effort.
1941 (11th March)
The US government agreed this initiative to provide monetary aid to help Britain in the war effort.
1941 (14th August)
Churchill met President Roosevelt in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. They discussed their views and aims for the post-war world. Although the United States was not directly involved in the war, Roosevelt made it clear that he supported Britain.
1941 (7th December)
Japan made a surprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The devastating attack brought America into the war.
1941 (22nd December)
This was the first day of a three-week conference to discuss military strategy for the war. It was attended by Roosevelt and Churchill and military leaders from the United States and Britain. It was decided that the first priority should be defeating Germany in North Africa.
1942 (21st June)
Fall of Tobruk
The allied armies, in the face of superior German strength, surrendered at Tobruk.
1942 (1st July)
Following a spate of defeats for Britain, John Wardlaw-Milne tabled a vote of no confidence in Winston Churchill. Churchill won the vote by 475 votes to 25.
1942 (1st – 27th July)
First Battle of El Alamein
British and Commonwealth forces in Egypt managed to halt the advance of the Axis Powers.
1942 (early August)
Winston Churchill visited troops in North Africa. While there he replaced the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Auchinleck, with Field Marshal Alexander. General William Gott was given Command of the Eighth Army but was killed in action three days after being appointed. His place was taken by General Montgomery.
1942 (12th – 16th August)
Churchill flew to Moscow to meet with Joseph Stalin
. The Soviet leader repeatedly requested that the allies open a second front in Europe to defeat Hitler. Stalin, who was distrustful of the west, was worried that Britain and the United States would make peace with Hitler and join the war against the Soviet Union and Communism.
It became clear that the allies would win the Desert War in North Africa. Churchill met General Eisenhower to discuss where the allies should invade Europe. Eisenhower believed that Germany could only be defeated by invading France, but the allies were not sufficiently prepared at this time. It was agreed to follow Churchill’s suggestion and launch an attack from Sicily while still preparing for a later French invasion.
1942 (23rd October – 11th November)
Second Battle of El Alamein
Allied troops were victorious in this battle against the Axis Powers.
1942 (10th November)
Mansion House Speech
Winston Churchill spoke at the Lord Mayor’s Lunch at Mansion House. Speaking of the impending victory at El Alamein, his speech included the famous lines ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’
1942 (2nd December)
Liberal economist William Beveridge produced a report on Britain’s social welfare system. He recommended areas of improvement to tackle health, unemployment and poverty that would support people from ‘cradle to grave’. The government decided to publish the report which was popularly received.
1943 (14th – 24th January)
Churchill and Roosevelt met at Casablanca. Stalin had been invited but declined due to the situation at Stalingrad. It was agreed that the Allies would work towards an unconditional surrender by the Axis Powers. The two men also discussed strategies for an invasion of Europe.
1943 (12th May)
Winston Churchill met with Franklin D Roosevelt in Washington for further talks on war strategy.
1943 (30th June)
Churchill was given the freedom of the City of London. His speech to mark the occasion was full of praise for those involved in the British bombing campaign.
1943 (9th July)
Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied forces landed on Sicily, Italy. Once Sicily was taken, Churchill wanted the allied army to invade southern Italy and march towards Rome but Eisenhower wanted to withdraw men to England to begin training for the invasion of Normandy.
1943 (19th August)
Winston Churchill met with Franklin D Roosevelt in Quebec, Canada. It was agreed to look into the development of nuclear power and weapons.
1943 (3rd September)
Armistice of Cassibile
Italy agreed an armistice with the Allies.
1943 (8th September)
The Italian surrender was made public and the German army immediately took control of most of Italy. This meant that the allies now had to fight Germany in Italy which prolonged the committment of allied soldiers to that campaign.
1943 (28th November)
Winston Churchill met with Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin in Yalta. Strategy for an allied invasion of Europe was discussed. Operation Overlord (D-Day) was planned for June 1944.
1943 (10th December)
Churchill met General Eisenhower in Tunis. It was decided that Eisenhower would head the allied invasion of Europe, Operation Overlord.
1944 (19th January)
This act set out reforms to the education system and raised the school leaving age from 14 to 15 years. It also provided for an 11-plus examination which would allow entry to Grammar Schools. The idea was that children from all classes could have the opportunity to rise through education. The Act also stipulated that local authorities should provide meals and milk.
1944 (26th March)
After the War speech
Churchill spoke to the people regarding his plans for Britain after the war. The people had expected the recommendations of the Beveridge Report to be put in place. Instead Churchill urged caution in spending outlining a cautious four-year plan.
1944 (4th June)
Churchill met with De Gaulle prior to the D-Day invasion. During the meeting Churchill stated ‘On each occasion that I shall have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.’ For De Gaulle Churchill’s words reinforced his belief that Britain would never support France as a World power.
1944 (6th June)
D-Day Operation Overlord
British, Canadian and American forces landed at Normandy. Churchill had wanted to accompany the troops but this was vetoed by King George VI.
1944 (25th August)
Allied troops liberated Paris.
1944 (12th September)
Second Quebec Conference
Churchill met Roosevelt in Quebec to discuss strategy for the Pacific war and how to deal with Germany after the war.
1945 (30th January – 2nd February
Ahead of the Yalta Conference, Churchill met with Roosevelt in Malta. They discussed the final campaign against Germany and agreed that it would be prefereable to keep the Soviet Union out of Europe.
1945 (4th – 11th February)
Winston Churchill met with Franklin D Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin in Yalta, Crimea, Soviet Union. The three allied leaders discussed strategies for maintaining peace at the end of the war.
1945 (13th – 15th February)
Bombing of Dresden
Winston authorised the bombing of this German city. The bombing was part of a series of raids on German towns designed to hasten German surrender. The bombing of Dresden remains controversial due to the large number of civilians killed.
1945 (12th April)
President Franklin D Roosevelt died. He was succeeded by Harry S Truman.
1945 (16th April)
The forces of the Soviet Union reached Berlin.
1945 (30th April)
Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
1945 (8th May)
Celebrations were held to mark Victory in Europe following the German surrender the previous day. Churchill was invited to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace along with members of the Royal Family.
1945 (23rd May)
The wartime Coalition government ended. Churchill remained Prime Minister of a Caretaker Coalition government which would govern until a general election could be held.
1945 (17th July – 2nd August)
Winston Churchill met with Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin in Potsdam, Germany. The three allied leaders discussed the administration of defeated Germany.
1945 (26th July)
a general election was held. It had been expected that Winston Churchill would lead the Conservatives to victory but it was the Labour Party that won a landslide majority having promised to implement the recommendations of the Beveridge Report. Clement Atlee became Prime Minister.
1945 (6th August)
The United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The aim was to end the war in the Pacific with it being reasoned that the loss of life caused by the bomb would be far less than the loss of life if the war were to continue. When Japan did not surrender a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later.
1945 (15th August)
Japan surrendered bringing the Second World War to an end.
1945 (24th October)
Britain was a founding member of this organisation which aims to maintain peace and cooperation between nations.
Britain received a $3.3 billion loan re-payable over 50 years with a 2% interest rate. Although this helped Britain to recover from the costs of war, the loan came with conditions and tied Britain closer to the United States.
1946 (5th March)
Iron Curtain Speech
Churchill spoke at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri as part of a trip to America. His words ‘an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent’ refer to the creation of the Eastern Bloc. He went on to call for a special relationship between Britain and the United States.
1946 (19th September)
Churchill spoke at the University of Zurich in Switzerland in favour of a United States of Europe which should be formed as soon as possible to provide unity to the continent. However, despite his belief in unity with Europe, Churchill remained firmly opposed to any form of federal Europe and maintained his belief in the British Empire.
The British government agreed to the construction of British nuclear weapons. It was felt essential for nuclear weapons to be stationed in Europe in the event of an attack from the Soviet Union.
1947 (15th August)
India gained independence from Britain. The country was partitioned and Pakistan was established.
1948 (15th May)
British troops withdrew from Palestine.
1948 (22nd June)
The ship MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks. The ship carried the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean islands, invited to Britain to bolster the workforce.
Council of Europe
Winston supported the formation of this Council designed to ‘..uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe’.
1949 (4th April)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was established. Member countries agreed mutual defence in the event of attack. It was largely formed due to fears of the growing power of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.
1950 (23rd February)
A general election was held. The Labour party won the election but with a reduced majority. Post-war reconstruction as well as the establishment of the National Health Service had been costly and Labour had been forced to make cutbacks. Consequently they were associated with austerity and lost votes as a result.
1950 (25th June)
War broke out after North Korea invaded South Korea. Russia and China supported North Korea while the countries of the United Nations supported South Korea. Around 100,000 British troops were sent to join the United Nations forces.
1950 (after 25th June)
Britain’s commitment to the Korean War was a further drain on government finances. The government introduced charges for spectacles and dentures (to come into effect in 1951) and a charge for prescriptions (to come into effect in 1952).
1951 (18th April)
European Coal and Steel Community
Winston did not support the formation of this group which would regulate industrial production and Britain did not join. While Churchill welcomed co-operation with Europe he resisted any move towards federalism.
1951 (25th October)
The Labour Party called a snap election hoping to increase their majority, but they lost the election to the Conservatives. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister for the second time.
Winston Churchill, now aged 76 years, was not in good health. Members of his cabinet were concerned about his ability to govern effectively.
Mau Mau Uprising
War broke out in Kenya when freedom fighters known as the Mau Mau rose against British colonial settlers. Britain sent troops to Kenya but the war dragged on for 8 years and was a drain on Britain’s finances.
1952 (6th February)
1952 (23rd July)
King Farouk of Egypt was overthrown in a coup d’état by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser.
1953 (20th January)
1953 (5th March)
Joseph Stalin died. Georgy Malenkov became leader of the Soviet Union. Churchill suggested that the West reach out to the new Soviet leader but Eisenhower opposed the move.
It had been thought that Churchill would retire after the coronation. However, foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, who was widely tipped to replace Churchill was unwell and Churchill stayed on.
1953 (18th June)
Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser proclaimed the Republic of Egypt. Churchill was forced to acknowledge the new republic.
1953 (23rd June)
Winston Churchill suffered a stroke which left him incapacitated for several months. With Eden still ill, it was decided to keep Churchill’s illness a secret.
1954 (26th April – 20th July)
Britain supported the United States in this conference which agreed the partition of Vietnam on the 17th Parallel.
The United States and the Soviet Union were among countries that denounced imperialism. Britain continued to resist moves towards autonomy for many Empire countries.
1955 (7th April)
Churchill resigned as Prime Minister on the grounds of ill health. He was succeeded by Anthony Eden who had recovered from his illness.
1955 (26th May)
Anthony Eden called a general election. The Conservatives won the election with an increased majority. Unemployment was low and wages had risen meaning that people had more disposable income. More people were able to afford their own homes. The increase in prosperity meant that fewer people identified with the Socialist policies of the Labour party.
1955 (14th December)
Hugh Gaitskell became leader of the Labour Party. He wanted to modernise the party and move away from hard socialist policies, but failed to heal divisions in his party.
1955 (19th December)
Sudan declared Sudanese independence.
1956 (1st January)
Britain formally recognised the independence of Sudan.
1956 (29th October – 7th November)
Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to nationalise the Suez Canal. This caused a crisis because oil from the Middle East was transported to Europe through the canal. Eden favoured a military response and sent troops into Egypt joining Israeli and French troops. The Soviet Union supported Egypt and supplied weapons. Khrushchev also threatened nuclear war if British, Israeli and French troops did not withdraw. Eisenhower was concerned by the Soviet threat and also advised the withdrawal of British, Israeli and French troops. In an impossible situation, the troops withdrew.
1957 (10th January)
Anthony Eden resigned as Prime Minister. Harold Macmillan took his place as Prime Minister.
1957 (6th March)
Ghana gained independence from Britain.
1957 (25th March)
Treaty of Rome/ EEC
The European Economic Community was established. The founder members of this trading bloc were France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium. The British government declined an invitation to take part in the negotiations.
1957 (31st August)
Malaysia gained independence from Britain.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was founded. Its aim was to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to hamper their deployment on British soil.
1959 (8th October)
A general election was held and the Conservatives won. This was the third successive election they had won. Although the Labour Party had campaigned for social reform they had not explained how it would be financed which meant people were not convinced by their policies. They were more convinced by the Conservative promise to reduce taxation and increase economic growth.
1960 (3rd February)
Wind of Change Speech
Speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, Harold Macmillan acknowledged the growing desire for change in Britain’s African colonies.
1960 (1st October)
Cyprus and Nigeria gained independence from Britain.
1960 (5th October)
White voters in South Africa voted to become a republic.
National Service, the compulsory military service of all males aged 17 – 21 years for a period of 18 months was brought to an end.
The Prime Minister of South Africa, Dr H Verwoerd, visited London. He requested permission for South Africa to remain a member of the Commonwealth despite abolishing the monarchy. His request was opposed by many member states due to South Africa’s racial policy of Apartheid. Rather than be formally denied permission, Verwoerd withdrew the request.
European Economic Community
Having seen how well the member states were doing economically, Alec Douglas-Home requested negotiations to join the group. However, De Gaulle did not trust Britain and in 1963 vetoed Britain’s request to join.
Britain banned nuclear testing in space and under water.
This was a report by Richard Beeching designed to increase the efficiency of transport. Beeching advocated closing a number of railway lines and stations while investing in a number of major roads.
It came to light that the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, had been having an affair with Christine Keeler, a young dancer. Keeler was also involved with Russian military attaché Eugene Ivanov. Although investigations found no guilt, Profumo was publicly accused of threatening national security and resigned.
1963 (19th October)
Harold Macmillan resigned as Prime Minister. Sir Alec Douglas Home took over as Prime Minister.
1963 (12th December)
Kenya gained independence from Britain.
1964 (15th October)
A general election was held. The Labour party, led by Harold Wilson, won with a small majority of four seats in the House of Commons. Wilson had run a campaign on creating a more modern Britain which appealed to more affluent and younger voters. However, it was the Liberals that gained in this election taking votes from the Conservatives rather than Labour making significant gains.
1965 (24th January)
Winston Churchill died at his home in Hyde Park Gate, London.
1965 (30th January)
Winston Churchill was given a state funeral with a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. He was the first non-royal to be given such an honour. He was buried at St Martin’s Church, Bladon.
1965 (8th November)
Race Relations Act
This act made it illegal to discriminate on the ‘grounds of colour, race or ethnic origins’. A Race Relations board was also established to deal with complaints of racial discrimination.
1965 (8th November)
Abolition of Death Penalty Act
This act temporarily abolished the death penalty for murder in all parts of the United Kingdom except Northern Ireland for 5 years. It was replaced by life imprisonment.
1965 (11th November)
Rhodesia declared itself an independent state. Southern Rhodesia was named Zimbabwe Rhodesia while Northern Rhodesia adopted the name Zambia.
1966 (31st March)
Wilson called a snap general election because he was unable to get policies passed with the small majority won in 1964. The result was a landslide victory for Labour with Wilson increasing their seats by 47 and gaining a majority of 98 seats in the House of Commons.
Charles de Gaulle of France again vetoed Britain’s application to join the EEC.
1967 (27th July)
Sexual Offences Act
This act legalised homosexuality between consenting adults over the age of 21 years.
1967 (27th October)
This act generated much heated discussion on all sides. The act was passed, making abortion legal in all parts of the United Kingdom except Northern Ireland under certain conditions.
1967 (16th November)
Wilson’s government had struggled to control the economy. Inflation was rising and unemployment reached a post-war high of 2.5 million. In desperation, the Labour government devalued the pound by 14%.
Representation of the People Act
This Act of Parliament lowered the voting age to 18 years from 21 years.
1969 (23rd April)
The Open University
Harold Wilson was keen to make university education more accessible and established this distance-learning university. This meant that people could study for a degree part-time and fit it round work or childcare. It especially offered people from poorer backgrounds the chance for social mobility.
1969 (16th December)
Abolition of Death Penalty Act
The terms of this act, passed in 1965, were now made permanent in all parts of the United Kingdom except Northern Ireland.
1970 (18th June)
A general election was held. The Conservative Party, led by Edward Heath won with a majority of 26 seats. Heath’s election campaign had highlighted the growing influence of Trade Unions on Labour. He had also stated that Britain needed to join the EEC to improve the economy by trading freely within Europe.
1970 (29th May)
Equal Pay Act
The terms of this act stipulated that men and women should be treated equally in the workplace.
Abolition of Death Penalty Act
The death penalty was now abolished in Northern Ireland bringing it into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Industrial Relations Act
This act stated that trade union members had to be balloted before a strike could be called. It also introduced an arbitration system where trade union leaders had to negotiate with government representatives before calling strikes. The act was fiercely opposed by the Trade Unions.
1972 (9th January)
Coal Miners’ Strike
Around 300,000 coal miners came out on strike. They wanted a 47% pay increase which was refused by the government.
1972 (28th February)
Coal Miners’ Strike
The miners returned to work after accepting the government’s offer of a rise above inflation.
Other workers began demanding wage rises similar to those given to the miners.
1973 (1st January)
Following negotiations with Europe, Britain became a member of the European Economic Community. However, as part of the agreement, Britain had to end preferential trade deals with members of the Commonwealth.
1973 (6th – 25th October)
Yom Kippur War
War broke out between Israel and Egypt after Israel crossed the Suez Canal hoping to gain control of the east bank of the canal. Egypt was supported by Syria, the countries of north Africa and the Middle East. The United States supported Israel.
The oil producing countries of the Middle East perceived that Britain and other western nations supported America and therefore Israel in the Yom Kippur War. In retaliation they placed an embargo on oil exports to those countries. This caused a fuel shortage and prices began to rise drastically.
The miners wanted a further wage rise and began an overtime ban. With an oil shortage the government needed more coal to be produced but Heath did not want to give in to their terms. Instead he introduced a three-day working week (to conserve electricity), a 50 mph speed limit (to reduce petrol consumption) and TV companies to stop broadcasting at 10.30 p.m. (to save electricity).
1974 (28th February)
A general election was held. Edward Heath was hoping people would support the measures introduced to deal with the oil crisis and that the Conservatives would win. The result was a hung parliament and Labour formed a minority government.
1974 (31st July)
Trade Union and Labour Relations Act
This Act repealed and replaced the Industrial Relations Act of 1971. It set out rules on the status and functions of trade unions.
The Social Contract
This was an agreement between the trade unions and the Labour Party. Wilson promised the union leaders that if demands for wage rises were minimised, the Labour government would take action to stop rising prices and work towards a social wage.
1974 (10th October)
Wilson called another election to try to gain a majority in the House of Commons. He succeeded with a majority of just 3 seats in the House of Commons.
The Labour party was split between the left and the right factions of the party which made it difficult to gain agreement on policy.
1975 (5th June)
The Labour party was split on the subject of Britain’s membership of the EEC. A referendum, held to decide the matter, showed the people in favour of remaining in the Community.
Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister because he was aware that his mental capacity was failing. He was succeeded by James Callaghan.
The sudden resignation of Wilson led to a fall in the value of the stock market and the value of the pound. Chancellor Denis Healey needed a loan to prop up the failing pound. The loan was granted on condition that the government made cuts to public spending.
After losing seats in by-elections, Labour had lost their majority. In order to stay in government they had to reach agreement with the Liberals.
Winter of Discontent
As prices continued to rise, workers were facing increased hardship due to a freeze on pay increases. In support of their members, trade unions called for increases in wages. When this was not forthcoming they went on strike. As strikes dragged on rubbish piled up on the streets, some hospitals would only treat emergencies and petrol stations closed as deliveries of fuel were not made.
Callaghan lost a vote of no confidence in the government and a general election was called.
1979 (3rd May)
A general election was held. James Callaghan failed to keep his position as the election was won by the Conservatives with a majority of 43 seats. Leader of the party, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female Prime Minister. Thatcher was dubbed ‘the Iron Lady’ due to her rigid stance against the unions and strikers.
1979 (after May)
The British government held a 51% stake in British Petroleum (BP). Chancellor Nigel Lawson decided to launch the Conservative privatisation programme by selling off the government’s BP shares over a period of 3 years.
The 1980s were marked by high interest rates as the government sought to gain control of the economy. The sharp rise in prices of the 1970s began to slow down. However, there were now no bail outs for failing companies and unemployment rose reaching a peak of 3 million by 1983. There was also rising poverty and homelessness. Former industrial northern regions were neglected while London and the south-east became more prosperous.
1981 (26th March)
The Labour party split and four top Labour politicians: Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams, known as the ‘Gang of Four’ formed the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
1982 (2nd April – 14th June)
Thatcher sent troops to the Falklands Islands after they were invaded by Argentinian forces. British victory greatly increased the popularity of Thatcher.
1982 (19th July)
The British government announced its intention to privatise British Telecom. 51% of shares in the company would be sold off.
1983 (9th June)
A general election was held. Margaret Thatcher won the election with an increased majority of 144 seats in the House of commons.
1984 (6th March)
The Conservative government had began a period of closing non-profitable coal mines. With the advent of ‘cleaner’ fuels there was less demand for coal. Leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill called a strike and used flying pickets to prevent workers breaking the strike. Both Thatcher and Scargill refused to back down and the strike dragged on causing hardship for striking miners who were not paid while they were on strike. The police were sent to remove pickets and allow those that wanted to get to work. This resulted in violent clashes between hard-line strikers and the police.
1984 (12th October)
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a bomb at the Grand Hotel. Members of the Conservative Party including Margaret Thatcher were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party Conference. 5 people died and 34 were injured. Thatcher ordered the conference to go ahead to show the terrorists that they had failed in their mission to intimidate the British government.
1984 (16th December)
Mikhail Gorbachev made a state visit to Britain.
1985 (3rd March)
The miners’ strike ended. Six months earlier the strike had been ruled illegal because there had been no national ballot. By Spring 1985 many men had returned to work since remaining on strike was not financially viable.
British Gas was privatised.
Inflation was at its lowest level since the Conservatives came to power. This indicated that the policies of Thatcher – privatisation, increased home ownership, selling council houses and lowering of taxation but increased VAT were working.
The education system was reformed with the introduction of a National Curriculum which standardised material taught across all schools. CSEs and O-levels were replaced by a new examination – GCSEs.
1986 (15th April)
Britain ignored the United Nations and backed the United States’ bombing of Tripoli, Mitiga and Benghazi in Libya.
1986 (7th November)
Financial Services Act
This act regulated the financial services industry.
British Airways (BA) was privatised. In the same year the National Coal Board was changed to the British Coal Corporation in preparation for future privatisation.
1987 (11th June)
A general election was held. Margaret Thatcher returned as Prime Minister for a third term. Her majority was reduced to 102 seats but was still an overwhelming victory.
1987 (18th July)
Margaret Thatcher met Ronald Reagan for talks at the White House, Washington. Thatcher persuaded Reagan to supply Trident missiles for British nuclear submarines.
1987 (3rd December)
The government announced that British Steel was to be privatised.
The Water Board was privatised.
Community Charge/ Poll Tax
The government announced the abolishment of the rate system which was based on the value of owned property. Instead they announced a new Community Charge where every adult would be charged the same fixed rate. The tax was not well received being seen as unfair that rich and poor would be charged the same rate. In many places there was protests and rioting. The tax was never introduced but was replaced by Council Tax which is based on the value of people’s accommodation.
1989 (26th October)
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson resigned his position. He and Margaret Thatcher had become increasingly divided on policy, particularly on whether Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) and adopt the Euro as currency. Lawson was in favour but Thatcher point blank refused to consider it.
The Poll Tax issue had turned many people against the Conservatives and they lost a number of by-elections.
British Airways (BA) was privatised.
The National Health Service was reformed. Hospitals became trusts and had to function on a business model. Similarly GPs managed their own budgets and had more say over which NHS services they wished to use.
1990 (2nd August)
Gulf War -Kuwait
War began after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Margaret Thatcher agreed sanctions against Iraq and also sent British troops to the region.
1990 (13th November)
Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Howe, spoke against the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Soon afterwards Michael Heseltine made a leadership challenge. Although he did not win, he gained enough support for there to be a second vote.
1990 (22nd November)
It had become clear that Margaret Thatcher could not win the leadership contest so she resigned her position. She was succeeded by John Major.
1991 (22nd November)
It had become clear that Margaret Thatcher could not win the leadership contest so she resigned her position. She was succeeded by John Major.
This treaty agreed greater integration between the member states of the European Economic Community which would become the European Union.
British forces joined United Nations peace-keeping forces in Bosnia.
1992 (9th April)
A general election was held. The Conservatives won the election with a majority of 21 seats.
1992 (18th July)
Following the general election defeat, Neil Kinnock resigned as leader of the Labour Party. He was succeeded by John Smith who was a popular leader.
1994 (12th May)
John Smith died suddenly of a heart attack.
1994 (21st July)
Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party. Blair, aged 41 years, was a charismatic, popular leader.
1997 (26th January)
The British Coal Corporation was privatised.
1997 (1st May)
A general election was held. Tony Blair had re-invented the Labour Party as ‘New Labour’ and had moved its policies away from the hard left hoping to appeal to middle class workers as well as their traditional working class voters. The result was a landslide victory for Labour with a majority of 178 seats in the House of Commons.
1997 (1st July)
Hong Kong was returned to China. Britain was granted the Chinese territory of Hong Kong in 1841 as part of the settlement following the First Opium War.
Published Oct 20 2020 @ 3:35 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Britain 1930 – 1997. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/britain-1930-1997/ Last accessed May 5th, 2021