Office and Power under Attlee and Bevin (1940–50)

  • Henry Pelling


The period of the 1940’s includes both the full five years of the war-time Coalition and the only slightly shorter length of the 1945 Parliament, which provided for the first time a Labour Government with a Commons majority. Like the earlier periods which we have considered, this one has a certain unity about it, in spite of the great changes effected by the end of the war and by the general election. So far as the Labour Party was concerned, its parliamentary leaders were in office throughout, and gained power within the movement as a result. The extra-parliamentary party and the trade-union movement were consequently under constant restraint, sometimes critical of government policy but always anxious to avoid the embarrassment that would follow if they carried their protests beyond the limits of friendly admonishment.


Foreign Policy Short History Labour Party North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Conservative Party 
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Further Reading

  1. For the years of the Coalition we are largely dependent upon volumes of memoirs, notably those by Attlee and Dalton which have already been mentioned, to which Emanuel Shinwell, Conflict Without Malice (1955)Google Scholar
  2. and Herbert Morrison, Autobiography (1960), should be added. Michael Foot’s Aneurin Bevan i, isan important contribution; and there are some interesting letters published in Kingsley Martin, Harold Laski.Google Scholar
  3. On the period of the Labour Government, there is a rather sketchy outline of legislation and policy in Ernest Watkins, The Cautious Revolution (1951).Google Scholar
  4. A. A. Rogow, The Labour Government and British Industry (Oxford, 1955)Google Scholar
  5. and M. A. Fitzsimons, Foreign Policy of the British Labour Government, 1945–1951 (Notre Dame, Ind., 1953), deal with aspects of the story.Google Scholar
  6. Hugh Dalton’s third volume of memoirs, High Tide and After (1962), is of considerable importance.Google Scholar
  7. There are also some valuable works of political analysis. Robert T. McKenzie’s British Political Parties (new ed., 1963) is useful for this period, and we also have the Nuffield election studiesGoogle Scholar
  8. starting with R. B. McCallum and A. Redman, British General Election of 1945 (1947)Google Scholar
  9. and followed by H. G. Nicholas’s volume for 1950. Two volumes dealing with the political links of the trade unions must also be mentioned: Martin Harrison, Trade Unions and the Labour Party since 1945 (1960)Google Scholar
  10. and V. L. Allen, Trade Unions and the Government (1960).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry Pelling 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Pelling
    • 1
  1. 1.CambridgeUK

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