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The Labour Party, 1900-Present

2. The Labour Party, 1945-64

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the Labour Party from the end of the Second World War to 1964, a period that witnessed its first ever majority government (1945-51) followed by a long spell in opposition (1951-64). In particular, we examine how Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s ‘ministry of talents’ dealt with three key policy priorities in the aftermath of the Second World War: (i) the transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy and massive national debt, (ii) a shifting international context characterised by the Cold War, European integration and decolonisation, and (iii) the findings of the Beveridge Report and the creation of the modern welfare state. We encounter the leading ministers who engineered Labour’s reforms in this period and consider how Attlee was able to maintain a fragile party unity in spite of marked internal divisions.


In this course, Dr Kevin Hickson (University of Liverpool) examines the history of the Labour Party from its founding as the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 to the present-day leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. In the first module, we think about the origins and growth of the Labour Party until the end of the Second World War. The second module focuses on the political achievements and enduring legacies of Labour’s first majority government under Clement Attlee, 1945-51. In the third module, we consider the difficulties faced by Harold Wilson and James Callaghan who led Labour governments from 1964-70 and 1974-9. In the fourth module, we think about Labour’s long period in opposition from 1979-97 and try to understand why Labour was so incapable of succeeding in general elections, focusing in particular on the legacy of the 1974-9 Wilson/Callaghan governments. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the period from 1997 to the present, focusing in particular on the phenomenon of New Labour and the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.


Dr Kevin Hickson is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Liverpool. His teaching and research interests are in the field of British politics, political history and political ideologies.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hickson, K. (2019, September 26). The Labour Party, 1900-Present - The Labour Party, 1945-64 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hickson, K. "The Labour Party, 1900-Present – The Labour Party, 1945-64." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,