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Winston Churchill, 1929-55

4. Defeat in 1945

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about why Churchill was defeated so heavily in the 1945 General Election, focusing in particular on: (i) the conventional explanation that while Churchill was valued as a wartime leader, he was not trusted as a peacetime Prime Minister; (ii) Churchill's tiredness; (iii) his Gestapo speech on 4 June 1945, and the text to which his uncompromising rhetoric was matched by the other side; (iv) Churchill's unpopularity during the war, and the extent to which his wartime leadership had not effaced his pre-war reputation; (v) his association with the 'guilty men' who pursued the much-maligned policy of appeasement with Hitler; and (vi) the extent to which the message of the Labour party resonated with the electorate more than anything than Churchill and the Conservatives could come up with.


In this course, Professor Richard Toye (University of Exeter) explores the career of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill between 1929-55. In the first module, we think the decade between 1929-39 in which Churchill was out of government, what he called his 'wilderness years', focusing in particular on Churchill's views on India and the rise of Nazi Germany, and ending with his return to government as First Lord of the Admiralty in September 1939. In the second module, we think about how Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, before turning in the third module to his performance as Prime Minister during the Second World War. In the fourth module, we think about why Churchill and the Conservatives suffered such as a heavy defeat in the 1945 general election, before turning in the fifth module to think about what Churchill did next. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about how Churchill and Conservatives managed to return to power in 1951, and Churchill's performance during his second ministry between 1951-55.


Prof. Richard Toye is Professor in the History department at the University of Exeter. He is a historian of Britain in its global and imperial context in the period from the late nineteenth century to the present day, and is particularly interested in the rhetorical dimensions of politics, economics and empire. He is the author of several monographs, including The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931-1951 (2003), Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956 (2017), and Winston Churchill: A Life in the News (2020).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Toye, R. (2021, March 21). Winston Churchill, 1929-55 - Defeat in 1945 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Toye, R. "Winston Churchill, 1929-55 – Defeat in 1945." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 21 Mar 2021,