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Winston Churchill, 1929-55

1. The Wilderness Years, 1929-39

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About this Lecture


In this module, we trace Churchill's following the Conservative defeat in 1929 until Churchill returned to government as First Lord of the Admiralty in September 1939, known as his 'wilderness years'. In particular, we think about: (i) Churchill's key achievements as Chancellor between 1924-29: the gold standard, the 1926 general strike, etc.; (ii) Churchill's opposition to the movement of India towards independence, his dislike of nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi; (iii) Churchill's failure to garner enough support to prevent the passage of the Government of India Act 1935, and the reasons for this failure; (iv) his opposition of British foreign policy with regards to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany; (v) his political ambitions in the mid-1930s; (vi) his view of European geopolitics, and how a European war might be avoided; (vii) his rising popularity by the end the 1930s, especially following Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939; (viii) his return to government as First Lord of the Admiralty, a position he had last held in the First World War.


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 - The Wilderness Years, 1929-39 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Toye, R. "Winston Churchill, 1929-55 – The Wilderness Years, 1929-39." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 21 Mar 2021,