“How Far Was the Period from 1951 to 1964 a Time of Affluence or 13 Wasted Years?” Essay

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“How far was the period from 1951 to 1964 a time of affluence or 13 wasted years?” In Labour’s 1964 manifesto they described the period from 1951-64 of conservative dominance as ‘13 wasted years’. After the Atlee legacy followed Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Douglas-Home who led the conservatives through thirteen years of consecutive general election wins. Many would describe this period as the age of affluence: a period of prosperity, rising living standards, and Britain remaining a global superpower. However it is clear to see that these years were 13 wasted years: a period of economic decline, inflation, scandals, and Britain unable to compete with European rivals. As the Atlee legacy came to an end in 1951, Britain began reaping the benefits of a post-war boom, moving from the age of austerity into the age of affluence. Weekly wages were increasing, £8.30 in 1951 to £15.35 ten years later. Macmillan’s very popular pledge of 300,000 houses per year led to a surge in home ownership, helped by easy access to cheap mortgages. There was a boom in car ownership and consumer goods such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators and new furniture. Unemployment never exceeded 900,000 in this period which brought comfort to a generation who had not forgotten the perils of the high unemployment in the 1930’s. In addition to this, Butler produced a ‘give-away’ budget that provided the middle classes with £134 million tax cuts. The Keynesian economics at the time were extremely popular and were the cause of this huge surge in affluence and living standards. The prosperity was clear to see everywhere, people had more money than ever before, which was summarised in Macmillan’s ‘never had it so good’ speech. The Keynesian economics at the time were extremely popular and were the cause of this huge surge in affluence and living standards. However Macmillan’s speech also

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