The Conservatives, benefiting from British success in the Boer War, and from splits in the Liberal Party, were returned to power. Lord Salisbury remained as prime minister and became the last premier to sit in the House of Lords.
The Conservatives, benefiting from British success in the Boer War, and from splits in the Liberal Party, were returned to power. Lord Salisbury remained as prime minister and became the last premier to sit in the House of Lords.
The Conservatives, benefiting from British success in the Boer War, and from splits in the Liberal Party, were returned to power. Lord Salisbury remained as prime minister and became the last premier to sit in the House of Lords.
The Taff Vale Railway Company successfully sued a trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, for the costs of industrial action taken by its members. The Labour Representative Committee, a socialist federation formed in 1900, convinced the trade unions that the political representation of labour was now essential. This organisation later became the Labour party.
The treaty of Vereeniging confirmed British victory over the Boer republics after three years of war, and laid the foundations for the Union of South Africa. Notably, it still ignored the rights of the black population. The cost and conduct of the war prompted concerns that Britain was no longer fit for its imperial role.
The Conservatives, led by the Marquess of Salisbury, dominated British politics after the Liberals' split over the issue of 'Home Rule' for Ireland in 1886. Salisbury's successor and nephew, Arthur Balfour, shared with his uncle an interest in foreign imperial policy. He was premier for two-and-a-half years.
A secret pact was ratified between the Liberal party and the Labour Representative Committee, which in certain constituencies allowed Labour a free run at elections, unimpeded by a Liberal candidate. In the long run, the pact may have done more to destroy the Liberal party than preserve it.
The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded by six women, of whom Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst soon became the most prominent. Frustrated at the lack of progress on women's rights, their activities soon became more confrontational, and included prison hunger strikes.
This agreement reconciled British and French imperial interests, particularly in Africa, but also marked the end of centuries of intermittent conflict and paved the way for future diplomatic and military cooperation. The two countries were united in their suspicion of Germany's ambitions. Germany, in turn, hoped to persuade Britain to abandon the alliance.
Wilhelm II visited Tangier to demonstrate German opposition to France's assumption of suzerainty over Morocco, and to test the strength of the Anglo-French entente, which the Germans expected to crumble. It did not, and Britain displayed its commitment to France by initiating military staff talks between the two countries in 1906.
In November, the Conservative Prime Minister Arthur Balfour tried to expose the divisions within the Liberal opposition by resigning, but his rival Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed a Liberal government and then led it to a smashing success at the polls in January 1906. Armed with an overall majority, the Liberals embarked on a programme of social reform.
HMS 'Dreadnought', the first of a new class of 'all big-gun' battleships, was launched at Portsmouth. It was by far the most powerful battleship afloat, and raised the stakes in the Anglo-German naval arms race.
The two countries agreed spheres of influence in Asia, so freeing Britain from its worries about a Russian invasion of India. But an agreement to resolve imperial disputes took on the appearance of a European pact. The 'Triple Alliance' of Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary (also known as the 'Central Powers') was faced by a 'Triple Entente' of Britain, France and Russia (also known as the 'Entente Powers').
Illness had forced Liberal Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman to resign, and he was succeeded by Herbert Asquith. In his cabinet reshuffle, Asquith brought in Reginald McKenna and Winston Churchill, and appointed the radical, David Lloyd George, as chancellor of the exchequer.
The 1908 games were originally to be held in Rome, but were reassigned to London at short notice and held at the purpose-built White City stadium. Famously, the marathon ended in dramatic fashion when the race leader, Dorando Pietri of Italy, was disqualified after he collapsed and had to be helped over the finishing line. Widely recognised as the best organised Games to date, they featured 22 nations, 110 events and more than 2,000 athletes.
New legislation gave a weekly means-tested pension of a maximum of five shillings to all those aged over 70. Only about half a million people received the pension, and thus the significance of the legislation lay as much in the fact that it established a principle as in its immediate benefits.
The introduction of the new 'Dreadnought' class battleship and the subsequent naval arms race with Germany prompted David Lloyd George, the chancellor of the exchequer, to introduce a tax on land, to increase income tax, and to propose a 'super-tax' on incomes over £5,000 per annum. He presented these increases as designed to fund social reforms.
In rejecting Chancellor David Lloyd George's budget, the Conservative-dominated House of Lords broke the parliamentary convention that the upper house should not overturn a financial bill. This ensured that House of Lords reform was one of the issues at stake in the next general election.
The election precipitated by the Lords' rejection of the 'People's Budget' resulted in 275 seats for the Liberals, 273 for the Conservatives and 40 for Labour. The budget was then passed. The Irish Nationalists, with 82, were now in a position to force Irish 'Home Rule' back up the agenda.
Both Edward VII, who died in 1910, and his son, George V, ensured that the monarchy was more active than it had been in the latter years of Victoria's reign, but they exercised their influence discreetly. Edward's funeral brought together the royalty of Europe - many of them his relations - for the last time before war broke out in 1914.
After the general election in February, efforts to broker a deal on parliamentary reform failed, and the Liberals went back to the polls at the end of the year. They and the Conservatives each secured 272 seats, and, with Labour supporting the Liberals, the Irish Nationalists held the balance of power.
The Germans despatched a gunboat to the Moroccan port of Agadir to assert their rights against the French. A Franco-German settlement was negotiated, but the British were alarmed, fearing the Germans planned to turn Agadir into a naval base. As with the first Moroccan crisis in 1905, Germany only succeeded in strengthening the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France.
The Liberals finally forced through House of Lords reform, which had been on the cards for two years. The reforms meant that the Lords could not veto legislation that had passed the House of Commons in three successive sessions, and that parliament itself would be dissolved after five years, not seven. In separate legislation, pay for members of parliament was introduced.
Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George devised a contributory scheme of health insurance for those in employment, which provided payment for medical treatment. Grafted on to the act was a limited plan for unemployment benefit drawn up by Winston Churchill. With this legislation, the Liberals laid the foundations of the Welfare State.
Reflecting their dependence on Irish Nationalist votes in the House of Commons, the Liberals proposed 'Home Rule' for Ireland. In response, Ulster Protestants and unionists formed the Ulster Volunteer Force, a paramilitary force which threatened the government with civil war if the measure was carried.
The foundation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) reflected British recognition of the growing importance of military aviation. In 1918, the RFC was amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).
The White Star liner 'Titanic' was the largest vessel in the world at the time of her launch. Her builders and owners claimed that she was 'practically unsinkable', but on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York she collided with an iceberg and sank within hours, with the loss of 1,503 lives. 'Titanic' could carry over 3,500 people, but was equipped with only enough lifeboats to save 1,178, a fact that contributed to the massive loss of life.
Emily Wilding Davison was severely injured when she threw herself in front of the king's horse at the Derby, and died in hospital a few days later. The militancy of her organisation, the Women's Social and Political Union, proved counter-productive to the cause of women's rights, but the more moderate National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies also had little to show for its efforts through negotiation.
The officers of the 6th Cavalry Brigade, stationed outside Dublin, indicated that they would refuse to enforce Irish 'Home Rule' in Ulster if a parliamentary act proposing greater autonomy for Ireland were carried. The army was divided within itself, representing a potential flashpoint for the government. Irish Home Rule was shelved at the outbreak of World War One.
The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb terrorist, in Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarian government blamed Serbia and used the killing as a pretext for war. For most Britons this was an remote and insignificant event, but the conflict would escalate sharply, drawing in the 'Great Powers' and ultimately resulting in the outbreak of World War One.
On 6 July, Germany effectively gave unconditional backing to any action Austria-Hungary took regarding the recent assassination of its crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Bosnian Serb in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary used this 'blank cheque' to deliver an ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July, which was widely recognised as little more than a pretext for war. With Russia standing by Serbia, Britain invited Germany to join a 'Great Power' conference to resolve the conflict, but Germany refused.
When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in July, Serbia's ally Russia mobilised its army. Austria-Hungary's ally, Germany, in turn declared war on Russia. Russia's alliance with France now threatened Germany with war on two fronts. Germany acted to quickly neutralise France by a well-planned surprise invasion through neutral Belgium - the 'Schlieffen Plan'. Britain, as guarantor of Belgian neutrality, told Germany to withdraw. The ultimatum expired on 4 August and Britain duly declared war.
A British Expeditionary Force (BEF) of over 100,000 men was sent to repel the German invasion of France. It retreated after an initial engagement close to the Belgian border at Mons, then took part in a successful counter-attack on the river Marne in early September. This resistance by the BEF, Belgian and French forces frustrated Germany's 'Schlieffen Plan' for quickly neutralising France. Already fighting Russia, Germany now faced a trench-based war of attrition on two fronts.
For the British army on the Western Front, the town of Ypres in Flanders was crucial, because it screened the Channel ports through which the army was supplied from Britain. The Germans tried unsuccessfully to break the line at Ypres in a battle which lasted until 22 November. British forces suffered 54,000 casualties.
Germany formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 2 August 1914, but the Turks resisted German pressure to enter the war until the end of October when it shelled Russian ports on the Black Sea. Britain, France and Russia responded with declarations of war. The Ottoman Empire in turn declared a military 'jihad' in November. The implications for Britain, with a vulnerable empire stretching across the Middle East to India and including a large Muslim population, were considerable.
The failure of British naval efforts to break through the Dardanelles and so threaten Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, led to a decision to land troops on the Gallipoli peninsula. A combined force of British, New Zealand, Australian and French colonial troops were unable to break out of their beachheads and the campaign ultimately ended in defeat, with all troops evacuated by the end of the year.
The British passenger liner 'Lusitania' was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank with the loss of 1,200 lives. Of those, 124 were American civilians, but despite strong pressure US President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States was 'too proud to fight'. The sinking aroused widespread anti-German feeling in Britain.
Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith formed a coalition government following the 'Shell Crisis', which was sparked press reports of shell shortages at the front. The principal beneficiaries of this coalition in terms of the top jobs remained the Liberals rather than the Conservatives.
While the French attacked further south, the British struck at Loos, using chlorine gas for the first time in their initial attack. However, the wind was not favourable, and gains were limited. The battle continued until mid-October. The first use of poison gas in World War One was by the Germans on 22 April 1915 during the opening engagements of the Second Battle of Ypres.
In addition to raising a large army, Britain needed to allocate its manpower rationally between military service and wartime production to meet the demands of 'total war'. Conscription enabled it to do both. Opposition to the measure in the House of Commons was limited (36 votes to 383), but parliament still acknowledged the rights of the individual in allowing conscientious objection.
Irish nationalists, supplied with German rifles, rebelled at Easter and seized key buildings in Dublin, including the post office where their final stand was made. Most of the population was unsupportive and the rebellion was crushed within a week. The British executed the leaders, inadvertently making martyrs of the rebels and inspiring those who followed.
British troops invaded Mesopotamia (Iraq), then part of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of 1914. The rapid advance on Baghdad outstripped itself and the troops fell back to Kut-el-Amara, where they were encircled. Efforts to relieve the garrison failed and it surrendered. British prestige in the Middle East plummeted.
The British Grand Fleet clashed with the German High Seas Fleet at Jutland in the North Sea, but the heavily outnumbered Germans managed to escape in the night. The British lost more ships than the Germans, but the German fleet was rendered unable to put to sea again, thereby ensuring British naval supremacy remained intact.
The Allies planned a series of coordinated offensives for 1916. On the Western Front, the French and British attacked astride the river Somme, where their two armies met. On 1 July, the British army suffered its worst casualties in a single day - 57,470 men, of whom nearly 20,000 were killed. The battle continued until 18 November 1916.
The static trench warfare of the Western Front prompted the British to develop a self-propelled vehicle that could cross barbed wire and trenches and protect those inside from enemy fire. The 'Mark 1' tank was first employed during the Battle of the Somme, at Flers-Courcelette, but it was not until November 1917 that they were employed in decisive numbers. Once problems with reliability were overcome, the British and French used their new weapon to considerable effect against the Germans.
Prime Minister Herbert Asquith opposed the creation of a smaller war committee to run the war effort on a daily basis. His Liberal colleague and Minister for Munitions David Lloyd George, with the support of the Conservatives, used the split to force Asquith out and replace him as prime minister. Lloyd George set up a war cabinet whose members were freed from other cabinet duties.
Faith in the original commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir John French, had been dwindling - not least owing to his belated release of the reserves in the Battle of Loos. Partly thanks to the intervention of George V, Sir Douglas Haig was appointed to succeed French.
By sinking all merchant ships, regardless of nationality, the Germans hoped to starve the British into submission in six months. They failed and the campaign prompted the United States, the principal neutral power, to declare war on Germany on 6 April 1917.
The main British offensive for 1917 was designed to clear the German threat to the Channel ports and to break through to the Germans' own communications. The fighting continued until 18 November, ending on the ridge at Passchendaele. By then, unusually heavy rains and the destruction of the landscape by heavy shelling had turned the ground to an impassable morass of mud.
In a letter to a leading member of the British Jewish community, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour stated the British government's support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, the first such declaration by a world power. It is believed that similar promises were made to the Arabs prior to the publication of the Balfour Declaration in correspondence between Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt, and the Hashemite Hussein Ibn Ali, the Sharif of Mecca.
In February 1917, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was forced to abdicate after serious reverses in the war against Germany. A provisional government of liberals and moderate socialists was established, but it also failed on the battlefield and was overthrown in a carefully planned coup by the Bolsheviks, who promised 'peace, bread and land' to the war-weary Russian people. Inspired by the writings of Karl Mar, the Bolsheviks established a government based on the 'soviet' (governing council).
After seizing Beersheba and Gaza in the first week of November, British forces under General Edmund Allenby forced the Turks to abandon Jerusalem. Prime Minister David Lloyd George described this as a 'Christmas present' for the British people at the end of a year when a conclusion to the war seemed remote.
The Representation of the People Act enfranchised all men over the age of 21, and propertied women over 30. The electorate increased to 21 million, of which 8 million were women, but it excluded working class women who mostly failed the property qualification.
Seeking peace at virtually any cost, the new communist Russian government under Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire). The terms were humiliating. Russia handed over massive swathes of territory, constituting a third of its population, 50% of its industry and 90% of its coal mines. Opposition to the treaty helped ignite the Russian Civil War, which lasted until 1922.
Following peace with Russia, German commanders planned to use fresh troops from the Eastern Front to attack before American troops began to arrive in the west. After a short but stunning bombardment, the Germans attacked across the old Somme battlefields and made the greatest advance on the Western Front since 1914. It was eventually halted east of Amiens, France. In response, the Allies gave French general Ferdinand Foch overall responsibility for coordinating their armies on the Western Front.
The second German offensive of 1918 made three major incursions into the Allied line and precipitated a crisis on the Western Front. British Field Marshal Douglas Haig's order of the day on 11 April famously told his men that they must stand and fight 'with their backs to the wall'. Despite the stunning success of the offensive, the German army had significantly overstretched itself without achieving a decisive victory - a factor that would contribute to its eventual defeat.
The 1918-1919 'Spanish flu' epidemic killed more than 200,000 people in Britain and up to 50 million worldwide. Despite its name, the virus seems to have originated in the United States, but quickly spread around the world, infecting up to 30% of the world's population.
The British and French, using the greatest concentration of tanks in World War One, advanced up to six miles in a single day. So many German soldiers were forced to surrender that their commander-in-chief General Erich Ludendorff called it 'the black day of the German army'.
General Ferdinand Foch, who had been appointed the supreme commander of the Allied armies on the Western Front on 26 March 1918, coordinated attacks by British, French and American forces. The British broke through the principal German fortified defences, the formidable Hindenburg line, on the following day, and the advance continued unabated into October 1918.
With the Ottoman army in retreat on three of its four fronts - in Bulgaria, Syria and Iraq - the Turks opened negotiations to surrender. Unlike the negotiations with the other enemy powers, these were bilateral talks between the British and the Turks, with no French or Russian involvement.
By September 1918, Germany was exhausted and saw no prospect of victory. The Allies' terms became progressively harsher as they pressed their advantage on the Western Front, both to ensure the removal of Kaiser Wilhelm II as head of state and to guard against the future renewal of hostilities by Germany. Despite onerous terms, Germany eventually capitulated and signed an armistice that brought the fighting on the Western Front to a halt at 11am on 11 November 1918.
This was the first election in which women voted. The results were Conservative and Coalition Liberals 509, Labour 72, Independent Liberals (former Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith's followers) 36, others 27. Although 73 members of Sinn Fein were elected, who included among their number Britain's first woman member of parliament Countess Constance Markievicz, they refused to take their seats.
A distinguished lawyer who had been a member of the Governor General's Council in India, Sir Satyenda Prassano Sinha had been knighted in 1914 for his services to the British government. In 1919, he advised on the Government of India Act. He became Baron Sinha of Raipur.
Seventy delegates representing the 32 allied and associated powers met to decide on peace treaties following the end of World War One. In reality, the treaties were mainly the work of the British, French, Italian and US leaders. One of the treaties prepared at the conference, the Treaty of Versailles, imposed harsh reparations on Germany, and is widely considered to have contributed to the eventual outbreak of World War Two.
The harsh British reaction to the 1916 Easter Rising allowed Sinn Fein and the 'revolutionaries' to triumph over the moderate Home Rulers in the 1918 election. The Sinn Fein members of parliament - having refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons - announced that they constituted an independent Irish parliament called the 'Dáil Eireann'. A provisional government was elected with Éamon De Valera as president.
Glasgow had a history of radicalism, and World War One turned it into a centre for organised protest against poor working conditions. The Liberal government feared this mass rally was the beginning of a working class revolution along the lines of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The rally was broken up by police, and troops and tanks were deployed on Clydeside. In reality, the protesters objectives were not that revolutionary - a 40-hour working week and a living wage.
The Rowlatt Act extended wartime 'emergency measures', such as detention without trial. Mohandas Gandhi of the Indian Congress Party asked Indians to use non-violent civil disobedience in protest against the act, and to refuse to cooperate with the British government. The 1918 Montagu-Chelmsford Report offered reform, but not self-rule - despite the sacrifices India had made in the war and US President Woodrow Wilson's declaration regarding national self-determination.
A large crowd attending a Sikh religious festival in defiance of British martial law was fired on without warning by troops under the command of Brigadier General Reginald Dyer. More than 300 people were killed. The 'Amritsar Massacre' crystallised growing Indian discontent with British rule, which was only heightened when Dyer faced no other punishment than an official censure. Led by Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian Congress Party now became a nationwide movement committed to independence.
When the British government outlawed Sinn Fein's Dáil Eireann, it sparked a vicious two-year guerrilla war between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in southern Ireland and British forces, which included the hated 'Black and Tan' auxiliaries. With the IRA unable to deliver a decisive victory, and the British government increasingly worried about rising casualties and international criticism over its conduct of the war, a truce was called in July 1921.
In 1918, a British force had been sent to Archangel in Russia to prevent Allied stores falling into Bolshevik or German hands and to take pressure off the Western Front after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had taken Russia out of World War One. The evacuation of Murmansk in 1919, and the evacuation of Archangel two weeks previously, ended the British attempt to intervene on the anti-Bolshevik ('White Russian') side in the civil war in northern Russia.
American-born Nancy Astor was not the first British woman member of parliament (MP), but she was the first one to take her seat. Constance Markievicz became the first woman MP in 1918, but as a member of Sinn Fein she had refused to take her seat.
The Government of India Act further angered Indians already disillusioned by the Rowlatt Act and the Amritsar Massacre. The act created a bicameral parliament, with power shared between British and Indian politicians (the so-called 'diarchy'), but the most important ministries were held by Britons. More reforms were to be discussed in ten years. The Congress Party responded with strikes and boycotts of British goods. This was declared illegal and Congress leader Mohandas Gandhi was imprisoned.
The Sex Disqualification Removal Act made it illegal for women to be excluded from most jobs, and allowed them to hold judicial office and enter the professions. Women could now become magistrates, solicitors and barristers.
Academic halls for women were first established at Oxford in the 19th century, but although women had been able to attend degree level courses, they could not receive degrees until 1920.
The mandate system was conceived by US President Woodrow Wilson. France and Britain were commanded to govern their mandates in the interests of their inhabitants, until these territories were ready to be admitted to the League of Nations. The British took over two areas that had previously formed part of the now defunct Ottoman Empire.
In 1917, the Balfour Declaration had given official British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. The territory's new high commissioner, former Home Secretary Sir Herbert Samuel, was Jewish, but he was determined to deal even-handedly with the Palestinian Arabs and the increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants. In May 1921, Arab unrest caused Samuel to halt Jewish immigration.
Prime Minister David Lloyd George had promised 'a land fit for heroes' following World War One, but after a short post-war boom, demobilised soldiers found it increasingly difficult to get work. Deprivation was widespread and industrial relations deteriorated. War debts to the United States and non-payment of European allies' war debts meant the government could not pay for many planned reforms. The 1922 Geddes Report recommended heavy cuts in education, public health and workers' benefits.
The three former Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul, named Iraq by the British, were in a state of revolt. In an effort to quell the unrest, Emir Faisal was made king and administrator of the country. King Faisal was a member of the Hashemite family, who had been important British allies against the Ottoman Empire.
This treaty ended the war between the breakaway southern Irish Republic and Britain, and was supposed to resolve the sectarian 'Ulster problem' by partitioning Ireland. It turned southern Ireland into a dominion - rather than a republic - called the 'Irish Free State', with the British sovereign as head of state. The fact that the treaty still bound Ireland to Britain caused deep conflict and led to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War.
The civil war was ignited by the Anglo-Irish Peace Treaty, which created a partitioned Irish 'Free State' within the British Empire. The pro-treaty faction under Michael Collins accepted partition and believed the treaty would eventually lead to a republic. The anti-treaty faction, led by Éamon de Valera, rejected partition and wanted a republic immediately. The war ended in victory for the pro-treaty Free State government under Collins (who was assassinated) but caused lasting bitterness.
The wartime coalition of Conservatives and David Lloyd George's Liberals won the 1918 general election and began the work of national recovery after World War One. But in 1922, Tory backbenchers overruled their own party leader and voted to leave the coalition, resuming independence as Conservatives. They were disgusted by Lloyd George's Anglo-Irish Treaty and fearful he was about to go to war with Turkey. With his government fatally compromised, Lloyd George resigned.
Having precipitated the fall of David Lloyd George's Liberal-Conservative coalition government with a brilliant speech to his Conservative colleagues, Andrew Bonar Law was invited by George V to form a government. Law called a general election on 15 November 1922. The Conservatives won 344 seats, Labour 142, National Liberals (Lloyd George's party) approximately 53, Liberals (under Herbert Asquith) approximately 62. Ill health forced Bonar Law to retire in 1923. He died six months later.
The mandate for Palestine was divided along the River Jordan, with 'Transjordan' on the eastern side. The Hashemite Emir Abdullah, eldest son of Britain's ally the Sharif Hussein of Mecca, became ruler of the territory. In 1946, Transjordan received independence and Abdullah became King Abdullah I of Jordan.
Conservative Stanley Baldwin became prime minister, with Neville Chamberlain as chancellor of the exchequer, after Andrew Bonar Law resigned due to ill health. Baldwin proposed to abandon free trade, hoping that tariff reform would help to beat unemployment - an unpopular measure. Following the elections of December 1923, the reunited Liberals joined Labour to extinguish tariff reform by a vote of no confidence. Baldwin resigned.
After the vote of no confidence that saw Stanley Baldwin resign as prime minister, the leader of the largest opposition party, Ramsay Macdonald, was called on to form a minority Labour government. Labour was unable to realise its more radical ambitions because of its reliance on Liberal support. This helped Macdonald allay fears that a party representing the working class must be revolutionary, but disappointed many supporters on the left.
In February 1924, the Labour government formally recognised the Soviet Union, despite nervousness about Communist ambitions. In October, MI5 intercepted an apparently seditious letter from a Soviet official to British communists. Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald agreed to the suppression of the 'Zinoviev letter', but it was leaked just before the election. Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives won by a landslide. Labour's share of the vote actually increased, but the Liberals were totally eclipsed.
In his first budget as chancellor of the exchequer, Winston Churchill returned Britain to its pre-1914 monetary system, whereby sterling was fixed at a price reflecting the country's gold reserves. The move resulted in massive deflation and overvaluing of the pound. This made British manufacturing industries uncompetitive, which in turn exacerbated the massive economic problems Britain was to face in the 1930s.
Although the party was initially formed to promote Welsh language and culture, by the 1930s it had a political agenda and was determined that Wales should achieve independent status as a dominion.
John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer and inventor, gave a demonstration of a machine for the transmission of pictures, which he called 'television'. Around 50 scientists assembled in his attic workshop in London to witness the event. It was not until after the World War Two that televisions became widely available.
The Samuel Report sought to rationalise the British coal industry, whose coal had become too expensive, through pay cuts and increased hours. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) ordered a general strike. Well-organised government emergency measures and the lack of widespread public support for the strikers meant it was called off after nine days.
The Irish Civil War made the Irish Free State a reality. Éamon de Valera, who had fought against the treaty that established the Free State, now created the Fianna Fáil party to participate in its political life. Fianna Fáil members elected to the Free State's Dáil (parliament) initially refused to take their seats unless the oath of allegiance to the British sovereign was abolished. Faced with exclusion from politics, Fianna Fáil eventually took the oath, dismissing it as an 'empty formula'.
In 1923, a dominion's right to make a treaty with a foreign power had been accepted. The Imperial Conference in London went further towards legally defining a dominion by recognising that the dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) were autonomous and equal in status, a decision that was later affirmed by the 1931 Statute of Westminster.
A group of radio manufacturers, including radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, set up the British Broadcasting Company in 1922. In 1927 the company was granted a Royal Charter, becoming the British Broadcasting Corporation under John Reith. Reith's mission was improve Britain through broadcasting, and he famously instructed the corporation to 'inform, educate and entertain'.
The fifth Reform Act brought in by the Conservative government altered the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which had only allowed women over 30 who owned property to be enfranchised. The new act gave women the vote on the same terms as men.
British audiences were introduced to talking pictures when the 'The Jazz Singer', opened in London. Cinema-going was immensely popular during the 1920s and 1930s and virtually every town, suburb and major housing development had at least one cinema. There was often a double bill of a main and 'B' feature, supported by a newsreel.
While working at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, Alexander Fleming noticed that a mould growing on a dish had stopped bacteria developing. Howard Florey and Ernst Chain developed penicillin further so it could be used as a drug, but it was not until World War Two that it began to be mass produced.
Ramsay Macdonald headed the first Labour government with a clear majority. It lasted for two years. Labour won 287 seats, the Conservatives 262 and the Liberals 59. Macdonald's administration coincided with the Great Depression, a global economic slump triggered by the Wall Street Crash. Unemployment jumped by one million in 1930, and in some industrial towns reached 75%.
The crash of the American Wall Street financial markets in 1929 crippled the economies of the US and Europe, resulting in the Great Depression. In Britain, unemployment had peaked just below three million by 1932. It was only with rearmament in the period immediately before the outbreak of World War Two that the worst of the Depression could be said to be over.
A powerful disarmament movement reached the peak of its activities in the 1930s. Ramsay Macdonald, a committed internationalist and pacifist, was an enthusiastic believer that the League of Nations could make the world disarm through dialogue. But in 1931, Japan seized Manchuria and pulled out of the League. The rise of militarist regimes across Europe meant that by 1933 the idea of 'collective security' was looking increasingly unworkable.
Mohandas Gandhi defied the British government, which had a monopoly on salt-making, by leading a 400km march to the sea to make his own salt. Five million Indians copied him in defiance of the government. Gandhi was imprisoned from 1930-1931, as were approximately 60,000 others.
In 1927, a parliamentary commission headed by Sir John Simon was sent to India to investigate grievances and make recommendations on the future of the country. Notably, the commission did not have any Indian members. Although the commission recommended representative government in the provinces (provincial assemblies), it advised that power should remain with the British Viceroy. The Indian National Congress, which wanted dominion status granted immediately, organised huge demonstrations.
Three of these conferences took place from 1930-1933, the last of which failed to include any Indian members. The collapse of the Round Table talks led to further mass non-cooperation in India. A new Government of India Act was passed in 1935, granting Indians an elected assembly and extending the powers of the eleven provincial assemblies.
With popular protests causing significant problems, the viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, agreed the Delhi Pact, under which political prisoners would be released in return for suspension of the civil disobedience movement. In the same year, Mohandas Gandhi attended a Round Table conference as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress (INC). Gandhi was promised dominion status for India, but it was rejected by the INC because he had failed to consult its minority leaders.
Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald asked a commission, headed by Sir George May, to investigate Britain's dire economic situation. The May Committee recommended slashing government expenditure, including unemployment benefit. Macdonald agreed, but the measures were voted down by his cabinet colleagues. He offered his resignation to the king, George V, but was instead persuaded to lead a 'national government' coalition, which included Conservatives and Liberals, but only three Labour ministers.
Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald called a general election to seek legitimacy for his 'national government' coalition. He was returned to power with 556 pro-national government MPs, of which 471 were Conservatives. The Labour Party expelled Macdonald for what was perceived as treachery. The new national government forced through the measures that Macdonald's Labour colleagues had vehemently opposed.
Once the champion of armed opposition to the Irish Free State, Éamon De Valera now rose to lead it with this general election victory. After a second general election win in 1933, De Valera began unilaterally dismantling the Irish Free State's relationship with Britain. A trade war began after Fianna Fáil reneged on a £100 million loan from the British government.
Oswald Mosley, formerly a Conservative and then Labour member of parliament, modelled his party along Italian fascist lines. The party never became part of the political mainstream and was banned in 1940. Moseley was interned during the war and twice attempted unsuccessfully to return to parliament in post-war Britain. He died in 1980.
Iraq became independent under King Faisal, who died in 1933. Its strategic importance and oil reserves ensured that Britain maintained a military presence there. During World War Two the British occupied Iraq, as the pro-Axis government intended to cut oil supplies and British access between Egypt and India.
Scottish 'Home Rule' had been supported by both 19th-century Liberals and 20th-century Labour, but had made no progress. The Scottish Nationalist Party was an amalgam of the left-leaning National Party of Scotland (NPS) and the more right-wing Scottish Party. Its objective was to secede from the United Kingdom.
In 1933, German leader Adolf Hitler had withdrawn from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations in order to begin re-arming. Despite a 1935 League of Nations 'peace ballot' that showed 90% of the British public favoured multilateral disarmament, the British government reluctantly began to re-arm. There remained a strong political determination to avoid war at all costs.
This explosion, which killed 266 men, was one of the worst disasters in British mining history. Two hundred children were left fatherless in an area of North Wales where a 40% unemployment rate had already caused widespread poverty.
The Stresa Conference was intended to form a united front against Adolf Hitler's Germany, but Italian leader Benito Mussolini had more in common with Hitler than with the western democracies. On 2 October, he invaded Ethiopia. Despite public sanctions, in a secret agreement dubbed the Hoare-Laval Pact, France and Britain devised a partition plan which gave Italy two-thirds of Ethiopia.
Stanley Baldwin became prime minister after Ramsay Macdonald resigned due to ill health. The 'power behind the throne' during Macdonald's premiership, Baldwin remained prime minister until 28 May 1937, when he was succeeded by Neville Chamberlain.
Publisher Allen Lane felt there was a need for cheap, easily available editions of quality contemporary writing. The first ten Penguins included works by Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie. They cost just sixpence, the same price as a packet of cigarettes, and were available in traditional bookshops, but also in railway stations and tobacconists. Three million Penguin paperbacks were sold within a year. It was a revolution in publishing that massively widened public access to literature.
As Prince of Wales, Edward had visited many parts of the country hit by the prolonged economic depression. These visits, his apparently genuine concern for the underprivileged and his official overseas tours on behalf of his father made him popular in Britain and abroad. But his choice of bride would spark a constitutional crisis. He had fallen in love with a married American woman, Wallis Simpson. When she obtained a divorce in October 1936, it opened the way for her to marry Edward.
Britain was reluctant to end its occupation of Egypt because the Suez Canal provided a vital sea route to India. The treaty allowed the British to retain control of the Suez Canal for the next 20 years, and for Britain to reoccupy the country in the event of any threat to British interests.
Poverty and mass unemployment (as high as 70%) in the north east of England drove 200 men from Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, to march 300 miles to London to deliver a petition to parliament asking for a steel works to replace the local shipyard that had recently closed down. The marchers attracted considerable public sympathy, but the crusade ultimately made little real impact. In heavy industry areas like the north east the Depression continued until the rearmament boom of World War Two.
Edward VIII wished to marry American Wallis Simpson. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised him that the British people would not accept her because she was a divorcee. Faced with losing the woman he loved, Edward chose instead to abdicate. On 11 December, he broadcast his decision to the nation. He married Wallace Simpson in France in June 1937. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Baldwin was widely credited with averting a constitutional crisis that could have ended the monarchy.
Edward VIII's younger brother, the Duke of York, was crowned George VI. He and his wife Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), became inspirational figures for Britain during World War Two. The monarch visited his armies on several battle fronts and founded the George Cross for 'acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger'.
The idea of partitioning Palestine between its Arab and Jewish inhabitants was rejected by both sides, and by January 1938 a new report had been commissioned. In 1939, a government white paper recommended that the final number of Jewish immigrants should be limited to 75,000, and Palestine should become independent under majority Arab rule. The outbreak of World War Two put the issue on hold.
With the British government distracted by the constitutional crisis of Edward VIII's abdication, Irish Free State leader Éamon De Valera seized the opportunity to draw up a new constitution for Ireland that omitted any references to its place within the British Empire. In addition to making Ireland a de facto republic, the constitution laid claim to the whole of Ireland, including Ulster. De Valera became the 'Taoiseach', the equivalent of prime minister.
A total of 10,000 Jewish children between the ages of five and 17 were sent from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Britain between December 1938 and the outbreak of war in September 1939. Many were given homes by British families, or lived in hostels. Very few of them saw their parents again.
With overt militarism on the rise across Europe, Britain persisted with its policy of 'appeasement' - making concessions to avoid provoking a wider scale war. Notably, Britain had not intervened in the brutal Spanish Civil War in order to avoid antagonising Italy. The decision of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to recognise the king of Italy as emperor of Ethiopia following the Italians' unprovoked invasion was a concession too far for Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, who resigned.
The union of Austria and Germany was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was deeply resented by both countries for its allocation of 'war guilt' and imposition of heavy reparations. When the German army marched into Austria in March 1938, they were welcomed by cheering crowds of Austrians.
The Munich Conference between Britain's Neville Chamberlain, Germany's Adolf Hitler, Italy's Benito Mussolini and Edouard Daladier of France agreed that the Czechoslovakian territory of the Sudetenland and its three million ethnic Germans should be joined with Germany. Chamberlain returned to Britain claiming he had achieved 'peace in our time'. In fact, it would come to be a clear demonstration that appeasement did not work, as by March 1939 Hitler had seized the rest of Czechoslovakia.
This guarantee formally ended the policy of appeasement, and the British government reluctantly began to prepare for war. Conscription was introduced for the first time in peacetime on 27 April, with little protest. On 23 August, the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact put paid to British hopes of a Russian ally. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain warned Adolf Hitler that Britain would support Poland if it was attacked by Germany.
On 1 September, German forces invaded Poland. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain still hoped to avoid declaring war on Germany, but a threatened revolt in the cabinet and strong public feeling that Hitler should be confronted forced him to honour the Anglo-Polish Treaty. Britain was at war with Germany for the second time in 25 years.
Germany invaded neighbouring Denmark on 7 April, and the Danes surrendered after two days. Denmark provided a land route to neutral Norway, which was invaded on 9 April. The small Norwegian army mounted fierce resistance, with the help of 12,000 British and French troops. The campaign in Norway ended when the German invasion of France and the Low Countries changed the focus of the war. The Allies were forced to evacuate.
Following the disastrous Norwegian campaign, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain faced heavy criticism at home. By early May, Chamberlain had lost the confidence of the House of Commons. Labour ministers refused to serve in a national coalition with Chamberlain as leader, so he resigned. Churchill became prime minister on 10 May, the same day Germany invaded Holland and Belgium.
The German army rapidly defeated France with a strategy called 'blitzkrieg', or 'lightning war', which used speed, flexibility and surprise to execute huge outflanking manoeuvres. Paris fell on 14 June and France capitulated on 25 June. Hitler had achieved in a matter of weeks what the German army had failed to do after four years of desperate fighting on the Western Front of World War One.
Allied forces were utterly overwhelmed by the German 'blitzkrieg' in France. Thousands of soldiers were trapped in a shrinking pocket of territory centred around the French seaside town of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy's Operation Dynamo succeeded in evacuating approximately 338,000 British and French troops in destroyers and hundreds of 'little ships' - volunteers who sailed to France in their own vessels - over a period of ten days, while under constant attack from the Luftwaffe (German air force).
Britain had taken the decision not to defend the Channel Islands in the event of a German invasion. As German forces overran France in June 1940, about 30,000 people were evacuated from the islands, with about twice that number choosing to remain. Jersey and Guernsey were bombed on 28 June with the loss of 44 lives. The German occupation began two days later. The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during the war.
The attack on the French fleet at the Algerian port of Mers-el-Kébir left almost 1,300 Frenchmen dead and the fleet immobilised. Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally ordered the fleet destroyed if it refused to fight alongside British, following France's capitulation to the Germans. Despite the cost in lives, Churchill could not allow the fleet to become a threat to British naval dominance in the Mediterranean.
In July 1940, German leader Adolf Hitler ordered preparations for Operation Sealion - the invasion of Britain. The Luftwaffe (German air force) first had to destroy the Royal Air Force. Vastly outnumbered, the RAF nonetheless consistently inflicted heavy losses on the German squadrons, thanks to excellent aircraft, determined pilots and radar technology. On 17 September, two days after the Luftwaffe sustained its heaviest single day of losses, Hitler postponed the invasion.
In September 1940, US President Franklin Roosevelt signed an agreement to give Britain 50 obsolete American destroyers in exchange for the use of naval and air bases in eight British possessions. The lease was guaranteed for the duration of 99 years 'free from all rent and charges'. Nonetheless, the US showed no sign yet of entering the war on the Allied side, as many in Britain hoped they would.
German bombing raids had already targeted Liverpool and Birmingham during August, but on 7 September the 'Blitz' intensified as 950 aircraft attacked London. It was the start of 57 consecutive nights of heavy bombing. The raid caused some 300 civilian deaths and a further 1,300 serious injuries. By the end of the Blitz, around 30,000 Londoners had been killed with another 50,000 injured.
No city, save London, suffered more loss of life in one night raid than Belfast, after 180 German bombers attacked the city. At the height of the raid an appeal was sent to the Irish leader Éamon De Valera, who sent fire engines to help fight the fires raging in the city.
German and Italian troops had overrun Greece in three weeks, starting on 6 April. Commonwealth troops were rushed there from Egypt to help the Greek resistance, but had to be evacuated. Many were sent to Crete in an effort to prevent the Axis powers dominating the eastern Mediterranean. Crete was attacked by the Germans on 20 May, and the Allied forces there were defeated and evacuated by the end of the month.
The British battlecruiser 'Hood' was sunk during the Battle of Denmark Strait, probably by a single shell from the German battleship 'Bismarck'. The ship sank so quickly that only three of the 1,418 man crew survived. 'Hood' was a well-known symbol of British imperial power and its loss was a significant psychological blow to Britain. The 'Bismarck' was itself sunk by the Royal Navy on 27 May 1941.
The Atlantic Charter, agreed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt, set out the principles that would shape the struggle against German aggression. It was drawn up during a secret meeting aboard the USS 'Augusta', off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The charter was supported by 26 countries, including the Soviet Union, and after the war formed the basis of the United Nations Declaration. America entered the war four months later.
America entered the war on the Allied side in December 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent German declaration of war on the United States. Millions of men and thousands of planes and tanks were deployed to Britain, which became a base for American airmen flying bombing raids over Europe, a staging post for American troops on their way to fight in North Africa, and crucially the launching point for the D-Day invasions that began the liberation of Western Europe.
This catastrophic defeat was a fatal blow to British prestige and signalled the fall of the empire in the Far East. The Japanese unexpectedly attacked down the Malay Peninsula instead of from the sea, where Singapore's defences were concentrated. About 70,000 men were taken prisoner, many of whom would not survive the war due to the brutal conditions of their incarceration.
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps was sent to India in March 1942 to win the co-operation of Indian political groups. The Japanese had occupied Burma, and were at the border of India. Stafford Cripps effectively offered post-war independence, which Mohandas Gandhi described as a 'post-dated cheque on a crashing bank'. The Indian National Congress insisted on immediate independence, which Stafford Cripps refused. Gandhi launched a last civil disobedience campaign, for which he was imprisoned.
Air Marshall Arthur Harris took command of the Royal Air Force's bomber force in February 1942. He wanted to demonstrate the effectiveness of Bomber Command with massive, concentrated raids ('area bombing') on key German cities. The first 'thousand bomber raid' was on Cologne, with a second, two nights later, on Essen. A third raid, this time on Bremen, took place on 25 June. The raids caused massive destruction, particularly in Cologne.
The Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, on the northern French coast, had a variety of purposes. It would raise morale at a time when the war was going badly, it would show the Soviets that the western Allies could open a second front, and it would teach valuable lessons for the eventual full-scale invasion of Europe. It was a disaster. Of the 6,000 mainly Canadian troops who made it ashore, more than 4,000 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
General Claude Auchinleck had stopped the Axis forces (mainly German and Italian troops) during the First Battle of El Alamein in early July 1942, but the Allied position was still precarious. When General Bernard Montgomery took command of 8th Army, he built up its strength to a level of superiority before smashing the Axis forces in a carefully coordinated assault, driving them all the way back to Tunisia. By May 1943, the Axis had been completely cleared out of North Africa.
Sir William Beveridge's report gave a summary of principles aimed at banishing poverty from Britain, including a system of social security that would be operated by the government, and would come into effect when war ended. Beveridge argued that the war gave Britain a unique opportunity to make revolutionary changes. Beveridge's recommendations for the creation of a Welfare State were implemented by Clement Attlee after the war, including the creation of the National Health Service in 1948.
Malta's position in the Mediterranean made it strategically vital for the Allies. It was effectively under siege from 1940 and suffered devastating Axis (Italian and German) bombing. From January to July 1942 there was only one 24-hour period when no bombs fell on the island. In summer 1942, George VI awarded the island of Malta the George Cross in acknowledgement of the bravery of its inhabitants. The siege was finally lifted when Axis forces capitulated in North Africa on 13 May 1943, .
This Royal Air Force raid by 19 Lancasters utilised a 'bouncing bomb', developed by British scientist Barnes Wallis, in an attempt to destroy three major dams supplying water and power to the important German industrial region of the Ruhr. Two of the dams were breached, but 53 of the 133 aircrew were killed. Severe flooding killed over 1,000 people, but the damage to the Ruhr's industrial capability was relatively minor. Nonetheless, the raids were a major propaganda victory.
Allied merchant shipping losses to German 'U-boats' in the Atlantic had reached crisis levels in late 1942 to early 1943. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Allied leaders allocated more resources to the battle. In March 1943, after a 'blackout' of several months, German U-boat ciphers were once again broken, allowing the new resources to be deployed to devastating effect. By May 1943, U-boat losses were so heavy that Kriegsmarine commander Admiral Karl Dönitz called off the battle.
When British and American troops landed on the south eastern tip of Sicily, it was the first significant Allied landing on European soil in two years. After a prolonged battle, Axis forces started withdrawing from the island on 11 August. The island of Sicily gave the Allies a foothold for the invasion of mainland Italy, which began in September.
RA Butler, the progressive Conservative chancellor of the exchequer, created universal free secondary education to the age of 15, something people had campaigned for since the 19th century. There were three types of schools - grammar, secondary modern and technical, entrance to which was determined by the '11 plus' examination.
The battle centred on the ancient Italian monastery of Monte Cassino. The Allies were attempting to break through the German 'Gustav Line', which ran across Italy, south of Rome. The Germans sought to halt the Allied advance north by holding them at Monte Cassino. The bitter fighting lasted over five months, during which the monastery was reduced to rubble. By the time the Allies broke through, casualties numbered more than 54,000 Allied and 20,000 Germans troops.
The invasion of Europe - the largest amphibious invasion in history - succeeded in landing 150,000 troops on the beaches of Normandy on the first day, through a massive combined operation requiring hundreds of ships and total air superiority. Behind the lines, Allied paratroops seized key strategic targets, while the French resistance sabotaged rail and communication links. By the end of D-Day, five beachheads were secured, and the Allies had a foothold in France.
Since the start of the Burma campaign in 1941, Allied forces had done little but retreat to the point that Japanese forces stood ready to invade north east India. When the command of 14th Army passed to Lieutenant General William Slim, he imbued it with a new fighting spirit and developed a strategy of air support that allowed besieged positions to hold out against Japanese assault. He used Kohima and Imphal to break the Japanese in Burma and by June 1945, 14th Army had retaken Rangoon.
Operation Market Garden was a bold plan to land 30,000 Allied troops behind enemy lines and capture eight bridges spanning a network of waterways on the Dutch-German border near Arnhem. It would allow the Allies to outflank German border defences, opening the way for an advance into Germany and an early end to the war. A combination of factors, including faulty intelligence about German strength and bad weather, resulted in failure. More than 1,130 Allied troops were killed and 6,000 captured.
The war leaders agreed that Germany should be forced to surrender unconditionally and would be divided into four zones between Britain, the Soviet Union, France and the United States. It was also agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan after Germany was defeated.
The liberation of Bergen-Belsen brought the horrors of Nazi genocide home to the British public when film and photographs of the camp appeared in British newspapers and cinemas. Conditions at Bergen-Belsen were so desperate that more than 10,000 prisoners died in the weeks after the liberation of the camp, despite the best efforts of the Allies to keep them alive. Millions were murdered to satisfy Nazi theories about racial-biological purity, at least six million of whom were Jews.
German forces had been utterly defeated by the end of April 1945. Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April as Soviet forces closed in on his Berlin bunker. The German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz surrendered to Allied General Dwight Eisenhower in France on 7 May. The following day was officially celebrated in Britain as Victory in Europe Day. The entire country came to a standstill as people celebrated the end of war.
On 23 May the wartime coalition government ended. Winston Churchill headed a temporary Conservative government until the July general elections, which Labour won with a majority of 146. Returning soldiers wanted social reforms and had rejected the 'war leader' Churchill in favour of Labour's Clement Attlee. The post-war years saw the implementation of many of the reforms recommended by Sir William Beveridge in 1942, and the creation of the Welfare State.
On 6 August, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the American bomber 'Enola Gay'. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on the port city of Nagasaki. In all, 140,000 people perished. Less than a week later, the Japanese leadership agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the Emperor Hirohito broadcast his nation's the capitulation over the radio. Victory over Japan day also marked the end of World War Two.
At the Yalta Conference in early 1945, the 'Big Three' of Britain's Winston Churchill, US President Franklin D Roosevelt and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin agreed to establish a new global organisation - the United Nations. The structure and charter of the organisation were established at another conference in San Francisco. Britain became one of the five 'security council' members, with a power of veto. On 24 October, the UN officially came into existence when its members ratified its charter.
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