The United Kingdom
Background: Winston Churchill and his Conservative Party continued to control British politics until losing to the Labour Party (led by Clement Attlee) in the 1950 Elections. Under the leadership of Labour, Britain and its Empire changed dramatically. Rebuilding the war torn nation continued well into the new decade, and new changes were implemented such as the National Health Service. In 1952, India and Pakistan became independent Republics, and London’s role in Palestine ended the previous year.
With the US shrinking back into semi-isolationism, Britain reclaimed its role as the worlds leading military and naval power, seeing conflicts in Iran over the nationalizing of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and uprisings against British rule in Kenya and Malaysia. To help retain the fragile peace, and to take all the pressure of the shoulders of Britain, a military alliance with the commonwealth nations was created, known as the Commonwealth Pact (Compact). In 1953, Britain became the second world power to test the nuclear bomb, working closely with its Compact allies, Australia and Canada in the process.
Due to increasing expenses of trying to maintain its military dominance, and a costly conflict in Malaysia, the Labour Party failed in its bid for re-election, losing to Anthony Eden and the Conservative Party. After consulting popular war time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, Eden strengthened Britain’s ties to its former ally, the United States and to the Commonwealth. Under Eden, the British economy began a gradual recovery, unemployment rates began to fall, and the pound’s value began increasing.
In late 1954, Britain mourned the death of King George VI. The King had suffered through diseases for the better part of two years and was rarely seen in public since the marriage of his daughter, Elizabeth in 1949, and the birth of his grandson, Prince George. He was interred in St. George’s Cathedral in Windsor Castle. His pregnant daughter ascended to the throne taking the name, Queen Elizabeth II. A few short weeks later the Queen gave birth to her third child, and first daughter Princess Mary.
In 1959, President Sukarno of Indonesia was assassinated; the nation soon collapsed into Civil War, the British led the UN in an effort to restore the peace. However outside of France, Poland, Italy and Spain no other nation not a member of Compact participated. US President Lyndon B. Johnson failed to get the Republican dominated Congress to approve American participation, pledged material and moral support for the UN forces. When peace finally returned to the South Pacific in 1963, Compact stood alone, with their European allies withdrawing for economic or political reasons, and Indonesia was fractured beyond repair without extending the war.
Decolonialization continued into the 1960’s, but the baby-boom generation began to question the establishment, with British artists and philosophers leading the way. In the early 1960’s a rock band, called the Beatles, from Liverpool, England took the country by storm, and would later conquer the world with their music. The Beatles were joined by other British acts such as the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes among others. It was the beginning of a new era in thinking in all aspects of life from religion, sexuality, and politics. British youth’s were the first to overtly criticize racial policies in effect in the United States and South Africa, and the movement spread into mainland Europe, North America and the Pacific.
Labour led by Hugh Gaitskell (later Harold Wilson) would begin a decade of dominance of politics following the 1965 election. It was the marking of a new era, Sir Winston Churchill died in a London Hospital in January 1967, in what some suggest as symbolic, a changing of the guard. The 1970’s Britain’s main focus was placed in Ireland, and the ongoing struggles between the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Unionists. The conflict in Northern Ireland still has not been fully resolved, and continues to be a burden on the United Kingdom. In 1976 the Conservatives reclaimed Parliament, holding it until 1983.
Britain became the world’s leading software developer in the 1980’s and 1990’s, producing an extensive global network, appropriately called the global-net, making it available to the general public in 1986. Computer software and programming is expected to become Britain’s top industry by the year 2015, and is a leading source of employment in the UK. Today Britain ranks fifth in the GDP of the world, and second in Europe (behind only Germany). The British military is about 330,000 strong, and is still considered the dominant force in the world, with the Royal Navy providing the backbone. Though some nations such as India, Pakistan and Nigeria have left the alliance, Compact continues its mission of providing a stabilizing force in the world, though it has recently come under heavy criticism as a continuance of the old British Empire.