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How We Did it

MY '45

The Questionnaire was designed to produce results that are eye-opening, surprising, maybe shocking. They are not perfect, and as with all statistical analysis are open to a number of interpretations, but they’re intended to give a fair impression of life back then, before the Spirit of ’45. And although the results help to describe life before the war, they don’t necessarily explain what caused it to change. How much of what’s different now, or how much of the improvement in life after the war is actually owed to the Spirit of ’45, is a question we want you to help answer. The aim of this Questionnaire was to simply give a sense of just some of the momentous changes that were occurring around that time.

How were the dates chosen for comparisons between then and now?
Why is there nothing on ethnicity?
Why do you call the results ‘impressionistic’?
Where do the names come from?
How was education calculated?
How did you match my job?
How do you know my and my family’s chance of dying at birth, or as children?
How do you work out many rooms I’d have lived in?
How do you know how long I’d have lived?
How do you know what healthcare I would have been entitled to?
Who produced it?


How were the dates chosen for comparisons between then and now?
Data is not available for all years, so that restricts which years can be compared. There was no Census in 1941 for example because of the war, but there was in 1931 and 1951. So when comparing jobs today, for example, with jobs then, 1931 data was used to find out what kind of work people did. For average pay, to take another example, there was a survey in 1938 that provides reasonable data, so that’s the date we use. On the whole, dates during the Second World War were avoided in favour of dates just before because conditions were often unusual during the war. For today, the most recent data available was used.

Why is there nothing on ethnicity?
The My ’45 questionnaire results are based on comparing census’s and National Office of Statistics information from the pre-War years with the equivalent data today. The UK was much less ethnically diverse during this time and the ethnicity classifications were not widely used in the UK pre 1945, so we weren’t able to make the appropriate comparisons to break the data down in this way.

Why do you call the results ‘impressionistic’?
It is impossible to know for sure exactly how your life would have worked out had you been born before ’45. It is also very difficult to know enough about you now to be sure exactly what kind of life you lead – your income, your partner’s income, where you live, your job, your lifestyle, your family – without a massive (and intrusive) set of questions, let alone know for sure how this would translate to about 70 years ago. But the results do give you a reasonable impression based on some limited facts about you. Of course, there will always be exceptions and anomalies (maybe your income is really low, but your partner earns a fortune, for example, so you look poor in the data you’ve given to us, but your lifestyle is actually rich). Similarly, it is impossible to know what job you would have done, but it is possible to give you a very rough sense of the kind of jobs around back then – hopefully related to the job you do now. The same goes for names and other information here. So it is inevitably impressionistic - but we think that’s pretty good. We hope you’ll find it gives a fascinating sense of what your life might have been like given the data we can reasonably collect and compare.   

Where do the names come from?
The names used are from 1974, as it was thought this was a representative year of birth for the age group who will most likely use this site. Then this list, which ranks names in order of popularity, was compared to a similar list of names in 1934, because that’s the nearest year that could be found pre-war. Both lists come from the Office for National Statistics, which keeps a record of all the names in birth records, so as these data go it’s pretty complete. Obviously it is impossible to know what you would have been called in 1934, but it is possible to give you an impression of the names around at that time and – if you’re in today’s equivalent list - give you a name that had similar popularity to the one you have now. If you have a name that doesn’t figure in the popular lists, then you are assigned a name at random from lower down the list.

How was education calculated?
The usual school leaving age pre-war was 14. Based on the number of people who stayed on (not many), it was possible to give you an equivalent chance of being one of them. The chance of you going to university pre-war was similarly calculated, then tweaked, based on whether or not you actually went to university, or are currently at university. It was then tweaked further depending roughly on the years in which you actually went. So if you went to university in the 50s, you were one of a fairly small minority, and so your chances of going pre-war would have been lower, but still pretty good, and certainly better than the chance for those who didn’t go at all. If you went more recently, you were one of a much larger group, so you’d all be fighting for a very small number of places pre-war and your chances of going would be much smaller.

How did you match my job?
The results match official job categories today with those in the 1931 Census. First, the language of these categories was simplified so you can choose which one best describes your job now. These jobs were then matched as well as possible to the job categories from 1931 (the categories have changed, not least because many old jobs have all but disappeared and many new ones have appeared). If there aren’t enough jobs of the modern kind to go around when they are matched with 1931, you are given a chance of getting one equal to the numbers available, and if you are unlucky you are put in a pool with those for whom we couldn’t find a match.

Then for everyone in the pool, a job is allocated at random from the kind of jobs that were plentiful back then, taking account of the jobs that women and men were most likely to do. If you are unemployed, you are told roughly what kind of support you might have had.

How do you know my own and my family’s chance of dying at birth, or as children?
Historical data that show us the rates of death in infancy, or of stillbirth was applied to the details you gave us about your own family now. So we rounded the risk then to about a ten per cent chance of dying per child (still birth and infant mortality combined) and then applied this risk to your own data. That’s pretty rough and ready, but not far off what might have happened. One reason it’s not perfect is that if you think about it, it would mean that if you were one of ten children there would be a 100 per cent chance that one of you would die. But there is never a certainty like that. So the true numbers are slightly less than 10% because chance doesn’t add up in a straightforward way (for three children the chance is actually a bit below 30% and for four children it is closer to about 35%). So 10% per child is a very rough ready-reckoner. Again, the aim was to give an impressionistic sense of life back then using approximate probabilities.  

How do you work out many rooms I’d have lived in?
Survey data then and now was used to find out the average number of rooms per person (or people per room). It was then worked out how that average had changed. By applying the same degree of change in reverse to your own details, the results take you back to conditions pre-war. As before, it is impressionistic, since how big your home is now might not be a good guide to the kind of home you’d have had back then. But it gives a reasonable impression of the average.  

How do you know how long I’d have lived?
It’s obviously not possible to know exactly how long you would have lived. But it is possible to know how long people typically lived, or how long they lived on average, and data on this from the Office for National Statistics are readily available. So, based on your age now, your life expectancy can simply be recalculated based on what happened back then on average. Life expectancy is not a prediction for any one of us, it is just a description of what happens to the average person. Life expectancy is also affected by infant mortality, which was relatively high pre war. To overcome this for those who have clearly already survived infancy, your life expectancy is calculated based on how old you are now, not on what it would have been at birth.

How do you know what healthcare I would have been entitled to?
The rules that were in force back then were simply applied to people today. So for example, children and wives often didn’t qualify for free healthcare because they were not in a workers’ insurance scheme. People above a certain income threshold didn’t qualify either. An equivalent of that pre-war threshold was worked out by seeing how it compared to an average income then, then recalculating it in the same proportions to an average income now.

The same method was applied to certain healthcare costs, like doctors’ visits.
These costs were calculated in relation to an average income then, and recalculated in the same relation to an average income now. So if something cost half an average week’s pay then, it was converted to half an average week’s pay now. One problem is that there are lots of different averages, and the data back then is not very complete. (Data on average incomes, which are the basis for several of the calculations here, come from ‘Labour Market Statistics Historical Abstract’, 1886-1968 published by HMSO) So again, the results are impressionistic, but they are not a million miles away. Another way of doing all this would have been simply to uprate the costs back then in line with inflation to get a figure for today. But since people are much richer now, that would not have given you a sense of how those costs felt given what you would have been likely to earn pre-war. The actual costs for medical care that were used here are based on a variety of sources including interview accounts and documentary evidence.   

Who produced it?
The Spirit of ’45 project was commissioned by Film4.0 and the BFI and the content created by a broad team including a data consultant researchers from the film, web content production team, in collaboration with film producers Sixteen Films and Fly Films, and distributors Dogwoof.


The statistics and historical events included in the Timelines across The Spirit of 45 website have been researched and collated by a broad team including a data consultant, researchers from the film and the web content production team in collaboration with the film producers, Sixteen Films and Fly Film.

The team have endeavoured wherever possible to double source and cross reference all statistics and events to provide verified content. At all times the team has worked and complied with Channel 4’s strict editorial standards.

The Spirit of ‘45 is a film based on a particular thesis from filmmaker Ken Loach, and as such there are of course many other opinions and approaches to the subject areas available. Some of these can be found in the ‘An Alternate Opinion’ section which leads to the major political parties online as well as a broad range of Think Tanks offering alternate views and opinions.

We would like to encourage a healthy debate around the film’s thesis and you can engage with this on our Facebook page and Twitter.


Between 1914- 1945 1000s die of tuberculosis. The child who survives until 12 is likely to have rotten teeth, poor bones, and a weak heart.

NHS: A Difficult Start (BBC Documentary 2008)

Population and Living Standards 1914 – 1945
By Robert Millward and Joerg Baten

Statistical analysis from Census and National Statistics Office

At best, people see their GP once a year in the 1930s.  Today we visit our GP 4.5 times a year.

Health Knowledge

Office of Health Economics

As an infant living pre-war there’s a 6% chance you will die before your 5th birthday

Blacks Academy

UK National Statistics Office

Statistical analysis from Census and National Statistics Office

In 1940, 3,283 die from Diptheria. In 2008 just 6 cases are diagnosed.

The National Health Service


In the first 9 months of the NHS 1948, 1 million sets of dentures are made. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society

The British Dental Association (BDA)

A child leaving primary school in 1943 has a 98% chance of having tooth decay.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Report of the Health Scrutiny Select Committee

In 1945 in the UK, 19,200 people die of Tuberculosis compared to just 256 in 2011.

Health Protection Agency

UNISON Health and Safety Information Sheet

By 1950 Britons have started living for an extra 7 years.

Office for National Statistic - 'Trends in Premature mortality in England and Wales'.

BBC: Death rates at lowest ever levels in England and Wales

In 2011 satisfaction with the NHS has its sharpest fall in 30 years.

The King'sFund: Public satisfaction with the NHS and its services

labourleft: ‘Inherited mess’ part 2: the myth of the ‘clean-up’ – who would a Tory ‘recovery’ actually benefit?

In 2012 there are almost three times as many hospital beds (relative to population) as before the Second World War. In the 1920s, there were only 1.28 beds for every 1,000 people - This is the same as in Kabul, Afghanistan today.

Fire this Time: "Taliban rising" in Afghanistan or the rise of a popular resistance movement

Book: Steven Cherry, Medical Services and the Hospitals in Britain, 1860-1939

According to the UK Statistics authority, the current government's cuts to the NHS budget will reach almost £1bn by 2015 - despite promises to protect it.

The Guardian: Budget 2011: coalition criticised as NHS spending power cut by £1bn

Keep Our NHS Public

If funding cuts continue, there could be a £50bn funding gap in the NHS by 2023.
Public Finance: Huge funding gap looms for English NHS, warns Nuffield Trust

LSE Research Supports Major Report on NHS Funding

In 1911, the Chancellor, Lloyd George, establishes a system of National Health Insurance that covers mostly working men only.

Historyextra.com: The NHS: what can we learn from history?

Socialism Today: NHS at 60 The real history of the struggle for a national health service

The National Archives: The Cabinet Papers 1915 - 1982

1942: The government tasks Liberal politician William Beveridge with discovering what kind of Britain people want to see after the war. He declares that there are five "giants on the road to reconstruction": poverty, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness. To combat these fears he proposes setting up a welfare state with social security, a national health service, free education, council housing and full employment.

BBC News

William Beveridge Foundation

1945: Labour win the General Election by a landslide with a  61.7% majority.

House of Commons Library: UK elections statistics 1918-2012

1945: Labour Manifesto: "By good food and good homes, much avoidable ill-health can be prevented. In addition the best health services should be available free for all. Money must no longer be the passport to the best treatment."

"In the new National Health Service there should be health centres where the people may get the best that modern science can offer, more and better hospitals, and proper conditions for our doctors and nurses. More research is required into the causes of disease and the ways to prevent and cure it."

"Labour will work specially for the care of Britain's mothers and their children - children's allowances and school medical and feeding services, better maternity and child welfare services. A healthy family life must be fully ensured and parenthood must not be penalised if the population of Britain is to be prevented from dwindling."

The Labour Party: 1945 Labour Party Election Manifesto

Political Science Resources

1946: NHS Bill published
The Conservative government vote against the NHS Bill in second and third reading. Doctors also resist it but the Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan eventually wins them over by "stuffing their mouths with gold" - allowing consultants to keep private patients.

The National Archives: The cabinet papers 1915-1982

NHSHistory.net: The development of the London hospital system 1823-1982

BBC News: Making Britain better

1948: NHS established and transforms British Life
The NHS is born on July 5 1948 out of a long held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When Health Secretaru Aneurin Bevan opens Park Hospital in Manchester, it is the climax of a hugely ambitious plan to bring good healthcare to all.

Imperial College Healthcare

The National Health Service – The Birth of the NHS


1952: Prescription Charges
Prescription charges of one shilling (5p) are introduced as well as charges for spectacles and dentistry. Today a prescription cost £7.65

NHS History

Politics.co.uk: NHS Prescription Charges

1958: Polio and Diptheria Vaccinations
In 1958 a program to vaccinate everyone under the age of 15 against polio and diptheria is launched.

NHS History

Timeline of the history of the NHS

1965: Prescription Charges Abolished
Harold Wilson's government abolished prescription charges sending the NHS drugs bill soaring as many low cost medicines that patients previously brought for themselves are increasingly prescribed.

Politics.co.uk: NHS prescription charges

The Scottish Socialist Party: Consultation on Proposal to abolish NHS Prescription Charges

1968: Labour Reinstate Prescription Charges
Labour relent and reinstate prescription charges at an increased rate of 2 shillings and sixpence.

The National Archives: The cabinet papers 1915-1982

The Scottish Socialist Party

1973: The NHS Reorgansiation Act
After years of debate, major structural changes are made to the NHS. Hospitals, nursing services, health centres and general practitioners are brought under the control of the new local authorities. The tripartite structure of the NHS was is replaced with a unitary structure based on Area Health Authorities (AHAs) reporting to Regional Health Authorities.

The National Archives: National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973


1983: Thatcher's NHS Changes
Margaret Thatcher insists on the contracting out of domestic, catering and laundry services by health authorities.

BBC News: The NHS: the Conservative legacy

The New NHS: A Guide – by Alison Talbot Smith, Allyson M. Pollock, Colin Leys & Nick McMally.

Privatising from within: The National Health Service Under Thatcher

1987: NHS cash crisis
Amid many ward closures a review of the NHS finances is demanded. The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists write to the Prime Minister stating that the NHS has almost reached the point of collapse.

The Guardian: History of NHS reforms: A state of permanent revolution

The Official History of Privatisation, Vol. II: Popular Capitalism, 1987 – 97 by David Parker g 42

1990: NHS and Community Care Act
The purchaser-provider split introduces a new funding system that sees an end to the government paying all hospitals and providers directly. Instead they allocate funding to NHS agents or managers who then selectively purchase care from hospitals. This move establishes an internal market within the NHS.

The National Archives: National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990


1992: Implementation of Private Finance Initiative (PFI)
The Major government creates "public–private partnerships" by funding public infrastructure projects with private capital.

Library of the House of Commons: Private Finance Initiative (PFI)

Serco: PPP / PFI

2003: Health and Social Care Act
Foundation hospitals start operating like private companies, which means they can go bust. Their income is related to performance, and they are paid based on their results.

Legislation.gov.uk – Health & Social Care Act 2003

The National Archives: Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003

2012: Health and Social Care Bill
This is the largest ever reorganisation of the NHS, handing over many services to the private sector. “Clinical commissioning groups” are introduced, permitting hospitals to use 49% of capacity for private patient care.

Department of Health: Health and Social Care Bill explained

Parliament Publications: Health and social care bill


In 1947, almost 60% of households have no hot water. 25 years later, only 7% of households go without.

York University: Housing finance review 1999/2000

'The Independent: Coronation to Jubilee: how the property market has changed

In 1947, 2 millon households have neither electricity nor gas.

York University: Housing finance review 1999/2000

Department of Energy & Climate Change: 60th anniversary digest of United Kingdom energy statistics

Clement Attlee's 1945 government build more than 1 million new homes, 80% are council houses.

House of Commons Library: Olympic Britain

Book: Jeffreys, Kevin The Atlee Governments, 1945-1951

From 1946-1981 5 million new council houses are built, compared to 250,000 from 1981-2010.

House of Commons Library: Olympic Britain


In 1979 42% of Britons are living in council houses. By 2008 it is 12%.

House of Commons Library: Olympic Britain

The Guardian: Safe as houses

If food prices had risen at the same rate as house prices during 1971-2010, by 2011 a chicken would cost £47.51.

Shelter: Weekly grocery bill of £420?

The Guardian: The cost of living: 1971 v today

In 2010, nearly 6 million homes fail the Decent Homes Standard. More than half of these are owner-occupied.


Shelter: The housing crisis

In 2010/11 England has 655,000 overcrowded households.

GOV.UK: English housing survey 2010 to 2011: headline report

English housing survey: Headline report 2010-11

In 2012 Britain needs 3 million new homes by 2020.

The Guardian: Reits: a new answer to the problem of social housing finance?


93% of new housing benefits claims in 2012 are from people who have a job.

The Guardian: Skivers v strivers: the argument that pollutes people's minds

Inside Housing.co.uk

As private rental costs soar and purchase deposit requirements increase, the annual housing benefit budget rises by £1bn to £23.2bn.

Left Futures: Scrap the bedroom tax, and regulate private rents

Channel 4

In 2012 there are almost 1.8 million households on Housing Waiting Lists, almost the same number of council properties sold off since 1980.
Public and Commercial Services Union- PCS

The Guardian: London's housing crisis hotspots

House of Commons Library: Olympic Britain

BBC News: Q&A: Social housing

1945: Labour win the General Election by a landslide with a  61.7% majority.

House of Commons Library: UK elections statistics 1918-2012

1946: New Towns Act
Born out of the need to repair and rebuild urban communities after World War II, 'new towns' are constructed using development corporations supported by central government.

The Parliament

BBC: History: The welfare state

1947: Town and Country Planning Act
The foundation of modern town and country planning in the United Kingdom,which we still have today. This Act means that landowners have to seek formal permission from newly appointed Local Planning Authorities to build and develop their land.  It also defines green belt land that have to be kept rural.

Planning Help: Town planning in the 1900s

60 years of planning challenges, then and now

1949 Housing Act

Part of Aneurin Bevan's vision of new estates where "the working man, the doctor and the clergyman will live in close proximity to each other". Some 1.5 million public homes are constructed by 1951.

The National Archive: Wartime housing

The Institute for Fiscal Studies

The Cabinet Papers 1915 - 1982

1952: Peak of Council house-building
Local authorities built 198,000 houses.

Book: Ian Cole & Robert Furbey: The eclipse of council housing

Housing and the New Welfare State
Paper presented at the HAS Conference Transforming Social Housing
Sheffield Hallam University 15 – 16 April 2004

Ends and Means: The Future Roles of Social Housing in England by John Hills. CASEreport 34 ISSN 1465-3001

1967 Housing Subsidies Act
The Labour government reinvigorated the council building programme by subsidising local authority borrowing. But as interest rates rose, the housing subsidy became increasingly expensive and was cut back in 1968.

The National Archives: Housing Subsidies Act 1967

1980 Housing Act
'Right to Buy' becomes national policy giving tenants the right to buy property at a discounted value, depending on how long they have lived there. In 1982 alone, 2 million council houses are bought by tenants. By 1987, more than 1 million properties have been sold.

The National Archives: Housing Act 1980

politics.co.uk: Right to Buy

1997-Housing 'Right to Buy' continued by Labour
Between 1997 – 2002 Shelter estimates the total discounts given in this period amnou tto £4.5bn, more than the subsidy given to social housing in the same period.

House of Commons Library

2012: Housing Crisis
In 2012, the National Housing Federation cites 4.5 million people in housing need in England.

National Housing Federation: Home truths 2012

The Guardian: Housing crisis: home economics


In the final year before nationalisation in 1947, our railways require £431million in public subsidy. By 2006, the figure reaches over £6billion.

The Guardian: Rail privatisation has failed – and the NHS is hurtling down the same track

The Parliament: Public spending and investment on the railways - Commons Library Standard Note

In 1948 the British Rail Network stretches more than 20,000 miles the equivalent of travelling from London to Perth, Australia and back. Now, you would be left stranded in Perth.

The Parliament: Public spending and investment on the railways - Commons Library Standard Note

In 1953. 89 billion tonne kilometres of freight are transported in the UK with 42% sent by rail, 36% by road and 22% by water. By 2002 this has risen to 254 billion tonne kilometres, only 7.5% by rail, 26% by water and a massive 62% by road

House of Commons Transport Committee: Freight Transport

UK freight transport hits rocky road

In the first 9 years after water privatisation, prices rise by around 50% in real terms. In roughly the same period, profits made by private water companies rise by 142%.

Public Services International Research Unit: UK water privatisation- a briefing

University of St. Andrews: The Economic Consequences of Accounting in the English and Welsh Water Industry: A non-shareholder perspective

An off-peak return from London Paddington to Oxford costs 93p in 1975 - it now costs £25.90,a rise of more than 2600%



The massive transfer of freight movement from rail to road since 1953 has results in the loss of 9,457 miles of railway track by 2010.

DHD Multimedia Gallery:

Train Times and Tickets:

The massive transfer of freight movement from rail to road since 1953 has results in the loss of 9,457 miles of railway track by 2010.

The Logistics Report 2012

In 2012 the U.K. loses around £7 billion a year due to road congestion.

The Wall Street Journal: U.K. Considers Part-Privatization of the National Road Network

itv: Cameron announces plans to sell off Britain's roads

In 2012 2.7 million passengers use the National Rail Network every day, the most crowded in Europe, that's nearly 1 billion passengers a year.

Transport for London: Key facts

If the UK paid the same rail fares as the French, British passengers would save £4.6 billion in 2012.
The Guardian: Rail privatisation has failed – and the NHS is hurtling down the same track

RMT: Fares rip-off costs UK rail passengers £4.6 billion a year

Before privatisation of the British Electricty industry in 1990, its productivity growth rates are equivalent to those of the U.S. By 1997, they are 20% lower.

Australian Financial Review: For sale: The power of the people

HKDF Newsletter: The privatisation of the UK electric industry

In 2012, a year of hosepipe bans, £4million is paid out in bonuses to top water company bosses - whilst water prices are expected to rise by almost 6% in 2012-13.

Mail Online: Hosed down with millions! As hosepipe ban begins, how water bosses have pocketed huge bonuses and handed shareholders massive pay-outs

The Guardian: Water bills rise by average of 5.7%

In 2012 Ernst and Young estimates that £162bn of clean energy investment will be needed by 2025 to meet the UK's existing energy targets.

Australian Financial Review: For sale: The power of the people

Green Alliance: Establishing a Green Investment Bank for the UK

In 2012 Britain's trains are operated by 2,000 different firms.
Rail privatisation has failed – and the NHS is hurtling down the same track

British rail privatisation: what went wrong?

1939: Foundation of BOAC - British Overseas Airways Corporation
The British national airline is created in 1940 from the merger of Imperial Airways (state owned) and British Airways (private).

British Airways: Explore our past: 1930 - 1939

Princeton: British Overseas Airways Corporation

1945 Water Act
Introduced to expand and support the national water supply, and protect water resources against pollution, misuse and waste. The act gives government power to force a merger of the smaller water companies, but does not extend to the majority of suppliers, over 1,000 at the time.

The National Archives: Water Act 1945

The development of the water industry in England and Wales

1945: Labour win the General Election with a landslide 61.7% majority

Labour Manifesto - Infrastructure: The Labour Party submits to the nation the following industrial programme:

Public ownership of the fuel and power industries. For a quarter of a century the coal industry, producing Britain's most precious national raw material, has been floundering chaotically under the ownership of many hundreds of independent companies. Amalgamation under public ownership will bring great economies in operation and make it possible to modernise production methods and to raise safety standards in every colliery in the country. Public ownership of gas and electricity undertakings will lower charges, prevent competitive waste, open the way for co-ordinated research and development, and lead to the reforming of uneconomic areas of distribution. Other industries will benefit.

Public ownership of inland transport. Co-ordination of transport services by rail, road, air and canal cannot be achieved without unification. And unification without public ownership means a steady struggle with sectional interests or the enthronement of a private monopoly, which would be a menace to the rest of industry.

1945 Labour Party Election Manifesto

Politicalresources.net: Let Us Face the Future: A Declaration of Labour Policy for the Consideration of the Nation

1947 Transport Act
Introduction of the British Transport Committee, established to control nationalised transport and divided into 5 executives: rail transport, road transport, docks and inland waterways, hotels and london transport.

Railway Archives: Transport act 1947

JSTOR: The Transport Act 1947

1947: Cable and Wireless nationalised
Operation and ownership outside Britain continues as normal but all assets in the UK are integrated with those of the Post Office, which operates the UK's domestic telecommunications monopoly. Largely due to the interest of Commonwealth, the act receives little protest.

The National Archives: The bank, coal, aviation and telecommunications

Grace's Guide: Cable and wireless

1948: British Transport Committee comes into operation
One of the largest industrial organisations in the world is launched, acquiring assets of the 'big four' railway companies, plus 55 other railway undertakings, 19 canal undertakings and 246 road haulage firms.

British Transport Commission (Annual Report)

Book: British Railways, 1948-1973

1948: Electricity passes into full public ownership
British Electricity Authority takes over control of 600 smaller power companies, municipal authority electricity departments and central electricity boards.

The National Archives: Ministry of Fuel and Power, Electricity Division, and Predecessors: Nationalisation Files

The National Archives: Transport, electricity, gas, iron and steel

1949: Gas passes into public ownership
700 companies come under state control amounting to two thirds of the industry, the remaining one third is already municipalised.

The Political Economy of Nationalisation in Britain, 1920-1950 by Robert Millward and John Singleton

Never Again: Britain 1945-1951 by Peter Hennessy

1962: Transport Act
Attlee's British Transport Commission is dissolved in what is described as the "most momentous piece of legislation in the field of railway law". The act includes the formation of the British Railway Board which, as a result of the 'Beeching Report', enabling the closure of one third of British Railways the following year.

United Kingdom Acts of Parliament 1962

Transport Act 1962: Legislation.gov.uk

1966: Transport White Paper
Having initially continued the policy of closure of uneconomic lines as recommended in the Beeching Report of 1963, Harold Wilson's government came under increasing pressure from backbenchers on the closures. A White Paper on Transport Policy, released in 1966, identified economic utility rather than commercial viability as the major objective of railways policy. A revised rail network plan was produced saving 3,000 miles of additional track from Beecham's closure scheme.

The Cabinet Papers 1915-1982


1973 Water Act
The Water Act 1973 establishes 10 new regional water authorities that would manage water resources and the supply of water and sewerage services on a fully integrated basis, but Water supply is still in Government control.

The National Archives: Water act 1973

The development of the water industry in England and Wales

1981 Transport Act
The British Transport Docks Board undergoes mass re-organisation to form the Associated British Ports, which eventually leads to its privatisation.

The National Archives: Transport act 1981

Railway Britain: Privatisation

1981: Cable and Wireless privatised
Thatcher government's first privatisation sees 49% of Cable and Wireless sold off, with the remaining 51% sold off in 1983 and 1985.

Employee Benefits: Employer profile: Change is the only constant at Cable and Wireless

Implementing privatisation: The UK experience

1948: British Telecom privatised
British Telecom and Girobank are split and sold off, initiating the break-up of the Post Office. More than 50 per cent of British Telecom shares are sold to the public, the largest share issue in the world at the time.

The Institute for Government: The privatisation of British Telecom

BBC News: How privatisation has changed Britain

1986: British Gas privatised
Under the 1986 Gas Act, the British Gas Corporation becomes British Gas PLC. In one of the most heavily advertised public share-offering campaigns, the company is valued at £9 billion, the highest ever equity offering at the time.

National Audit Office: Report by the comptroller and auditor general

Energy Advisor Service UK: History of British Gas

1987: British Airways privatised
British Airways floats on the stock exchange, and just a few months later they take over British Caledonian.

British Airways: Explore our past 1980-1989

BBC News: Profile: British Airways

1993 Railways Act
A restructuring of the British Railways Board enables the transfer of separate parts of the railway to the private sector, including rail services, signalling company Railtrack, British Rail's track maintenance and renewal operations, and the three rolling stock leasing companies.

The National Archive: Railway act 1993

The National Archive: Railway act 1993

2002: Formation of Network Rail
After a series of rail disasters Network Rail Ltd takes over control of the British Rail network, buying Railtrack PLC, for £500 million.

Railways: Rail track, 1994-2002

Network Rail: Our history

2011 Postal Services Act
Passed after update of Hooper Review, the act allows for 90% of Royal Mail to be privatised and enables the Post Office business to be separated from Royal Mail.

The National Archives: Postal services act 2011

The Parliament: Postal Services: the Postal Services Act 2011 and recent developments - Commons Library Standard Note


In the 1900s Mining is such a dangerous job it is as risky as going skydiving on every shift.

BBC: Cornwall- working conditions in cornish tin mines

British Pathe: Coal Mining 1920s - 1930s 1920-1939

Within two years of nationalisation of the mines in 1947, deaths in mining have fallen to a record low.

They Work For You.com: National Coal Board

Book: Men Underground: Working Conditions of British Coal Miners Since Nationalization

During the Miners' Strike in 1983, there are 199 pits in Britain. After privatisation in 1992, only 15 remain in production.

National Union of Miners

The National Archives

In 1952 Britain produces 25.4% of the world's manufactured goods, today we produce less than 3%.

BBC News

Manufacturing in the UK: Supplementary Analysis

Cambridge, Caledonian – Reasons to be Cheerful

In the 1930s unemployment peaks at 3 million, 25% of the workforce.

Economics Help: Unemployment in the UK

The Telegraph: Gordon Brown: stop trying to scare us with a return to the Great Depression. The 1930s were great for Britain

Between 1948 and 1970 Britain is in full employment (less than 3% unemployed). In 1982, unemployment rises to 12.5%.

The Telegraph: The fall and rise of the British car industry: timeline

Book: Anderton, Alain 'Economics Third Edition'

In the years between 1950 - 1967 coal prices rise by 134% resulting in a slump in the domestic iron ore industry as cheaper overseas ore is favoured.

Answers: British steel

Reference for Business: British Steel plc - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on British Steel plc

In the 1950s Britain is the 2nd largest car manufacturer in the world. Today Britain sits in 12th position behind Korea, India, Mexico and Iran

Nation Master: Industry statistics

The competitive status of the UK automotive industry

In 1967 the British Steel Corporation employs 268,500 people. In 2009 the entire UK steel workforce employs just 20,300 people.

Answers: British steel

Key statistics 2010

In 1973 Britain produces 26.6 million tonnes of steel. By 1990 this has dropped to 17.7 million tonnes and is down to just 10.1 million tonnes in 2009.

Key statistics 2010 Key statistics 2010

Steel and the state in Great Britain

Between the 1970's and 1980's UK car production falls from 1.92m units to below 1m units, halving production in a decade.

The Telegraph: The fall and rise of the British car industry: timeline

Book: Anderton, Alain 'Economics Third Edition'

Trade union membership peaks at more than 12 million in the 1970s. Since the Thatcher government passed anti-union laws, it has halved to less than 6 million.

The Guardian: How union membership has grown - and shrunk

BBC News: Union membership has halved since 1980

Trade union membership peaks at more than 12 million in the 1970s. Since the Thatcher government passed anti-union laws, it has halved to less than 6 million.

The Guardian: How union membership has grown - and shrunk

BBC News: Union membership has halved since 1980

Since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974, fatal injuries to employees has fallen by 83%.

Health and Safety Executive: Historical picture

Gateshead Council: Annual Service Plans for the Food and H&S services 2011-2012

1930: Unemployment hits 2.5 million
Unemployment levels hit 25% with industrial and mining areas the hardest hit. By 1933 unemployment reaches 33% in Glasgow.
BBC: The depression of the 1930s

libcom.org: 1930-1939: The unemployed workers’ movement

Labour wins the General Election with a landslide 61.7% majority

House of Commons Library: UK elections statistics 1918-2012

1946: Bank of England Act
The Bank of England, which has been in private ownership since 1694, is taken into public ownership.

Bank of England: Bank of England Act 1946

Economics Help: Who Owns the Bank of England?

1947: Vesting Day
Following the 1946 Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, the National Coal Board takes over formal control of the mines, sparking celebrations amongst Britains mining communities.

Time: Great Britain: Vesting day

The National Archive: Coal industry nationalisation act 1946

1947: National Dock Labour Scheme administered by National Dock Labour Board
The National Dock Labour Board and other local boards establish the National Dock Labour Scheme. All Dockers are registered giving them a legal right to minimum work, holidays and sick pay.

The National Archive: Coal industry nationalisation act 1946

PortCities London: The National Dock Labour Scheme and labour relations after 1945

1951: Iron and Steel Nationalised
The Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain becomes the sole shareholder in 80 of the principal iron and steel companies in Britain.

The National Archive: Iron and steel

1967: National Dock Labour Scheme amended
Changes to the scheme ensure a complete end to casual labour on the docks, effectively giving workers the security of jobs for life.

Legislation.gov: Dock work regulation 1967

1969: Post Office Act
The General Post Office, a government department since 1912, becomes a public corporation to provide services including: postal and telecommunication services, a banking service, data processing services, and services for the NHS authorities.

The National Archive: Post Office Act 1969

The National Archive: Post Office Act 1969

1972: Saltley Gate Miners strike
The first National Miners’ Strike since 1926, also including Dockers in Newport and Cardiff. The strike results in a state of emergency, a three-day week and settlement of increased wages.

The Battle of Saltley Gate - Close the Gates!

London Progressive Journal: Saltley Gate 1972

1975: Crash of British Leyland
British Leyland suffers a series of infamous financial and industrial relations crises, being effectively nationalised after a multi-billion pound government bailout in 1975.

The Telegraph: The fall and rise of the British car industry: timeline

City Journal

1974: Health and Safety at Work Act
The Act places general duties on employers, people in control of premises, manufacturers and employees for health and safety regulations.

Health and Safety Executive: Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

The National Archives: Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

1977: Aircraft and Shipbuilding Act
First proposed in the 1974 election, the Act nationalises large parts of UK shipbuilding and aerospace industries establishing two major corporations: British Aerospace and British Shipbuilders.

The National Archives: Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977

Department for Business and Innovation Skills

1980-1993: Anti-union laws
Six acts of Parliament increasingly restrict unions' ability to undertake legal industrial action.

The Union Makes us Strong: Anti-Union Legislation: 1980-2000

1980 British Aerospace Act
The statutory corporation is changed to a public limited company (plc), called the British Aerospace Public Limited Company. The following year the Government sold 51.57% of its shares, with the remaining holding sold off in 1985, but maintaining a £1 Golden Share which allows it to veto foreign control of the board or company.

The National Archives: British Aerospace Act 1980

Princeton University

1984 Miners Strike
Triggered by the announcement of the closure of 20 pits at a loss of 20,000 jobs, Margaret Thatcher eventually defeats the National Union of Mineworkers in one of the longest and most damaging industrial disputes ever seen in Britain. The government begins to close pits.

BBC: On this day

Worker's Liberty: The Great Miners Strike 1984-5: Twelve Months that Shook Britain: the Story of the Strike

1988: British Steel Privatised
Having kept many facilities operating at a loss for some years, British Steel finally succumbs to privatisation.

Economic Issues: Privatisation and performance: A study of the British steel industry under public and private ownership

Tata Ateel: History of British Steel

1994 Coal Industry Act
With just 15 operational pits in Britain, the economic assets of British Coal are privatised under the newly formed Coal Authority.

The National Archives: Coal Industry Act 1994

Legislation.gov: Coal industry act 1994

1994: Great British Car Sale
Rover Group, the last mass British-owned car producer is sold to German BMW.

The Telegraph: The fall and rise of the British car industry: timeline

The Christian Science Monitor: BMW's Takeover of Britain's Rover Has Its Share of Supporters, Critics

1999: First national minimum wage
The minimum hourly rate of £3.60 per hour (£3.00 for 18 to 21-year-olds) for adult workers in most sectors of the British economy is introduced. At this time, 1.9 million people are believed to be paid less than this.

Politics.co.uk: National Minimum Wage

Eurofound: The UK's first national minimum wage

2008: Banks nationalised
The Labour Government begins nationalising parts of the British Banking industry. With private bids deemed insufficient, UK Financial Investments Ltd is established to manage Northern Rock as the sole shareholder. Other banks include Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS and Lloyds-TSB.

The Telegraph: Financial crisis: Banks nationalised by Government

The Telegraph: Bank nationalisation: How a bail-out became a buy-out


In 1938 1 in 10 of the female workforce are girls under 10 working 44 hours or more per week.

A Thing of the Past?: Child Labour in Britain in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

Child Labour in Historical Perspective: 1800 – 1985 by Hugh Cunningham, Pier Paolo Viazzo

In the mid-1930s nearly a third of Britons' diets fall short of the very minimum dietary requirements, adequate for existence, set by the British Medical Association.

Book: Andrew August, the British Working Class 1832-1940

The Food Timeline: FAQs: School lunches

The National State Pension is £1 6s when it launches in 1948, the equivalent of £128.90 today - more than the current state pension of £107.45.

The history of state pensions in the UK: 1948 to 2010


The Rowntree study of poverty in 1935 finds 18% of the sample population living in poverty. By 1950 the repeated survey finds that poverty has almost disappeared.

One hundred years of poverty and policy

Child poverty and large families

From 1987-2007 UK Consumer debt grows from 25 billion to 215 billion in just 20 years.

Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change: Financialization and consumption: an alternative account of rising consumer debt levels in Anglo-America

FSA: Debt, money, and mephistopheles: How do we get out of this mess

From 1993-2007 Household borrowing grows from 375 billion to 1150 billion in 14 years

In 2012 3.6 million of our children live in poverty, more than 1 in 4.

Child Poverty Action Group

The Guardian: Child poverty figures drop, but remain above 2 million

Child poverty is expected to rise with 600,000 more children living in poverty by 2020.

BBC News: UK seeing a big rise in poverty, says IFS


Institute for Fiscal Studies: Child and Working-Age Poverty from 2010 to 2020

Pay rises for top bosses rises by 12% to an average of £4.8m in 2011, everyone else's wages rise by just 1%.

The Guardian: Vince Cable's pay reforms are only a first step

The Guardian: Executive pay among FTSE firms keeps soaring, survey reports

In 2012 almost 7 million working-age adults are living in extreme financial stress.

The Guardian: Millions of working families one push from penury, Guardian research finds

Andy Worthington: The Housing Crisis and the Gulf Between the Rich and the Poor: Half of UK Workers Earn Less Than £14,000 A Year

In 2012 total personal debt in the UK stands at £1.46 trillion.
Citizens Advice: Debt


Debt Advisory Line: Collective UK personal debt hits £1.46 trillion

In the two weeks before Christmas 2011, the Trussell Trust gives out 8,500 emergency foodbank packages. In 2012 this figures rises to 27,000.

Huffington Post: Food Banks At Christmas Will Feed Double The Amount In 2012, Trussell Trust Reports

Forge today: Food bank visits triple as more rely on handouts

In 2012 318 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt everyday. This is equivalent to 1 person every 62 seconds during each working day.


Credit Action: Debt statistics- April 2012

Beveridge Report

BBC News


1944 Education Act
Also known as the 'Butler' Act after the conservative politician R.A. Butler, the legislation is seen as a 'triumph for progressive reform'. All schooling is made free, the leaving age is raised to 15, and a commitment is made to achieve to full employment in the same year.

The National Archives: Education Act 1944

Education act 1944

Labour wins the General Election with a landslide 61.7% majority

House of Commons Library: UK elections statistics 1918-2012

1945 The Family Allowances Act
The first law to provide child benefit in Britain, this Act provides a regular sum for second and subsequent children to be paid to the mother regardless of family income.

BBC News: The welfare state 1945 - 2002

Care and the Law.org

1948: Launch of the National Heath Service
In the 1930 only 43% of population's health is covered by the National Insurance Scheme. The National Health Service brought free healthcare to everyone. Doctors, hospital, dentists, opticians, ambulances, midwives and health visitors are all available, for free.

Imperial College Healthcare

NHS History

1948 :Introduction of Basic State Pension
A contributory state pension is introduced for all. Initially pensions are £1.30 a week for a single person and £2.10 for a married couple, paid to men from age 65 and 60 for women.

Economic and Social Research Council: The history of state pensions in the UK: 1948 to 2010

Pension 100: History of pensions

1948 The National Insurance Act
The Act establishes the Welfare State as recommended by the Beveridge report of 1942, with compulsory contributions to cover unemployment, sickness, maternity, widows, old age benefits, and funeral grants.

politics.co.uk: National insurance

BBC News: The welfare state 1945 - 2002

1959 The National Insurance Act
Earnings related pensions and contributions are introduced, a major departure from William Beveridge's principle of flat rate contributions and pensions. The scheme became effective in 1961. Later in 1981 the act extends eligibility for widows' pension, and introduces non-contributory pensions and Attendance Allowance for disabled people.

JSTOR: The national insurance act, 1959

The National Archives: Conservative reorganisation

1966 Social Security Act
The National Assistance Board is abolished and the Supplementary Benefits Commission is formed. Under the commission means testing, non-contributory benefits and allowances are introduced.

The National Archives

The National Archives: Benefit reform

1970 Local Authority Social Services Act
This Act required every local authority to set up a social services committee and discharge a number of functions in relation to children and other vulnerable persons under pre-existing legislation.

The National Archives: Local Authority Social Services Act 1970

History and Policy

1970 Family Income Supplements Act
A new benefit for families with small incomes is brought into legislation; including exemption from health service charges and children become eligible for free school meals.

BBC News: The welfare state 1945 - 2002

The National Archives: The Beveridge Report and child benefit

1973: The Social Security Act
Introduces earnings related contributions, annual reviews, and phases out the graduated pensions scheme, which is replaced in 1978 by State Earnings related Pension Scheme.

The National Archives: Social Security Act 1973

1974: Trade Union and Labour Relations Act
The Labour government has a debt to repay the trade union movement in return for their support, and the unions want security of their legal rights in the workplace. The 1974 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act build on the 1971 Act and aims to strengthen the workers’ right not to be unfairly dismissed.

Government Legislation

1980 Education Act
The provision of milk and meals is relaxed, with free school meals offered only to children receiving supplementary benefits or family income supplement.

The National Archives: Education act 1980

Education England: Education act 1980

2001 Introduction of Stakeholder Pensions
A low-cost pensions scheme is introduced aimed at people on low to average earnings and helping women save for old age.

BBC News: What are stakeholder pensions?

Nottingham University: Tax reform and retirement saving incentives: take-up of Stakeholder Pensions in the UK

2007 Pensions Act
This Act reduces the qualifying years for a full basic state pension from 44 years for men and 39 years for women to 30 years for both.

Department for Work & Pensions: The Pensions Act 2007

The National Archives: Pensions act 2007

2011 Pensions Act
The Act amends the timetable for increasing the state pension age to 66 for both men and women, bring it forward six years to commence in December 2018.

The National Archives: Pensions act 2011

Department for Work & Pensions: The Pensions Act 2011

2012: Introduction of Automatic enrolment scheme.
New duties are brought into legislation requiring the largest employers to auto-enrol jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme.

BBC News: Q&A: Pension automatic enrolment

The Pensions Regulator: Delivering successful automatic enrolment

2013: End of universal child benefit
This sees the change from universal to means-tested benefits. HMRC estimates that this will affect around 1.2 million families, with 70 per cent of them losing all their child benefit.

The Centre for Social Justice: Child benefit reform: dealing with te deficits to put stable families first

The Times: Child benefit cuts put mortgages at risk

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