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The World in the Cold War Period

At the end of World War II the Allies created the United Nations Organisation (UN) to prevent local and global conflicts in the world and to settle international disputes peacefully. Britain was one of only five nations (alongside the USSR, USA, China and France) to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Though at first the USA, France and Britain wanted to work together with the USSR for the recovery of central Europe, this idea did not work. Europe was divided into two parts — controlled by the capitalist powers and by the socialist power (the USSR). Berlin, the capital of Germany, was also divided into two parts — East Berlin controlled by the USSR and West Berlin. In 1948—1949, the Soviet Union tried to capture West Berlin — all roads to it were blocked, and it was only saved by constant supplies from the west brought by air.

The struggle ended in favour of capitalist powers, but as a result of this struggle two opposite alliances were formed: the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of the western nations (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact of the eastern block.

The same year, 1949, the Soviet Union successfully tested the atomic bomb; this testing ended the Western monopoly of nuclear weapons. In 1952, Britain became the third nation in the world to test nuclear weapons.

In 1949 and 1950, the world saw new wars and changes — China established a communist regime, which threatened Western powers and allies, the wars of North and South Koreas were also interpreted as a Soviet-inspired diversion. This was the time when World War III seemed imminent. Now the question of the defence became paramount for two world powers. The explosion of British atomic bomb marked the beginning of new weapons delivery — in 1957, the hydrogen (thermonuclear) bomb was tested and came into service. After this event nuclear weapons were proclaimed the cornerstone of Britain's defense policy — it was cheaper than maintain a huge army.

With NATO and Western European Union (WEU) Britain built up the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) to defend the Middle East against a possible Soviet invasion, in 1954, Britain acceded to another mutual defence agreement, the South Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO). These three alliances — NATO, CETO and SEATO effectively encircled the Soviet Union and China.

By the 1950s, Britain could consider herself one of three world's greatest power (including the USSR and the USA), but after this period Britain was loosing the remnants of power together with the remnants of the dying Empire. Two following cases put an end to Britain's supreme status and showed that now it can't act unilaterally, without prior agreement with the allies.

In 1956, Egypt took the Suez Canal jointly owned by Britain and France thus placing both nations, in dilemma. Britain and France tried to stop this by military actions but were disapproved by their allies (firstly by the USA) and found themselves isolated on the world stage. After a few days of fighting the Anglo-French forces had to withdraw.

In 1974, Britain tried to protect Cyprus, her former colony, from Turkish invasion. Again British military activity was restricted by the world community and her allies.

The Cold War with the Soviet Union was based on the increase of nuclear weapons. It was never popular among the British and since the 1950s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CHD) stated in the country. After the Cold war came to its end at the end of the 1980s, the British government finally reduced the weapons and the armed forces. Today British armed forces have been much reduced, but they still are able to make contributions to international peacekeeping efforts.

The Commonwealth

The story of Britain's Empire after World War II became a story of gaining independence by former colonial territories and establishing their own governments and policy. This issue was of primary importance in post-war British history and politics.

As it was mentioned above, the British Empire united two separate entities — there were Commonwealth countries and colonies. Commonwealth countries, formerly Dominions were totally self-governing after the Statute of Westminster in 1931, but they accepted Britain's monarch as their head of state and followed Britain's lead in defense and foreign affairs. In 1945, these were Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Eire and South Africa.

Colonies were governed directly from London via a British-run administration, which supervised road-building, schools, medical services and other benefits for the colonies. These colonies were situated mainly in Africa, though they were also in the Far East (Singapore, Hong Kong), the Mediterranean (Malta, Cyprus), and the Caribbean (Jamaica) and in other different parts of the world. These territories were at the same time a source of raw materials and an important market for British economy. In the post-war years the colonies developed self-government according to the United Nations Charter of 1945.

In India the nationalist movement led by Mahatma Gandhi made the British leave India in 1947, after this the country divided into a Hindu state and a smaller Muslim state called Pakistan. Ceylon and Burma became independent in 1948, the same year Eire left the Commonwealth. South Africa also left the Commonwealth in 1961. All in all more than 500 million people in former British colonies became completely self-governing between 1945 and 1955.

The policy of decolonisation was continued after the 1950s as well. In the 1960s and 1970s, self-government was granted to Nigeria, Cyprus, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Jamaica and Uganda. By 1979, only isolated colonies like Gibraltar, the Falklands and Hong Kong remained dependent.

Today the small remnants of the Empire wish to continue with the imperial arrangements. These are Gibraltar, St Helena, the Ascension Islands, the Falklands/Malvinas and Belize. These small countries are a source for Britain's pride on one hand (they show how beneficial the British imperial administration is), but on the other hand it's a heavy burden — the possession of this territories does not fit the image of a modern democratic state and it costs the British taxpayer money.

Today the British Commonwealth of nations unites many of the former British colonies. Though this union does not give any economic and political advantages it keeps cultural contacts between its members alive.

Task 2. Vocabulary development. Discussion. Fill in the blanks in the text with the following words.


supporter separate colonisation stability
growth Anglican subdue defeat
union descendant settler independence
protestant hostility illegal  

Northern Ireland: the Roots of the Trouble

Today's troubles in Anglo-Irish relations have a long history, which dates back to the times of Henry II. In the 12th century, he started colonisation of Irish lands and setting them by the Normans. Historically the Irish were keen of the Roman Catholic Church and the first Normans, who settled there quickly assimilated and became Catholics.

In the 16th century, when Henry VIII declared himself a head of the Church, his army came to Ireland to force Irish Catholics to become Anglican. Thus two main problems of Anglo-Irish relations started — religion and land. Elizabeth I continued of the nearest neighbours. Among four Irish provinces Leister, Munster, Connaught and Ulster the latter was the most difficult to . In 1603, when Ulster was finally defeated, Elizabeth sent there 170,000 Protestant , most of whom were from Scotland. The newcomers, known as "planters" settled in 23 newly built towns, which were called "The Plantation of Ulster". The policy of plantation Irish society into two camps Protestant Planters and Irish Catholics.

The planters brought with them Scottish laws and customs, which encouraged economic_____________ and social order. By the 19th century, this area became industrial and developed much quicker than the rest agricultural Ireland.

In the 17th century, during the Civil War in England Irish Catholics formed an army to support King Charles I, but were by Cromwell's Protestant forces, who killed many civilians as well. These murders caused tension between Protestant planters and native Catholics.

Forty years later, in 1690, when Irish Catholics tried to support Catholic King James II, they were defeated by the Protestant forces of William of Orange (William III) at the Battle of the Boyne. Today the____________________ of Protestant planters still call themselves Orangemen and annually celebrate William's victories over the Catholics.

In the 19th century, when most of the Irish depended on agriculture, many of them died during the Great Famine of 1845—1849 caused by poor potato harvest. The Great Famine finally divided Ireland into two nations. While the agricultural part of the country was starving, the industrial north was not so much affected. On the contrary, the people of Ulster were quite

prosperous and wanted the with Britain to get the markets for their industrial products.

When Ireland began to struggle for from Britain, the people of Ulster resisted — they were fully for the union with Britain. So in 1921, when the southern part of Ireland finally became a Free State, Ulster chose to remain part of the United Kingdom.

This division of Ireland is known as "partition". One country split into 2 parts — the Irish Republic (Eire), which is completely independent from Britain and Northern Ireland (Ulster) as a part of the United Kingdom.

Ulster had its own Prime Minister and the Parliament dominated by . Irish Catholics in Ulster started a campaign for civil rights, but it was paid little attention to.

In 1969, the riots in Northern Ireland started. By 1972, reached its peak, the Northern Irish Parliament was suspended and the British army was sent to keep the peace.

There have been many deaths since 1969. Today both the Protestant and the Catholic communities have secret armies — on the Catholic side there are the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and INLA (Irish National Liberation Army), on the Protestant side are the UDA (Ulster Defense Association) and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).

Though these armies find little support with general public, they are still ready to fight.

Task 3.Discussion.

1.Review the information about historical periods that caused present-day troubles in Ireland. What historical events are widely remembered in Ireland today? Why?

2.Think of the possible solutions of the trouble. Do you think an agreement can be reached?

3.If you were a representative of the government, what kind of referendum would you hold to settle the trouble?

Domestic Affairs

In his speech during World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "We are not fighting to restore the past. We must plan and create a noble future".

The years during and immediately after the war the British government concentrated on the reforms providing social welfare in Britain. These reforms were introduced by both the Conservative and Labour governments. In 1944, free compulsory secondary education (up to the age of fifteen) was established. This innovation gave rise to secondary modern schools, which were soon set up all over the country.

In 1946, the National Health Service was established to provide free treatment for different layers of society.

Both the Conservative and Labour Parties shared the ideas of the welfare state, which gives support to people in need. The state provided for its people all basic human rights. Today the government not only gives financial help, but also looks after people's welfare.

Step by step the life after World War II became better. Thanks to the US Marshall Aid Programme, which helped the countries suffering in the war, Britain could quickly restore its economy. Thanks to the economic recovery the living standards rose. People began to buy cars, which were now much less expensive. The 1950s and 1960s are considered to be favourable years for British economy and social life.

But beginning with the 1970s Britain was gradually falling behind its European neighbours — by 1979 Britain became almost the sick man of Europe, economically declining. It happened as a result of rising prices and growing unemployment coupled with the arrival of immigrants from the former colonies into the country. The number of unemployed people reached 3,5 million by 1985. In many towns 15 % of the working population was out of work. Difficult conditions of living were worsened by inflation — between 1954 and 1984 the prices multiplied by six.

This was the period, when the first woman — the leader of the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Mrs Thatcher called the nation for hard work, patriotism and self-help. She attached great importance to free trade, individual enterprise and minimal government interference in economy. A number of nationalised industries were returned to the private sector. By 1987, telecommunications, gas, British Airways, British Aero-space and British Shipbuilders were already in private ownership. However the industrial decline was not stopped. From 1979 to 1983, industrial production fell by 10 % and unemployment rose to over 3 million. But the most serious problem was that society became more unequal — a society of "two nations" — the wealthy and the poor. The number of poor people, who received only government help increased from 12 million in 1979 to over 16 million in 1983.

Cultural Focus: Welfare in Britain

Britain has a long-living system of welfare, which continues to serve people's needs today. Before the 20th century, welfare was produced by local parishes, which were responsible for their poor people. In the 19th century, there was the system of workhouses — much hated institutions where the old, the sick, the mentally handicapped and the orphans were sent.

The major welfare benefits were introduced in the 20th century — in 1908, a small old-age pension scheme was established, in 1912 — partial sickness and unemployment insurance, in 1934 — the unemployment benefits.

In 1946, the government gave everybody the right to free medical treatment and two years later, in 1948, the National Health Service was set up.

Today social welfare is an effective and responsible system of help for various layers of population — the elderly, sick, disabled, unemployed, widowed or bringing up children. There exist three parts of Britain's social welfare system:

—the National Health Service covers medicine expenditures;

—the personal social services are provided for elderly and disabled people;

—the social security system provides a basic standard living for people who are not able to work.

Nowadays this system is coming under increasing pressure because the number of unemployed people and pensioners rises. People, who receive unemployment benefits, are known as being "on the dole" and the money itself is often called "dole money". To get this money people have to present government forms UB 40 and prove that they do not have work. Then in the post-office they will get a cheque, which is often called a "giro".

The National Health Service works on one scheme for the whole population of Britain. It is based on medical insurance, which is organised by the government and is compulsory. It provides treatment through the system of local doctors.

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