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Complete classes from the CAB & PREM series in the Public Record Office
Series Three: CAB 128 & CAB 129 - Cabinet Conclusions & Cabinet Memoranda, 1945 and following

Part 3: The Churchill/Eden Governments, October 1951 - January 1957
(CAB 128/23-30 & CAB 129/48-84)

CAB 128 and CAB 129 represent the highest level of British governmental documents recording the minutes and memoranda of the weekly Cabinet meetings held by the Prime Minister and his senior Ministers. These documents form the apex of the whole governmental and Civil Service structure; of the thousands of documents generated by the machinery of government and its many departments, only the most important and highly concentrated reached the Cabinet. As a result the material in CAB 128 and CAB 129 provides an excellent and unique resource for scholars; providing material that represents the core issues facing the government of the day, stripped down to the bare essentials and free from superfluous detail. This clarity of purpose and the succinct nature of the documents will be especially useful by academics studying Post-war Britain and the problems faced by successive governments.

By 1951, the Labour government that had swept to power under Attlee in 1945, had largely run out of momentum and found it impossible to keep up the high pace of reform and innovation that had marked its first two years in office. Riven by internal division and hamstrung by a deficit in the balance of payments, the early confidence and energy of Attlee’s government was replaced by a sense of frustration and stagnation. Nevertheless, the general election of 1951 was by no means a foregone conclusion, and although the Conservatives won with a parliamentary majority of 26 seats, Labour actually gained more overall votes. Moreover, when Churchill took up office for the second time, it was noticeable that he had abandoned a number of his previous policies in favour of ideas introduced by the proceeding Labour government. Thus, the National Health Service and welfare state, and the ideal of full employment were not abandoned by the incoming Conservative government, but were incorporated into a mainstream political consensus that was to last until 1979. The retention of key personal and institutions such as Plowden and Hall of the Economic Section also helped to ensure a degree of continuity and the continued influence of Keynesian economic principles.

In other areas though the change of government did herald a change of direction, the return of the iron, steel and road haulage industries to private ownership, cuts in income tax, reductions in defence spending, and a reliance on financial rather than direct control of the economy and manufacturing, were distinct trade marks of the new administration. In foreign policy too, a new style was to emerge following the somewhat disappointing tenure of Morrison as Foreign Secretary. Whilst not diverging radically from his predecessor’s line. Eden was a consummate diplomat with a first rate grasp of world affairs, who, with the glaring exception of the Suez affair, steered Britain through the turbulent and troubled waters of the 1950’s with a good deal of success.

Included in Part 3 of this collection of Cabinet Conclusions and Memoranda are documents relating to all the main areas of government policy providing a unique ‘behind the scenes’ perspective of the organisation and decision making processes of the Churchill and Eden administrations. Utilising this collection scholars can access government views on a whole range of subjects such as:

- Colonial independence and Commonwealth relations
- Anglo-American relations
- The National Health Service
- Cyprus
- Korea
- Growing European Integration
- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Western Union
- Industrial disputes and wages policy
- National and international economic problems
- Balance of payments and the Sterling Crisis
- Housing policy, new town developments, and town and country planning
- Military affairs and National Service
- The Cold War and international relations
- Nuclear policy
- The Suez Crisis

The 1950’s are often characterised as the era of comfortable Tory rule when the idea of a British post-war political consensus was forged. The documents contained within the Cabinet Minutes and Memoranda allow this hypothesis to be challenged or reinforced by the scrutiny of the debates and decisions at the highest reaches of government.

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