Clement Attlee (1883-1957, Earl Attlee 1955) was the first Labour Prime Minister with an absolute majority in the House of Commons. His post-war government enacted a broad programme of socialist legislation in spite of conditions of austerity in which rationing was extended. By the end of 1946, acts had been passed nationalising the Bank of England and creating the National Health Service. The railways, mines and supply of gas and electricity were also soon in public ownership. Attlee was closely involved in the dismantling of the British Empire, with independence given to India, Pakistan, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar) during his premiership.
DAVID HOWELL is Professor of Politics at the University of York and one of Britain’s leading experts in the history of the labour movement. He is an editor of the Dictionary of Labour Biography and the author of A Lost Left and Respectable Radicals.