This study looks at the governments' handling of
industrial unrest in the decade following the end of the
Second World War. The period encompasses both the Attlee
administrations of 1945-51 and the post-war Churchill government of the early 1950's.
The period of 1945-55 was characterised by a
relatively low level of strike activity. Nevertheless, a
number of large scale, unofficial strikes broke out, especially
on the docks which caused severe economic dislocation.
In the first part of this study I focus on the
re-establishment of an emergencies supply organisation after
1945 and on the use by the Attlee governments of the traditional
strike-breaking instruments of the armed forces and civilian
volunteers. I examine the role of the law in industrial
disputes of the period and I analyse the pressure brought
to bear on unofficial strikers through the withholding of
state benefits. I also look at the attempts by the government
to exert control over the coverage of disputes by the BBC.
The study is placed in the economic context of the period
and an analysis is also made of the effect of the Cold War
on the government's attitude to strikes.
In the second part I look at the return of a
Conservative administration, pledged to following a policy
of industrial conciliation after the bitterness of the interwar
years. By looking at the period as a whole I am able to
draw a comparison between the Attlee and Churchill administrations,
to ascertain to what extent the consensus in economic policy was mirrored by a consensus in the industrial sphere.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.