AS Level

Students stepping up from GCSE to AS Level always find the jump bigger than expected. To achieve the highest grades at AS, one needs to have the following skills;

– the ability to analyse and contrast the content of different sources. The reliability and utility still need to be dealt with but the focus is much more on why and how the sources agree and disagree?

– exceptional knowledge of each Prime Minister and term of office is required. This is needed to be able to offer an in-depth judgement and analyse the sources which is explained above. As a guide, the level of knowledge required to succeed on the Cold War topic at GCSE is close to what is required for AS Level.

– one needs to be able to research oneself. Textbooks are the minimum to be used. Independent reading is a must if you want to achieve a grade A.

– the ability to develop arguments oneself. A question may be quite specific to a political party of an individual. You have to widen the topic. For example, ‘did Attlee successfully implement the policies of the Welfare State?’ When answering this question, it would be worthwhile to include how Churchill continued to build on Attlee’s policies.

– one needs to know the different authors of the sources whenever possible. For example, Tony Benn’s diaries have been used in the textbook on several occasions so you should know his politics and his personal friends and foes. You do not need to know a complete history of each individual but a summary is a necessity.

– the ability to use quotes from historians and argue their perspectives of history. This is more an A2 skill but will still be rewarded at AS Level.


You need to be able to answer the following questions in depth;

1. Did Attlee win the 1945 general election or did Churchill lose it?

2. Was the implementation of the Welfare State a success?

3. Was Attlee’s term in office a successful one? Was it the age of austerity?

4. Why did the Labour Party fail to win a general election during the 1950’s?

5. Was there consensus politics in the 1950’s?

6. How important was the Suez Crisis to British politics?

7. Did Britain really have it so good?

8. How important was the Profumo Affair to British politics? Was Wilson’s general election victory inevitable?

9. Was the 1960’s really swinging?

10. What domestic problems did Britain face in the 1960’s? Did prime ministers effectively deal with the growing power of the trade unions?

11. Was Enoch Powell right to deliver his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech?

12. Did Wilson lose the 1970 general election or did Heath win it?

13. Which was more effective; Selsdon Man or In Place of Strife?

14. Did the trade unions bring down Edward Heath?

15. When was Europe the biggest issue for British politicians?

16. What were the causes of the Winter of Discontent?

17. Who was the more powerful in the 1970’s; trade unions or the government?

18. What were the causes of the economic problems of the early 1980’s?

19. Did the Falklands Conflict save Margaret Thatcher?

20. How did Thatcher’s government defeat the NUM?

21. Did the economy improve under Thatcher?

22. How, and why, did Thatcher fall from power?

BRITAIN 1945-1990 – how has Britain changed and how effective were the different governments?

General resources

An article on changes to Britain in post-war Britain.

Statistics on changes within the 20th century Britain

BBC webpage with links about the changes in Britain

Office for National Statistics

How a law is passed in the UK? From ‘Sixth Form Law’.

Each of the Prime Ministers are ranked on this wikipedia page.

Another list of the topp 10 Prime Ministers.

Resources are available for each Prime Minister’s term of office but there also general themes in which one can make a judgement. Gender, race, class and the economy are all studied from the period 1945 to 1990. Therefore, the first section is the general changes in society.

Societal Changes


What impact did immigration have on Britain? How did the British government deal with immigration?

West Indian immigration into Britain

How is the immigration reported?

Social Attitudes in Britain

How has society changed from 1945 to 1990? The media is very influential so what do these clips show you?

Within the Wilson section below are a number of resources for Enoch Powell and the infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. This is essential to studying race in the UK during this period.

The Role of Women

Does this show the role of women in the British society?


A short explanation of class in Britain.

This recent article from The Telegraph suggests that the class system is ‘alive and well’.

Was there a cultural revolution between 1945 and 1975?

The Prime Ministers

The following is a collection of resources for each Prime Minister from 1945 to 1990.

Attlee 1945-1951

Clement Attlee from the Number 10 website.

The Labour manifesto from 1945.

Summary of the Beveridge Report.

Clement Attlee was seen, and still is, as a successful Prime Minister despite only serving 6 years. The fact that the Welfare State was introduced, and that it is still in place today, is testament to how successful Attllee’s policies were. The Wikipedia page which shows how different polls measured Prime Ministers since 1945 generally place Attlee at the top. However, in history there is always a debate or a controversy. With Attlee, there were substantial problems implementing the Welfare State, problems continued to exist in the economy and, as mentioned earlier, he only served six years. Therefore, was Attlee a success?

As historians, one has to understand what it was like to live in the time period. Attlee cannot have been seen as a great Prime Minister during the period 1945-51 because of the eventual election failure. However, as time passed, British people recognised his achievements. The Welfare State, it could be argued, benefitted British people in the long-term rather than the short. The same can be said with current politicians around the world. I remember saying in several lessons that history may judge George Bush differently to what is the common view is today. Think about this when analysing Attlee and the other Prime Ministers in this part of the syllabus.

An article analysing the merits of Attlee’s government.

Churchill 1951 – 1955

Winston Churchill from the Number 10 website.

Eden 1955 – 1957

Anthony Eden from the Number 10 website.

See the Suez links in the GCSE section.

Macmillan 1957 – 1963

Harold Macmillan from the Number 10 website.

The Profumo Affair. How important was this in losing the 1964 general election?

A Guardian article explaining the results of the 1964 general election

The Profumo Affair from the Guardian.

Home 1963 – 1964

Alex Douglas-Home from the Number 10 website.

Wilson 1964 – 1970

Harold Wilson from the Number 10 website.

Harold Wilson was the premier during one of the more popular decades of the 20th century.Fashion, liberal attitudes to sex, drug-taking, football, the growth of the media, music, equal rights and the youth are all associated with this decade. How much did Britain change however? Who did it change for? For the ordinary working family what changes did they see? What changed in politics? Among the reasons why Wilson won the 1964 general election was that he had a grasp of how the media works. What influence did the media have on politics, especially after the scandals of the Macmillan government?

An essay on Wilson’s government. Was it a success or a failure? GRIN

An article from the Guardian newspaper on Harold Wilson.

An obituary and analysis of Wilson from the Guardian.

An article from a socialist revolution website

Which comments within the essay do you agree or disagree with?

This page contains a clip from Pathe News about the 1966 general election success for Wilson.

Rivers of Blood

The ‘River of Blood’ speech, as it popularly known as, was given by Enoch Powell on April 20th 1968. He was a prominent Conservative politician who had aspirations of senior cabinet office or possible leadership of the party. The speech was controversial and effectively ended Powell’s political career. He was a member of the Shadow Cabinet but was quickly sacked because Edward Heath, the Conservative leader, wanted to distance the party from him and demonstrate that his views were his own, (although Powell said in the speech that his views were Conservative policy). The speech expressed a concern that there was too much immigration into Britain and that it would lead to violence. Every town and city would have an immigrant population and eventually one tenth of the population would be commonwealth immigrants and their dependents.

The speech was said to have divided the country. You should research it yourself to find this out. A link has been provided below where you can read it yourself. Very often this speech has been misquoted or not even read despite opinions and conclusions reached. The BBC produced a short series entitled, ‘The White Season’ in 2008 and one episode deals with the speech. Personally a fascinating series which may help you understand Britain especially if you have not lived there. Be wary that the politics course stops at 1990 so some of the information is not relevant.

The Rivers of Blood speech

There are 8 parts to the episode above which are all available on YouTube, (my thanks to Stguidon for the upload). The link below gives you an idea of how the speech was reported by newspapers at the time. It only shows a small collection so do not assume it was the same reporting for all newspapers.

Reporting of the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

A modern perspective of the speech is from the Guardian. Again you will find different interpretations but the article is worthwhile.

An analysis of the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by the Guardian newspaper.

Edward Heath and Enoch Powell from the Guardian.

All students will be asked to write an essay on the speech. ‘Why did Enoch Powell make the Rivers of Blood speech? Was he right to do so?’ The essay should focus on the racial problems before the speech was made and who the speech was aimed at. You should also analyse why Powell decided to risk his career on such a controversial speech. I would further recommend that you explain how the speech was viewed in the following decades.

Satire in the 60’s

That Was The Week That Was, also known as TW3, is a satirical television comedy programme shown on BBC Television in 1962 and 1963, devised, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin and presented by David Frost.

It was first broadcast on Saturday 24 November 1962, and “nothing quite like it had ever been seen before on British television. Flouting the convention that television should not acknowledge that it is television, the show made no attempt to hide its cameras, allowed the microphone boom to intrude and often revealed other nuts and bolts of studio technology. The show also adopted a relaxed attitude to its running time: loosely-structured and open-ended, it seemed to last just as long as it wanted and needed to last, even if that meant going beyond the advertised time for the ending”. But “the real controversy of course, was caused by the content.” [1]

The programme was groundbreaking in lampooning the establishment. Its broadcast coincided with coverage of the politically-charged Profumo affair, and John Profumo, the politician at the centre of the affair, became one of the targets for derision. “TW3…did its research,thought its arguments through and seemed unafraid of anything or anyone…Every hypocrisy was highlighted and each contradiction was held up for sardonic inspection. No target was deemed out of bounds: royalty was reviewed by republicans; rival religions were subjected to no-nonsense ‘consumer reports’; pompous priests were symbolically defrocked; corrupt businessmen, closet bigots and chronic plagiarists were exposed; and topical ideologies were treated to swingeing critiques. No one was spared”[1]

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was initially supportive, chastising the Postmaster General Reginald Bevins for threatening to “do something about it”.  Source – Wikipedia

More from Wikipedia on the series.

The Frost Report was a satirical television show hosted by David Frost. It ran for 29 episodes from 1966 to 1967. It is most notable for introducing John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett to television and also launching the careers of several comedians and performers a like.

Now seen as one of the most important series in the development of British TV comedy, ‘The Frost Report’ carried on where ‘That Was The Week That Was’ had left off, and went further still as it left no established convention un-satirised. In turn it sowed the seeds for successive comedy shows for (at least) the next two decades as it’s writers and performers went on to become, somewhat paradoxically (and perhaps in a way that was worthy of one of their own sketches), the comedy establishment themselves.Each week the show would carry a particular theme, politics, food and drink, education, popular culture, the law, holidays, authority, leisure, class etc. In fact, you name it and ‘The Frost Report’ probably covered it at one time or another. The topic, once introduced by David Frost, would then be subjected to half an hour of monologue, sketch and music. Source – Wikipedia

More from Wikipedia on The Frost Report.

Is this an accurate portrayal of British society?

Are there many differences between the clip above and today’s political comedies? How do you think the British public judged it? Which groups in society would watch it and who would not?


A BBC article about Wilson’s decision to devalue the pound.

More analysis from the BBC on the event. Excerpts from letters included.

An analysis of Heath V Wilson from an American perspective.

Does the clip above explain why Labour lost the 1970 general election?

Could the ‘Swinging Sixties’ really be an accurate label of 1960’s Britain?

Various links about the 1960’s from the BBC.

The 1970’s – was it really the time of crisis?

An economics essay on the 1970’s.

An article from The Times reflecting on the decade.

A lengthy article which does give some useful information.

An article on the 1970’s from The Economist.

An article stating that the 1970’s was the most important decade of the 20th century.

Useful media

The recent BBC series, “Life on Mars’, is useful to see what Britain was like during the 1970’s. The series is set in the north of England so obviously, it does not reflect the entire country. I have the entire series if students want to borrow it. Others include;

Carry on at Your Convenience.

The Sweeney

and old clips of Coronation Street!


Heath 1970 – 1974

Edward Heath from the Number 10 website.

Edward Heath from the Guardian.

An analysis of the February 1974 general election.

A biography of Edward Heath from the Daily Mail.

A short analysis of Heath from a right of centre author.

Does the clip above explain why Heath fell from power?

Wilson 1974 – 1977

Harold Wilson criticising the BBC.

Callaghan 1977 – 1979

James Callaghan from the Number 10 website.

The clip above includes the infamous headline, ‘Crisis, What Crisis?’ One of the comments below the clip argues that it is Tory bias. I would stress that you should not read them owing to the colourful language.
A Guardian article about the vote of no confidence on Callaghan’s government.

A BBC news article about the Lib-Lab Pact of 1977.

A Daily Mail article on the Lib-Lab Pact of 1977.

Thatcher 1979 – 1990

Margaret Thatcher from the Number 10 website.

The Margaret Thatcher official website. Plenty of resources here.

Was Thatcher’ government a success or a failure? This is perhaps one of the biggest arguments since 1945 in British politics. One will have to read a great deal and listen to a number of opinions and arguments to answer the question as a historian.

Thatcher’s government. A view from Conservative students at Birmingham University, England.

The economy under Thatcher

An economics essay about Thatcher\’s policies.

How do these clips about 1980’s Britain explain the state of its economy?

Analysis from the BBC of opinion polls since 1983.

An opinion of Thatcher after the Falklands War.

An article on the enquiry into the sinking of the Belgrano.

A clip about the Falklands War. Bang the drum!

A webpage about the Brighton bombing in 1984.

Miner’s Strike

Thatcher delivering a speech about the Miner’s Strike. She is clearly not giving way to the miners.

Does this show arrogance or confidence?

One of the experiences of the miner’s strike. The negative side of Thatcher’s policy.

The clip above is linked to the BBC article. It is part of a documentary on the miner’s strike. The remaining parts are available from the same account.

Thatcher and PIRA; the Brighton Bomb, Death on the Rock, Bobby Sands, Enniskillen and the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The events above help show the relationship between Thatcher and the Provisional Irish Republican Army, (PIRA). Thatcher and her government were reluctant to give concessions to PIRA and waged a war with them, just as previous prime ministers had done so. You should look at Heath, Wilson and Callaghan to observe how PIRA affected British government policy.

Brighton Bomb from the BBC.

Death on the Rock was a controversial documentary made in 1985 about the deaths of 3 alledged PIRA members. They were killed by members of the British armed forces, (although the SAS were seen to be responsible), in Gibraltar. The controversy was whether these suspected terrorists were unarmed when they were shot. Could they have been arrested and brought back to the UK for questioning? Or was there a ‘shoot to kill’ policy operated by the UK government and armed forces? The clip above is the first part of the documentary and the remainder is available on Youtube.

A clip of Bobby Sands from the UK History channel.

The two clips below are about the bombing of a Remembrance Day ceremony in 1987. The first is from BBC news and the second an emotive song from U2.

The Enniskillen bomb from Wikipedia.

The bombing may have merely strenghthened Thatcher’s stance to win the war against PIRA. The event was clearly an error for PIRA and Sinn Fein as there support decreased afterwards. However, there were rumours, (especially after Thatcher had finished her term in office), that the Conservative government communicated with PIRA leaders to reach a compromise. There is insufficient evidence for this but may point to PIRA activities persuading politicians to reach an agreement.

The Agreement from the BBC at the time.

Margaret Thatcher’s important political policy regarding Northern Ireland was the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The UK government had power of its’ citizens in Northern Ireland since 1921. Now, in 1985, the government decided that Southern Ireland, or Eire, would have some influence in the country. This was a concession to Catholics and perhaps Republicans. Sinn Fein and PIRA were Republicans so had their actions forced Thatcher to back down a little?


Thatcher’s ‘No, No, No’ speech

How, and why, did Margaret Thatcher fall from power?

An article from one of Thatcher’s supporters.

Exam Papers

January 2009 Questions

January 2009 Sources

January 2009 Markscheme

June 2009 Questions

June 2009 Sources

June 2009 Mark scheme

January 2010 Questions and Sources

January 2010 Mark scheme

June 2010 Questions

June 2010 Sources

June 2010 Mark scheme

January 2011 Questions

January 2011 Sources

January 2011 Mark scheme

June 2011 Mark scheme


The arrest of Rosa Parkes from US archive.


  1. Zintle says:

    Some of the videos don’t work
    😦 sad times

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