United Kingdom/History - شهية الطبخ المغربي

United Kingdom/History

In 1707, the Parliament of the Kingdom of England and Wales and the
Parliament of the Kingdom of Scotland each passed the Act of Union. This
act joined the two kingdoms under one government as a "united kingdom
of Great Britain," now called the United Kingdom.
By 1707, the English Parliament had won a controlling influence over the
monarchy, and the Tory and Whig political parties had developed. England
controlled the seas and possessed the beginnings of an empire.
The beginning of cabinet government. Queen Anne, the first British
monarch, died in 1714. Her second cousin George, a German prince, was
her closest Protestant relative and became king. British law prohibited a
Roman Catholic from being monarch. George I did not speak English well.
He chose his council of ministers from the Whig Party and seldom
attended council meetings. His chief minister, Sir Robert Walpole, took
control of the council-and the British cabinet system of government began
to develop. Walpole is considered Britain's first prime minister. George I's
son became king in 1727. George II was also a German and, like his
father, left much authority to his Cabinet.
George III succeeded his grandfather George II in 1760 and reigned until
1820. George III was born in England. He wanted to regain some of the
king's powers and tried to build up his following in Parliament. But after
the Revolutionary War in America broke out in 1775, Parliament began to
lose faith in the king's policies. A sickness that made George appear to be
mentally ill further weakened his influence. Since George's reign, no
monarch has had such a direct role in the activities of the British
The growing empire. In the late 1600's, England and France had begun
to challenge each other for commercial and colonial control of North
America. Troops, traders, and settlers of both nations battled in the New
World. British and French trading companies also competed for control in
India. In Europe, England had fought France in a series of wars. But none
of these conflicts had settled the rivalry between the two countries.
Another war was inevitable.
The Seven Years' War began in Europe in 1756. It had already begun in
North America in 1754, when British and French troops clashed. In
America, the war was called the French and Indian War. In Europe, Britain
and its ally, Prussia, fought France and its allies, Austria and Russia.
Prussia did most of the fighting in Europe, while Britain battled France in
North America and India. The war ended in 1763 in a brilliant triumph for
Britain. France lost almost all its territories in North America and India.
Britain won Canada and all French possessions east of the Mississippi
The Revolutionary War in America cost Britain the most valuable part of
its empire-the American Colonies. One of the war's main causes was
taxation. The colonists insisted that Britain had no right to tax them
without their consent. King George III and his Tory advisers disagreed.
Britain sent troops to support its authority, and the colonists met force
with force. As the war dragged on, Parliament increasingly urged George
to give up. The king refused. He feared that if Britain lost the colonies, it
would become a second-rate power. Britain did lose the war, and in 1783
it recognized the independence of the American Colonies. But Britain did
not become a second-rate power. It soon had a more prosperous trade
with the independent United States than it ever had with the American
The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 1700's. It made Britain
the world's richest country. The revolution started in the cotton textile
industry and spread to mining, transportation, and other fields. Before the
revolution, people had worked at home, spinning cotton into yarn and
weaving the yarn into cloth. Machines gradually replaced hand labor, and
the factory system developed. At first, water wheels and horses on
treadmills powered the machines. By the late 1700's, steam engines
provided much of the power. Steam engines needed coal, and coal mining
expanded to meet the demand. Coal was also needed to smelt iron ore.
Factory towns sprang up around the coal fields. Better transportation was
needed, and an era of road and canal building began. In the early 1800's,
steam railways started operating.
The Industrial Revolution was one part of a general economic revolution
that swept over Britain. Agriculture improved as small farms were
combined into larger units and scientific farming methods were
introduced. The industrial and agricultural improvements, in turn,
stimulated trade. The need for larger amounts of cash led to the growth of
banks and joint-stock companies, businesses owned in shares by
The Napoleonic Wars. The French Revolution began in 1789. At first,
many British approved the revolution as a triumph of liberty for the French
people. But they changed their mind after the revolution grew more
violent. Then the new French government seized Belgium and threatened
the Netherlands. Britain protested. In 1793, Britain and France again went
to war.
Britain feared a strong power in Europe. Its foreign policy was based on
keeping the balance of power so that no European nation could control the
others. To maintain this balance, Britain often aided weak countries and
formed various alliances. By keeping the balance of power, Britain
protected its own freedom, trade, and sea power. In addition, the nation's
rulers-like those of other European countries-feared the democratic ideas
of the French revolutionaries.
Beginning in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, a man of endless ambitions, led
the French. At the height of his glory in 1812, Napoleon controlled most of
Europe. In 1803, he began a plan to invade Britain. But in 1805, the
British Admiral Horatio Nelson won a great victory over the French and
Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, off the southern coast of Spain. The Battle of
Trafalgar crushed Napoleon's naval power and ended all his hopes of
invading Britain. Napoleon next tried to defeat Britain by striking at its
dependence on trade. He ordered all countries under his control to close
their markets to Britain. Britain struck back with a naval blockade of
France and its allies. But British interference with United States shipping
brought on the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.
Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 in the Battle of Waterloo.
Union with Ireland. The English had governed Ireland for centuries, but
the Irish hated English rule. Most of the people in Ireland were Roman
Catholics, and most of the English were Protestants. Although Ireland had
its own parliament, Catholics were not allowed to serve in it.
In 1798, the Irish rebelled unsuccessfully. British Prime Minister William
Pitt then persuaded the British and Irish parliaments to pass the Act of
Union. The act ended Ireland's parliament and created the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The act went into effect in 1801,
and the country became known as the United Kingdom.
As part of the United Kingdom, Ireland began sending representatives to
the British Parliament. But Catholic men, as well as women of any religion,
could not serve in the British Parliament or hold public offices. Catholic
men won these rights in 1829. Women did not gain full political rights until
The era of reform. Social, economic, and political reform had been
needed in the United Kingdom for many years. After the Napoleonic Wars,
the people's demands for reform became so strong that Parliament had to
The United Kingdom's criminal laws badly needed reforming. People
convicted of crimes were whipped or given other brutal public punishment.
Dreadful conditions existed in prisons. About 200 offenses-even stealing a
rabbit-were punishable by death. During the 1820's, many of these
abuses were corrected.
In 1824, Parliament struck down the laws forbidding workers to form
trade unions. In 1833, it passed the Factory Act. This act provided that no
child under 9 years of age could work in a factory, and no one under 18
could work more than 12 hours a day.
But the most burning issue was for Parliament to reform itself. Great
landowners controlled most seats in Parliament, and few citizens had the
right to vote. Some members of Parliament represented districts that had
few or no voters. On the other hand, many districts with large populations
had little or no representation.
In 1830, the Whig Party came to power. The Whigs had promised
parliamentary reform. In 1831, they introduced a reform bill in
Parliament. The Tories fiercely opposed it. The struggle over the bill
became so great that people rioted and revolution almost broke out.
Parliament finally passed the bill, which became the Reform Act of 1832.
The Reform Act of 1832 redistributed the seats in the House of Commons.
Property qualifications to vote were lowered, so that most men of the
middle class received the right to vote. In addition, the act made the right
to vote a matter of national law, rather than of local custom. Yet only
about 15 percent of the United Kingdom's adult males could vote because
the act ignored the working class.
The Victorian Age. In 1837, an 18-year-old woman named Victoria
became queen. She reigned for 63 years, until 1901-the longest reign in
British history. This period is called the Victorian Age. During this period,
the British Empire reached its height. It included about a quarter of the
world's land and about a quarter of the world's people. Wealth poured into
the United Kingdom from its colonies. British industry continued to
expand, and the country was called the workshop of the world. Railways
and canals covered the United Kingdom, and telephone and telegraph
lines linked the big cities. Literature and science flourished.
Establishment of free trade. The Victorian Age began during hard
times. Farmers had poor harvests, and a depression swept across the
United Kingdom. Many people blamed their troubles on the Corn Laws,
which taxed imports of grain (called corn in the United Kingdom). The
taxes protected landowners by helping keep foreign grain out of the
United Kingdom. But the taxes also raised the price of bread.
In 1841, Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, became prime minister. Like many other
government leaders, Peel came to believe that restrictions on trade hurt
the economy. He ended all export duties and ended or reduced import
duties on hundreds of items. But the Corn Laws remained. Peel did not
repeal these laws because many members of his party strongly favored
them. Then, in 1845 and 1846, the potato crop failed in Ireland. In
addition, the English had a bad wheat harvest. Peel felt he had to repeal
the Corn Laws and let foreign wheat come into the United Kingdom. In
1846, he did so-and split his party and ended his career. But the United
Kingdom prospered under free trade as never before.
Political confusion followed Peel's fall from power and lasted until about
1865. Tories who agreed with Peel's free trade policy were called Peelites.
They refused to work with the members of their party who favored tariffs.
The Whigs were also split into a liberal and a conservative group. During
this period, many shifts in politics occurred. Finally, the Peelites joined the
Whigs in forming a new party, the Liberal Party. Meanwhile, the Tory Party
became known as the Conservative Party.
The outstanding statesman of the period was Viscount Palmerston.
Palmerston served as foreign minister almost continuously from 1830 to
1851 and as home secretary from 1852 to 1855. He was prime minister
from 1855 to 1858 and from 1859 to 1865. Palmerston cared mostly
about defending the United Kingdom's colonies, stopping Russian
expansion, and restoring good relations with France. During the 1830's,
he supported Belgium in its revolt against the Netherlands. In the 1840's,
he forced China to open its ports to British trade and acquired Hong Kong.
From 1854 to 1856, he led the United Kingdom in the Crimean War
against Russia.
Although Palmerston supported political reform in other countries, he
promoted only minor reforms in the United Kingdom. In spite of his
conflicting policies, he was very popular, which helped keep the political
situation confused. After Palmerston's death in 1865, a strong two-party
system was born with the battle between two political giants-William
Gladstone, a Liberal, and Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative.
Gladstone and Disraeli had much in common. Both came from wealthy
families and were well educated, hard working, and courageous. They
were also bitter rivals. Their brilliant debates in Parliament made them the
centers of political storms. Gladstone and Disraeli alternated as prime
minister from 1868 to 1885. Their rivalry began over the Reform Act of
In 1866, Gladstone introduced a reform bill to give more people the right
to vote. His bill was defeated. Disraeli knew that a bill had to be passed
because of public pressure. In 1867, he introduced his own bill, which
Parliament passed. The Reform Act of 1867 nearly doubled the number of
voters by giving the vote to many small farmers and city workers. Disraeli
hoped the new voters would gratefully elect Conservatives in the next
election. Instead, they voted overwhelmingly in 1868 for Liberals.
Gladstone became prime minister.
Gladstone's first term, which lasted until 1874, brought some of the most
liberal reforms of the 1800's. Under the Irish Church Act of 1869, the Irish
no longer had to pay taxes to the Church of England, which had few Irish
members. The Education Act of 1870 set up locally elected school boards,
which could require children to attend school until the age of 13. In 1870,
the civil service system was improved by making tests the basis for
employment. Government officials could no longer simply give civil service
jobs to friends or relatives. In 1872, the secret ballot was introduced.
Gladstone angered various groups with each of these reforms and lost the
election of 1874.
Disraeli then served as prime minister until 1880. British imperialism
reached its height under Disraeli, who tried to extend the United
Kingdom's control over its colonies and over other countries. In 1875, he
bought a controlling interest in the Suez Canal from Egypt's ruler. In
1876, he declared Queen Victoria empress of India. At the Congress of
Berlin in 1878, Disraeli helped block Russian expansion in the Balkans, a
region in southeastern Europe, and he won Cyprus for the United
Kingdom. British people of all classes watched proudly as the United
Kingdom expanded its influence in China, the Middle East, and Africa.
Disraeli also desired social reforms to help the working class. But his
party, which included many wealthy people, supported only minor
reforms. In the election campaign of 1880, Gladstone attacked Disraeli's
imperialistic policies. The election brought the Liberals-and Gladstoneback
to power. Disraeli died the next year.
Gladstone's second term as prime minister lasted until 1885. It produced
the Reform Act of 1884, which gave the vote to almost all adult males.
Gladstone served twice more as prime minister-in 1886 and from 1892 to
1894. He shattered his party and went down to defeat during his third and
fourth terms because he supported more home rule (self-government) for
Ireland. The Irish question split the Liberal Party into Gladstonian Liberals,
who supported home rule, and Liberal Unionists, who opposed it. The
Unionists later combined forces with the Conservatives.
At the turn of the century, the United Kingdom fought the Boer War
(1899-1902) in South Africa. The war was costly, and general worldwide
reaction against it left the United Kingdom isolated. The nation had
followed a foreign policy of splendid isolation. But with the rise of
Germany in the late 1800's, the United Kingdom began to feel that it
needed allies. In 1902, it made an alliance with Japan. In 1904, the
United Kingdom signed a treaty of friendship, the Entente Cordiale, with
France. This agreement became the Triple Entente in 1907, when Russia
In 1906, the Liberal Party won a great election victory. The Liberals then
put through a sweeping reform program to aid the working class. In 1909,
the Liberals introduced a budget calling for sharply increased taxes. The
House of Lords rejected the budget. A political struggle followed over the
veto power of the Lords. The struggle ended in 1911, when the Lords
agreed to a bill that allowed them to delay-but not to veto-bills passed by
the House of Commons.
World War I began in 1914. The Allies-the United Kingdom, France, the
United States, and other countries-fought the Central Powers-Germany,
Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. The war was caused
chiefly by political and economic rivalry among the various nations. Part of
this rivalry was between the United Kingdom and Germany. German
industry was growing rapidly, and Germany also had built a powerful
The United Kingdom entered the war on Aug. 4, 1914, after German
troops invaded neutral Belgium on their way to attack France. The fighting
lasted until 1918, when the Allies finally defeated Germany.
David Lloyd George, a Liberal, served as prime minister during the second
half of the war. He helped write the Treaty of Versailles, which officially
ended the war with Germany. The treaty set up the League of Nations, a
forerunner of the United Nations, and gave the United Kingdom control
over German colonies in Africa. The Treaty of Sevres, signed with the
Ottoman Empire, gave the United Kingdom control over some of the
Ottomans' possessions in the Middle East.
The war had a shattering effect on the United Kingdom. About 750,000
members of the British armed forces died. German submarines sank
almost 8 million short tons (7 million metric tons) of British shipping. The
war also created severe economic problems for the United Kingdom and
shook its position as a world power.
Postwar problems. British industry thrived briefly after World War I, but
the prosperous times ended in 1920. During the war, the United
Kingdom's factories produced war goods, and the country lost some of its
markets to competitors. Two of the United Kingdom's best customers
before the war-Germany and Russia-could not afford its goods after the
war. In addition, the United States and Japan had taken much of its
export business. With the decline in foreign trade, a depression swept the
United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Irish question had become explosive. In 1919, Irish
leaders declared Ireland independent. Bitter fighting followed between the
Irish rebels and a special British police force called the Black and Tans. In
1921, southern Ireland agreed to become a British dominion. That is, it
would be a self-governing member of the British Empire, while
maintaining its allegiance to the Crown. The new dominion was called the
Irish Free State. Most of the people of northern Ireland were Protestants,
and they did not want to be part of the Roman Catholic Irish Free State.
Northern Ireland remained in the United Kingdom, which was renamed the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The rise of the Labour Party. In January 1924, a new party, the Labour
Party, came to power under James Ramsay MacDonald. The party
represented socialist groups and trade unions. It began to develop in the
late 1800's and gathered strength through the years. While the Labour
Party grew stronger, the Liberal Party declined. Many voters could see
little difference between Conservatives and Liberals. They saw the Labour
Party, with its socialistic aims, as an alternative to the Conservative Party.
The Labour Party held office only until November 1924. It lacked a
majority in the House of Commons and needed the Liberal Party's support.
The Liberals soon withdrew their support. The Conservatives, under
Stanley Baldwin, then held control of the government until 1929.
In the 1929 elections, the Labour Party became the largest party for the
first time. MacDonald returned as prime minister. A few months later, the
worldwide Great Depression began. In 1931, MacDonald formed a
government of Labour, Conservative, and Liberal leaders to deal with the
emergency. The government raised taxes, abandoned free trade, and cut
its own spending. But by 1932, about 3 million British workers had no job.
"Peace in our time." In 1933, in the depth of the depression, Adolf
Hitler and his Nazi Party won control of Germany. Germany began to
rearm, but few leaders in the United Kingdom, or elsewhere, saw the
Meantime, the United Kingdom faced an unusual problem at home. King
George V died in 1936, and his oldest son became King Edward VIII.
Edward wanted to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson.
The government, the Church of England, and many British people
objected. Edward then gave up the throne to marry "the woman I love."
His brother became king as George VI.
Neville Chamberlain, a Conservative, became prime minister in 1937. In
1938, Hitler seized Austria and then demanded part of Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain and Premier Edouard Daladier of France flew to Munich,
Germany, to confer with Hitler. They gave in to Hitler's demands after the
German dictator said he would seek no more territory. Chamberlain
returned to the United Kingdom and said: "I believe it is peace in our
time." But he met sharp attacks in the House of Commons. Winston
Churchill, a Conservative, called the Munich Agreement "a disaster of the
first magnitude."
World War II. In March 1939, Germany seized the rest of
Czechoslovakia. On September 1, Germany invaded Poland and World War
II began. Two days later, the United Kingdom and France declared war on
Germany. In April 1940, German troops invaded Denmark and Norway.
Chamberlain resigned on May 10, and Churchill became prime minister.
That same day, Germany attacked Belgium, Luxembourg, and the
Netherlands and advanced toward France.
Churchill told the British people he had nothing to offer but "blood, toil,
tears, and sweat" to win "victory at all costs." Germany conquered France
in June, and the United Kingdom stood alone against the Nazi war
The United Kingdom prepared for invasion, and Churchill urged the British
people to make this "their finest hour." He inspired them to heights of
courage, unity, and sacrifice. Hundreds of German planes bombed the
United Kingdom nightly. German submarines tried to cut the United
Kingdom's lifeline by torpedoing ships bringing food and other supplies to
the island country. Severe rationing limited each person's share of food,
clothing, coal, and oil. The British refused to be beaten, and Hitler gave up
his invasion plans.
In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In December, Japan
attacked Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, and the United States entered the war.
The United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the other
Allies finally defeated Germany and Japan in 1945. Near the end of the
war, the United Kingdom helped establish the United Nations.
About 360,000 British servicemen, servicewomen, and civilians died in the
war. Great sections of London and other cities had been destroyed by
German bombs. The war had shattered the United Kingdom's economy.
The United States and the Soviet Union came out of the war as the world's
most powerful nations.
The welfare state. The Labour Party won a landslide victory in 1945. The
party had campaigned on a socialistic program. Clement Attlee became
prime minister, and the Labour Party stayed in power until 1951. During
those six years, the United Kingdom became a welfare state. The nation's
social security system was expanded to provide welfare for the people
"from the cradle to the grave." The Labour government also nationalized
key industries by putting them under public control. The nationalized
industries included the Bank of England, the coal mines, the iron and steel
industry, the railways, and the trucking industry.
Although the Labour government struggled to restore the United
Kingdom's economy, conditions improved little. Rationing and other
wartime controls continued. The United Kingdom borrowed heavily from
the United States.
Decline of the empire. World War II sealed the fate of the British
Empire, though the United Kingdom had begun loosening control over its
empire earlier. In 1931, the United Kingdom granted independence within
the empire to Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, New Zealand,
Newfoundland, and South Africa. The countries became the first members
of the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of countries and
dependencies (now called overseas territories) that succeeded the empire.
After World War II, the peoples of Africa and Asia increased their demands
for independence. The United Kingdom could no longer keep control of its
colonies. In 1947, India and Pakistan became independent nations within
the Commonwealth. In 1948, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) became an
independent Commonwealth country. That same year, Burma (now
Myanmar) achieved independence-and left the Commonwealth. In 1949,
the Irish Free State declared itself the independent Republic of Ireland and
also left the Commonwealth. That same year, Newfoundland became a
province of Canada. South Africa was not a member of the Commonwealth
from 1961 to 1994 because the United Kingdom had criticized its racial
policies. Blacks made up a majority of the population in South Africa, but
whites controlled the government. Also, the South African government
had an official policy of racial segregation called apartheid. South Africa
rejoined the Commonwealth when it ended its apartheid and gave blacks
greater voice in the government.
Since the early 1950's, many more British possessions have become
independent nations. They include Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, Kenya,
Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sudan,
Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda. In 1965, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
declared its independence from the United Kingdom. There, as in South
Africa, whites controlled the government even though blacks made up a
majority of the population. The United Kingdom had refused to grant
Rhodesia independence until blacks were given a greater voice in the
government. In 1980, after a long struggle for more power, blacks gained
control of the government, and the United Kingdom recognized Rhodesia's
independence. Rhodesia's name was changed to Zimbabwe. Generally, the
British Empire was disbanded in an orderly way. Most independent
countries stayed in the Commonwealth.
European unity. While the United Kingdom was breaking up its empire
during the postwar years, other nations of Western Europe joined together
in various organizations to unite economically and politically. The United
Kingdom was reluctant to join them. Throughout history, the United
Kingdom had preferred to stay out of European affairs-except to keep the
balance of power in Europe. By joining the new organizations, the United
Kingdom feared it might lose some of its independence and felt it would
also be turning its back on the Commonwealth.
In the 1950's, the United Kingdom refused to join the European Coal and
Steel Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
Most important, it did not join the European Economic Community (EEC).
This association, sometimes called the European Common Market, was set
up by France and five other nations. After the EEC showed signs of
succeeding, the United Kingdom set up the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) with six other nations. But EFTA was only a mild
success, and the United Kingdom later regretted its refusal to join the
In the years after World War II, the United Kingdom's foreign policy was
closely allied with that of the United States. The United Kingdom joined
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-a defense alliance of
European and North American nations-and fought in the Korean War
In July 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, which was owned mainly
by the British and French. In October, Israel invaded Egypt, its enemy.
The United Kingdom and France then attacked Egypt in an attempt to
retake the canal. The attempt did not succeed. Pressure from the United
States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations forced the United
Kingdom, France, and Israel to withdraw from Egypt.
Economic recovery-and collapse. A Conservative government had
returned to power in 1951 under Winston Churchill. The Conservatives
accepted most of the changes the Labour Party had made. By 1955,
rationing and most other wartime controls had ended. Industry was
thriving, jobs were plentiful, and wages were good. Churchill retired in
1955, and Sir Anthony Eden succeeded him as prime minister. Eden
resigned in 1957. He had been greatly criticized for his decision that the
United Kingdom should join France in trying to seize the Suez Canal in
1956. Harold Macmillan succeeded Eden.
The British economy continued to expand until the early 1960's. Hoping to
improve the economy, the United Kingdom applied for membership in the
European Economic Community. By joining the EEC, Macmillan hoped the
United Kingdom would be able to expand its export trade. But in January
1963, the United Kingdom's application was rejected, largely because of
opposition from French President Charles de Gaulle. The rejection was a
defeat for Macmillan. That year, the government was shaken by a scandal
involving the secretary for war. The 1964 election brought the Labour
Party back to power under Harold Wilson.
Wilson faced mounting economic problems. The United Kingdom was
importing far more goods than it was exporting, and its industrial growth
rate was too slow. The United Kingdom's financial reserves shrank, and
the nation had to borrow more and more money from other countries and
international agencies. In 1966, the government began an austerity
program by raising taxes and putting a ceiling on wages and prices. The
EEC, the European Coal and Steel Community, and Euratom merged their
executive agencies in 1967 and became known as the European
Community (EC). That year, the United Kingdom was again rejected for
membership in the EC. The government devalued the pound in response
to the serious economic situation.
In the 1970 elections, the Conservative Party regained control of the
government. Edward Heath became prime minister. In 1971, agreement
was reached on terms for the United Kingdom's entry into the EC. The
United Kingdom joined the EC in 1973. But continuing inflation, fuel
shortages, strikes, and other matters caused serious problems for the
government. Elections in 1974 brought the Labour Party back to power,
and Harold Wilson again became prime minister. Wilson retired in 1976.
James Callaghan succeeded him as prime minister and Labour Party
Long-standing conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern
Ireland became a serious problem for the United Kingdom during the late
1960's and the 1970's. In 1969, the United Kingdom began sending troops
to Northern Ireland to try to stop riots there. But the violence continued.
The unstable situation caused a series of political crises in Northern
Ireland during the 1970's. The United Kingdom established direct rule over
the country, while attempts were made to form a stable government in
which Catholics and Protestants shared power.
Many people in Scotland and some in Wales demanded complete
independence from the United Kingdom. Many others believed Scotland
and Wales should have their own legislatures. Still others favored no
changes in the relations between Scotland and Wales and the rest of the
United Kingdom. In 1979, the British government allowed the people of
Scotland and Wales to vote on the question of whether they should have
their own legislatures. The voters in both areas failed to approve the
establishment of the legislatures.
Thatcher. Elections in 1979 returned the Conservatives to power.
Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher replaced Callaghan as prime
minister. She became the first woman ever to hold the office. She served
as prime minister for the next 111/2 years, longer than any other person
in the 1900's.
As prime minister, Thatcher worked to reduce government involvement in
the economy. For example, the government sold its interests in many
industries to private citizens and businesses. It also sold thousands of
public-housing units to their tenants, promoting home ownership. In
addition, direct taxes were reduced.
In 1982, Thatcher won praise for her decisive handling of a conflict with
Argentina. Since 1833, the United Kingdom has ruled the Falkland Islands,
which lie about 320 miles (515 kilometers) east of the southern coast of
Argentina. But Argentina has long claimed ownership of the islands. In
April 1982, Argentine troops invaded and occupied the Falklands. The
United Kingdom then sent troops, ships, and planes. British and Argentine
forces fought air, sea, and land battles for control of the islands. The
Argentine forces surrendered to the United Kingdom in June 1982.
In 1985, Thatcher and Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald of Ireland signed
the Anglo-Irish Agreement, an agreement that established an advisory
conference for Northern Ireland. The conference, consisting of officials of
the United Kingdom and Ireland, gave Ireland an advisory role in Northern
Ireland's government.
By the mid-1980's, the United Kingdom's productivity had improved, but
unemployment, inflation, and other economic problems continued. During
the late 1980's, unemployment declined, but inflation began to rise.
Roads, hospitals, and schools were declining through lack of public
investment. The number of homeless people was increasing. In 1990, the
economy entered a recession. Unemployment rose.
Thatcher resigned as Conservative Party leader and prime minister in
1990. She had been under growing pressure from her own party to do so.
Her party was divided over two issues-Thatcher's reluctance to seek
further economic and political union with the European Community and
her support of a new household tax. John Major succeeded Thatcher as
party leader and prime minister. He had been serving as chancellor of the
exchequer, which involves managing the economy.
As prime minister, Major abandoned the household tax. He also
negotiated with the European Community for closer union. In 1993, the
United Kingdom and the other EC countries formed the European Union
(EU) to increase their economic and political cooperation. Many people
began to accuse Major of failing to protect British interests as he sought
closer ties with the EU. Disagreements over the EU caused divisions within
the Conservative Party and weakened Major's government.
However, gradual economic growth continued during the middle and late
1990's. Recovery from the economic recession had begun in mid-1992.
Labour returns to power. In 1997 elections, the Labour Party defeated
the Conservatives by a landslide. Labour leader Tony Blair became prime
minister. He called for referendums to be held in Scotland and Wales to
allow these areas to vote on whether or not they wanted their own
legislatures. In September 1997, Scotland and Wales approved the plans.
Also in September 1997, the first peace talks began that included all
parties involved in the Northern Ireland conflict. The talks concluded in an
agreement in April 1998. The agreement was put to referendums in
Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the voters supported it.
The agreement committed all parties to using peaceful means to resolve
political differences. It called for the establishment of three bodies: (1) a
legislative assembly for Northern Ireland, (2) a North-South Ministerial
Council that would include representatives from Northern Ireland and
Ireland, and (3) a British-Irish Council that would include representatives
from the Irish parliament and the various legislative assemblies of the
United Kingdom. After many months of negotiations, full implementation
of the peace plan for Northern Ireland began at the end of 1999.
Also in 1999, elections were held in Scotland for members of the new
Scottish parliament, and in Wales for members of the new Welsh
assembly. Both legislative bodies convened shortly after the elections.
Recent developments. In elections in 2001, the Labour Party again won
control of the government. Blair retained his seat as prime minister.

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