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Attlee, C. R. (Clement Richard) 1883- 1967

Clement Attlee was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945-1951. Clement Attlee succeeded Winston Churchill, and was present at the final allied war conference in Potsdam, Germany, in August 1945, and worked during his term to solidify relations with the U.S.

Prior to serving as Prime Minister, Attlee was Mayor of Stepney, England, 1919-1922; Member of Parliament, 1922-1924; Undersecretary of State for War, 1924-1929; and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Postmaster General, 1929-1931.


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Born January 3, 1883, in England, Attlee practiced law shortly after graduating from Oxford but found social reform more interesting. He moved into a settlement house (1907) in the poverty-ridden East End of London, joined the Fabian Society (1907) and the independent Labor Party (1908) and lectured at the London School of Economics (1913).

During World War I he served in France and Africa, achieving the rank of major. After the war, he pursued social reform through politics -- first as the mayor of Stepney (1919), then as a member of Parliament from Limehouse (1922). In the first Labor government (1924) he was undersecretary of state for war and in the second Labor ministry (1929-31) served as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and postmaster general. Attlee resigned his government posts in 1931. In 1935 he was elected leader of the Labor Party. He refused to participate in Neville Chamberlain's government because he disapproved of Chamberlain's appeasement of fascist Italy and Hitler's Germany. In 1940, Attlee served in Prime Minister Winston Churchill's war cabinet in a variety of positions.

Following Labor's victory in the 1945 elections, Attlee assumed office as prime minister during the final Allied war conference at Potsdam, Germany (July 17-August 2, 1945). Attlee's foreign minister, Ernest Bevin, played a key role in the development of Western "containment" strategy toward the Soviet Union. During Attlee's tenure, Britain fostered its "special relationship" with the United States. It helped with the Berlin airlift (1948), participated in the Marshall Plan, joined NATO (1949) and the Council for the Unity for Europe (1949). Attlee was proud of granting India independence within the Commonwealth, establishing the separate countries of Pakistan, Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon and relinquishing control of Egypt as well as Palestine, where the state of Israel was founded.

At home, to alleviate postwar suffering in Britain, he nationalized many industries and implemented the welfare state, which he called "his greatest achievement." In October 1951, he stepped down when the Conservatives won. In December 1955 he was made an earl. He died October 8, 1967, at the age of 84.

Popular Documents

September 6, 1954

Australian Government Trade Commissioner, Hong Kong, to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 'Visit to China by the British Labour Party Delegation'

This is a report on a visit by Clement Attlee's Labor Party delegation to China in August 1954. The report covers wide ground, summarizing the delegates' experiences and views on events in China, and contains a short account of Attlee's conversation with Mao Zedong. Mao and Attlee disagreed about the Soviet Union's policy towards Eastern Europe, and Mao, after defending the Soviet record, in the end admitted that he simply did not know enough about the situation in Eastern Europe. There was also some discussion of Taiwan, though Attlee was given the impression that China would not attack Taiwan for at least 10 years. There is also an interesting quote: "The delegation... received or were confirmed in the impression that the Chinese Government was... living in a world of delusions. The state had been reached where the Central People's Government viewed the outside world not as it was but according to how they thought it should be."

October 12, 1945

TASS Digest, 'The Mexican Press about Byrnes' Statement; etc.'

Excerpts from articles on James Byrnes, General Mark W. Clark, Clement Attlee, and US refusal to share technical information about the atomic bomb.

November 17, 1945

TASS Report Distributed to Cdes. I.V. Stalin, V.M. Molotov, A.I. Mikoyan, L.P. Beria, G.M. Malenkov, and A. Ya. Vyshinsky, 'The Newspaper Le Pays on Attlee's Talks with Truman'

TASS reports on a Le Pays article that cites Molotov on Soviet reservations about a meeting between the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union in London following an Anglo-American conference.