The end of austerity

The End of Austerity Overview

  • The end of austerity is a period that marks the transition from post-war scarcity, shortages and rationing to a time of growth and plenty in the UK.
  • This period falls in the mid-1950s and is marked by the abolishment of many of the wartime austerity measures.

Economic Growth

  • The era was marked by rapid economic growth and increased public spending that led to prosperity.
  • UK saw an average annual growth rate of approximately 3% during this period.
  • The boom was largely driven by factors like the industrial redevelopment, investment in infrastructure, and increased consumerism.

Role of Government

  • The Conservative government under Prime Ministers Sir Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, strived to achieve economic stability and prosperity.
  • They adopted policies like reducing taxes, and giving more scope to private enterprise.
  • The “13 Wasted Years” criticism by Labour opposition contested that the Conservative government squandered the potential for more fundamental reforms to address social inequality.

Consumer Society

  • The period saw the emergence of a consumer society, marked by increased demand for goods and services.
  • Key indicators include increase in home ownership, car ownership, and holidays abroad.
  • Household goods like washing machines, televisions, and refrigerators became more common.
  • However, not everyone would equally share in this new wealth. Economic affluence varied regionally and by class.

Cultural Shifts

  • The end of austerity brought about major social and cultural changes.
  • Increased wealth and social mobility led to the breakdown of class barriers.
  • The Swinging Sixties marked a period of cultural revolution.
  • Changes like the sexual revolution, the rise of Youth culture, music such as Rock and Roll, and fashion such as the miniskirt characterised this period.


  • The end of austerity laid the groundwork for the social and cultural upheaval that was to come in the 1960s.
  • Despite undeniable progress and affluence for some, many regions and social groups continued to face economic hardships and social inequality remained a significant issue.