Here is a 20th century timeline for Britain, from 1945, the end of the Second World War and Atlee's Labour Government, through Thatcher's years, to the year 2000. For earlier 20th century timelines, see Modern Britain from 1914-1945, or a timeline of Edwardian Britain.
End of the Second World War.
The Nuremberg Trials begin in Germany – a military tribunal convened by the victorious Allies (the UK, USA, USSR and France) to bring those deemed guilty of war crimes to justice.
The Labour Government starts a programme of nationalising key businesses.
The Cold War - Winston Churchill makes his Fulton Speech in the USA declaring that an Iron Curtain has descended across Europe.
A combined radio/TV licence is introduced, costing £2 a year.
Free milk is introduced for all school pupils under 18.
The coal industry is nationalised.
Exceptionally harsh winter brings hardship for many.
India becomes independent and the separate state of Pakistan is created.
Railways are nationalised.
The SS Empire Windrush docks at Tilbury, from Jamaica - seen by some as the start of mass immigration from Britain's former imperial possessions.
Declaration of a Jewish state in Israel and British withdrawal from Palestine (precipitates Arab-Israeli War).
The National Health Service is launched.
The Berlin Airlift takes supplies to the city, blockaded by the Soviet Union.
Olympic Games held in London.
The Yangtze River Incident - Royal Navy sloop HMS Amethyst comes under attack from the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
George Orwell (Eric Blair) publishes Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Formation of NATO - The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
C S Lewis publishes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Steel is nationalised - later reversed by the Conservatives.
The first British troops arrive in Korea; ultimately, up to 100,000 UK service personnel were deployed.
Soviet spies, Burgess and Maclean, flee Britain.
The Conservatives win the General Election, remaining in power until 1964.
The UK’s first National Park – the Peak District.
In a wider context, the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of the European Economic Community, or Common Market (1957), is formed; its members are Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany.
George VI dies; his daughter becomes Queen Elizabeth II.
London smog kills 4,000 people.
Britain successfully tests an atom bomb in the Monte Bello Islands, Western Australia, and becomes the world’s third nuclear power (after the United States and the Soviet Union).
Ian Fleming publishes Casino Royale, the first James Bond book.
James Watson and Frances Crick determine the double-helix structure of DNA.
New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay are the first to reach the summit of Everest.
Roger Bannister runs a mile in under 4 minutes.
Rationing, in place since the Second World War, comes to an end.
Commercial television begins.
Mary Quant opens her first shop, Bazaar, on Chelsea's Kings Road.
Ruth Ellis becomes the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
In a wider context – the USSR forms the Warsaw Pact, in response to NATO.
The Clean Air Act aims to reduce pollution.
Calder Hall, Britain's first nuclear power station, opens.
Dodie Smith publishes 101 Dalmatians.
Suez Crisis - Britain and France invade Egypt after the Suez Canal is nationalised, but are forced to withdraw under American pressure.
Elvis Presley has his first hit in the UK, Heartbreak Hotel.
Lonnie Donegan has his first hit, Rock Island Line.
The government launches National Premium Bonds.
The Gold Coast becomes the first African state to become independent of Britain; it is renamed Ghana.
Britain tests its first hydrogen bomb.
Malayan Independence follows a successful war (called a emergency for insurance purposes) against communist-led insurgents.
Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, says that, "most of our people have never had it so good".
In a wider context - The Treaty of Rome signed on 25 March 1957 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany created the European Economic Community.
The Munich Air Disaster – 22 of 44 people on board BEA Flight 609 die as the aircraft fails to take-off. Fatalities include 8 members of Manchester United’s football team, nicknamed ‘the Busby Babes’, as well as members of staff and journalists.
Britain's first motorway opens - the Preston by-pass, now a section of the M6.
The last debutantes were presented to the Queen.
Michael Bond publishes A Bear Called Paddington.
Foundation of CND - the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Tension between Teddy Boys and Jamaicans results in the Notting Hill race riots.
The first Mini motor car rolls off the production line.
The Postmaster General introduces modern postcodes.
In a wider context – the first integrated circuit is patented in the US.
Cyprus gains independence - following a conflict since 1955 against EOKA who wanted union with Greece and the Turkish Resistance Organisation, which opposed it.
The end of National Service (conscription); the last conscripts left the services in 1963.
Penguin Books is found not guilty under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing D H Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover.
The TV soap, Coronation Street, is broadcast for the first time.
The Pill - the oral contraceptive pill - becomes available in Britain.
In a wider context - on 12th April, Russian Yuri Gagarin aboard Soviet spaceship Vostok 1 becomes the first man in space. And in August the GDR (German Democratic Republic of East Germany) starts building the Berlin Wall.
The Beatles release their first single, Love Me Do, which gets to No 17 in the charts.
Dr No, the first James Bond film, is released.
In a wider context – the Cuban Missile Crisis brings the world to the brink of nuclear war.
It is announced that Britain will buy Polaris nuclear missiles from the US.
The Profumo Affair - a scandal erupts after it emerges that a government minister, John Profumo, has 'shared the affections' of a girl, Christine Keeler, with a Soviet diplomat.
Spy Kim Philby, and MI6 agent and the so-called 'Third Man' defects to the Soviet Union. The Fourth Man, Anthony Blunt, is identified but the fact is kept secret until 1979.
In a wider context – John F Kennedy, 35th President of the USA, is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
The Rolling Stones have their first No 1, It's All Over Now.
The last judicial hangings in Britain took place simultaneously on 13th August when Gwynne Evans was executed at Strangeways Prison, Manchester, and Peter Allen was executed in Walton, Liverpool, both for the murder of John West.
The Labour Party wins the General Election and Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister.
Abolition of the death penalty.
Time magazine publishes an article about Swinging London. The model Twiggy is named "The Face of 1966".
Britain's first credit card, Barclaycard, is launched.
Aberfan disaster - the Welsh village of Aberfan was engulfed in tons of coal slag, killing 48 adults and 116 children, many in their classrooms.
England win the Football World Cup (and won't let anyone else forget it).
Donald Campbell perishes attempting the World Water Speed Record on Coniston Water, driving Bluebird K7.
The Government nationalises the British Steel Industry.
The Beatles release Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Homosexual acts in private between consenting men over the age of 21 are decriminalised in England and Wales.
Abortion becomes legal in the UK (except for Northern Ireland).
The BBC launches Radio 1 to win listeners from the popular pirate radio stations (which the Government has declared illegal anyway) and Radio Luxembourg.
The People's Republic of South Yemen (Aden) is declared following the withdrawal of British troops and a conflict which had lasted since 1963.
Thousands demonstrate in London against US involvement in Vietnam.
The first Isle of Wight Festival.
The Beatles’ last public performance - on the roof of their Apple building in London.
Drilling for North Sea Oil begins.
Concorde makes its maiden flight.
Troops are sent to Northern Ireland to restore order amidst increasing sectarian violence.
The first broadcast of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
The voting age is lowered to 18.
Meanwhile – the USA’s Apollo 11 space mission landed the first two people on the Moon -
Commander Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the Moon on 20 July.
The first Glastonbury Festival.
The Conservatives win the general election and Ted Heath becomes Prime Minister.
The Ibrox disaster – 66 people are killed and 200+ injured in a crush at a Rangers v Celtic match.
The first British soldier is killed by the IRA in Northern Ireland.
Decimal currency is introduced, replacing pounds, shillings and pence.
In a wider context - the first commercially available microprocessor is launched by Intel
Bloody Sunday – British paratroopers kill 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march in Londonderry.
The IRA explodes a bomb in Aldershot, killing 7 people (six women and a Roman Catholic chaplain), the first of many Irish republican terrorist attacks on mainland Britain.
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expels Ugandan Asians; many obtain refuge in Britain.
Philips launched their Model 1500 Video Cassette Recorder (VCR).
The United Kingdom joins the European Economic Community.
Pink Floyd release Dark Side of the Moon.
The government introduces the 3-day week to conserve electricity during a miners’ strike.
M62 coach bombing – 12 murdered by the IRA.
The general election in February results in a hung parliament. Labour form a minority government and Harold Wilson returns as Prime Minister.
Soviet-made Lada motor cars appear on Britain’s streets.
The winners of the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Brighton, are Swedish group Abba with Waterloo.
The second general election of the year gives Labour a narrow majority.
The first McDonald’s opens in Britain, in Woolwich.
Lord Lucan disappears.
Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath and becomes the first female leader of the Conservative Party.
Charlie Chaplin is knighted.
The European Space Agency is established.
In a referendum on continued membership of the European Economic Community, 67% of voters want to remain.
The sit-com Fawlty Towers is broadcast for the first time.
The Sex Discrimination and the Equal Pay Acts become law.
Financial crisis forces the Labour Government to seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
More than 20 million tune in to watch Morecambe and Wise's Christmas Show.
The Winter of Discontent - strikes by petrol tanker and truck drivers, hospital staff, refuse collectors, health workers. Rats swarm round uncollected rubbish and in Liverpool the dead go unburied.
The world's first in vitro baby is born in Oldham.
The Conservatives win the General Election and Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain's first female Prime Minister.
The IRA murders Lord Louis Mountbatten on holiday in Ireland and on the same day kills 18 British soldiers in an ambush at Warrenpoint, NI.
The Housing Act of 1980 gives council house tenants the right to buy the houses they rent.
Arrival of the first IBM personal computer.
The BBC demonstrates the new compact disc (CD).
Racial and other social tensions lead to riots in many of Britain's towns, especially Brixton (south London), Toxteth (Liverpool) and Moss Side (Manchester).
RAF Greenham Common - women begin a protest against the deployment of US cruise missiles in Britain; the protest lasted 19 years.
The Falklands War – Britain retakes the Falkland Islands following Argentinean invasion.
Mass coal miners' strike sees more violence in Britain.
The IRA tries to murder the Cabinet by planting a bomb in the Grand Hotel, Brighton; five people are killed.
Unemployment exceeds 3 million.
First mobile phone in Britain. On New Year’s Day 1985, Sir Ernest Harrison, chairman of Racal Vodafone, was called by his son Michael, who said: “Hi, it’s Mike. Happy New Year. This is the first-ever call on a UK mobile network.”
Live Aid Concerts - massive global fund-raising music concerts organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in aid of Ethiopian famine relief.
The City of London's Big Bang - the deregulation of the securities market lead to a revolution in the financial services sector, significantly increasing London's status as a global financial centre.
The Government starts privatising nationalised companies, a policy designed to help create a property-owning democracy, produce capital to help reduce government expenditure and bring an end to subsidies.
Barclays introduce Britain's first debit card.
A terrorist bomb destroys Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. All 259 people on board, plus 11 on the ground, perish.
Tim Berners-Lee invents the world wide web.
The Hillsborough Disaster. 96 football fans died in a crush during an FA Cup match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield.
In a wider context - the fall of the Berlin Wall and, in theory, the end of the Cold War.
Margaret Thatcher resigns as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. She is replaced by John Major.
Operation Desert Storm - the First Gulf War, the liberation of Kuwait following invasion by Iraq.
British troops sent to Yugoslavia as part of the UN Protection Force.
Launch of the European single market.
The Treaty of Maastricht creates the European Union from the European Economic Union.
The racially motivated murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence in London leads to the Macpherson report, which highlights institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police.
The Channel Tunnel opens.
The Church of England ordains women priests.
In a wider context – Nelson Mandela becomes President of South Africa on 10 May.
The IRA explodes a bomb at South Quay in London’s Docklands.
The Dunblane Massacre. Thomas Hamilton shoots 16 children and a teacher dead in Dunblane Primary School, injures 15 others and then kills himself.
The Duke and Duchess of York divorce.
The IRA detonates an enormous bomb outside the Arndale Shopping Centre in Manchester.
Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal, was born at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh.
The Prince and Princess of Wales divorce.
The Stone of Scone is returned to Scotland after 700 years.
Tony Blair leads Labour to victory in the General Election after 18 years of Conservative government.
Britain hands Hong Kong back to China.
Diana, Princess of Wales, is killed in a car crash in Paris.
Scotland and Wales vote in favour of national assemblies.
JK Rowling publishes Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
The Good Friday agreement provides a basis for peace in Northern Ireland.
Kosovo Crisis - the RAF contributes to NATO bombing campaign and Britain sends troops as part of a peace-keeping force.
Former Warsaw Pact members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, join NATO.
A new millennium and the predicted end of the world didn’t happen.