Francis Beckett and Clare Beckett

A revised and extended edition which includes a new introduction and a new chapter on Bevan’s legacy today


The creation of the National Health Service was the most significant of the many reforms of the post-war Labour government. The man responsible was Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan. The son of a Welsh miner, he became a local trade union leader at only nineteen and in 1929 was elected as a Labour MP. Bevan believed the war was Britain’s opportunity to create a new society, a position he maintained throughout the conflict. When the war ended in 1945, the landslide Labour victory gave him the chance to make this vision a reality.

Known for his impassioned oratory, Bevan’s fundamental belief that the new NHS should be freely available to all was ultimately at odds with a government struggling to balance the books. He resigned in 1951 over the introduction of charges for prescriptions and glasses. With the NHS requiring an ever-increasing share of national income, this updated edition considers Bevan’s legacy as the future of the health service he created is fought over as never before.

FRANCIS BECKETT is an author, journalist, playwright, and contemporary historian. His eighteen books included biographies of four prime ministers, the first of which is about his own political hero, Clement Attlee. He is the author of Macmillan and Olivier.

Follow Francis on Twitter @francisbeckett

CLARE BECKETT lectures in public policy at the University of Bradford, where she is the director of postgraduate gender study in the Department of Social Science and Humanities. She is the author of Thatcher in The 20 Prime Ministers of the 20th Century series.

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