Text 4. Modern Britain. Stability and Change.

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Text 4. Modern Britain. Stability and Change.

Read the text and answer the questions.

1. How was the stability of power and the structure of society achieved through several centuries?

2. What do the British like to think about their qualities and what do these qualities demand?

3. Why had Britain fallen behind so many of its European competitors by the 1970s?

4. What were the economic successes and failures of the Conservative administration in 1979-97?

5. What promises of Tony Blair led the Labour Party to power?


For nine centuries the sea has protected the British from invasion and foreign occupation. During al this time the hereditary monarchy has survived, but with frequent changes to the limits on its power. There has been no political upheaval for 300 years, and the revolution of 1688 had no effect on the structure of society. It merely sent one king into exile, without violence, and replaced him by what may now be called a constitutional monarchy. The main institutions already established by that time were unaffected except by some fresh definition of their roles. Since then state power has been transferred by stages to a prime minister and government depending on a popularly elected parliament, in which it is usual for one party to have an overall majority of seats.

The British like to think that they excel in the qualities of moderation and tolerance. Such claims are obviously reinforced by the stability of government through several centuries without a written constitution and without clear definitions. These qualities demand self-discipline and mutual respect between people.

Since the 1960s the tolerance and moderation have been less evident than before, at least in politics and public life. For a long time until then, Conservative opinion had been ready to accept the advance towards equality. Governments of all parties maintained the welfare state, consulted the trade union leaders when forming economic policy, and imposed heavy taxes on the relatively rich. It was said that there was a ‘consensus’ giving high priority to personal security and the reduction of old class division.

By the 1970s it was evident that Britain’s achievements, as an industrial economy, had been poor. Britain had once been the most productive and prosperous country in Europe. Now it had been overtaken by all the others of north-western Europe.

On the one side this national failure was ignored, or attributed to the survival of the capitalist economic system. There was impatience with the rate of social progress, resentment that inequality survived. All established authority was criticized and questioned, except that of the trade union leaders whose authority was respected because they pursued the interests of the working class.

On the other side it was thought that Britain had suffered from too much security, too little reward for enterprise, too much action by the state to protect inefficient industries and businesses.

The two attitudes could not be reconciled.

When the people voted to choose a government in 1979, they put the Conservatives in power. Under Mrs Thatcher’s leadership they reversed the tends of the previous decades. They soon took measures to reduce trade union power. They revived the free enterprise capitalist economy, with its risks, its competition, its rewards for the winners, its harsh economic penalties and lack of sympathy for the losers. From the mid-1980s, they sold off nationalized industries to the private sector.

Under this regime the economy improved. Most denationalized Industries made profits, to the benefit of the people who bought shares in them (including many of their own workers). The proportion of people without work doubled in five years, but soon the productivity of those still working rose at a faster rate than in any other Western country. Then unemployment fell, until by 1988 it was below 10 per cent – still very high, but below the European average. Un 1983, and again in 1987, general elections confirmed Mrs Thatcher’s Conservatives in power.

At least two-thirds of the people felt that they were sharing in the new prosperity, with their cars and foreign holidays and comfortable homes. The majority, who had owned their homes for several years, could see the market value of their homes increase beyond their most optimistic expectations. They did not much resent the even bigger share in prosperity obtained by accountants, lawyers, managers of money and of advertising businesses. They did not much complain that many businesses ensured the high productivity of their workers by employing fewer people than were needed.

In order to cut taxes the Government used new methods to restrict expenditure for social purposes and the health service. It spent little on the roads and sewage systems. It cut the railways’ subsidy. It was slow to impose and enforce rules to reduce pollution or to promote safety. It took new powers t oblige local councils to set limits to their expenditure – and to the local taxes.

Many of these measures were not popular. Opinion polls showed that most people favoured better public services, and would accept the need to pay for them through taxes. All through the 1980s the Labour Party attacked the Government with increasing bitterness. This bitterness reflected the feelings of those people who became worse off under the new regime, or those who were angry at the growing gap between the rich and poor. Thus the Conservatives were heavily defeated in May 1997, because they were widely perceived to be unfit to govern.

Tony Blair’s Labour Party came to power with a ‘landslide’ victory, and the promise of an entirely new beginning. It had dissociated itself from old style Labour by rejecting the ideology of state owned industry, and by reducing trade union influence on the party. It also portrayed itself as filled with with youthful vigour, in vivid contrast with the Conservatives who seemed old and tired. It made long-term issues its priority, in particular raising educational standards in order to achieve a workforce fit for the twenty-first century. It also laid emphasis on the compassionate values of socialism, but without the old ideology. It was happy to pursue the new capitalism as long as it could be made inclusive of ‘the many, not the few’, as its central campaign slogan put it. It believed Britain had no choice but to join the European Monetary Union, and so worked towards the necessary ‘economic convergence’. Finally, it argued for constitutional reform. It would decentralize power and be more openly accountable than any previous government. Above all, Labour promised to rejuvenate Britain.




Ex. 1. Translate the text into Russian.

Rich and Poor

What happened to half a million farm labourers? Many sought other unskilled or semiskilled work, some in nearby towns. Because of their very low income many found it almost impossible to move to town. Others have found it impossible to find work. The countryside remains an area of high unemployment, and over one-quarter of all rural households live in comparative poverty. The desire of the rural poor for better economic prospects, even at the cost of new housing estates in the village, contrasts sharply with the views of newly arrived middle-class people who do not want picturesque villages spoilt.

However, rural poverty is overshadowed by the far larger problem of urban poverty. Although there is a higher proportion of both rural and urban poor on the periphery, particularly in the depressed areas of the north, the most casual tourist in London can easily find signs of desperate poverty among the homeless who sleep rough in the centre of the city. Most of Britain’s poor live in the run-down areas which exist in almost every large town or city.

Between 1945 and 1979, the gap between the poorest and richest narrowed, but after 1979 it widened significantly. In 1979 the poorest tenth of the population received 4.1 per cent of the national income. By 1994 this had fallen to 2.5 per cent of the national income. Over the same period the share of national income taken by the richest tenth increased from 20 to 26 per cent. In fact, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has a long record of concern for poverty-related issues, the average income of the poorest 10 per cent of the population fell, after taking into account housing costs, by 13 per cent in the period 1979-94. During the same period the income of the richest 10 per cent rose by 60 per cent. This was a direct result of economic policy and of changes to the tax system which intentionally rewarded the richest most, on the assumption that the highest-income earners were the most productive members of society.

The total number of those living in poverty has also grown. During the period from 1979 to 1994 the number of people living on less than half the national average income increased from roughly one-tenth to one-quarter of the whole population. In fact poverty seems to have increased more rapidly than elsewhere in the European Community. While the number of seriously poor people has undoubtedly increased, the remaining 75 per cent of the population are substantially wealthier than they were in 1979. The real problem is the gap which is now greater than at any point since 1939 and is continuing to grow. There is now a growing belief that society as a whole would benefit both economically and socially from the elimination of acute poverty.

Britain’s diversity is, therefore, a good deal more complex than the range of pleasures of touristic London, the variety of the landscape, or quaint cultural features like Scottish bagpipes, Welsh harps and northern brass bands. During the closing years of the twentieth century the physical landscape has changed rapidly as a result of economic and social change. So have the people. Although these have been discussed in contrasting terms, north and south, town and country, rich and poor and so forth, it will be clear that these themes interact. It is not possible to look at the comparative prosperity of the south without considering its implications for the countryside, or for the decaying cores of its cities. Nor is it possible to consider, for example, the unfortunate impact of modern farming without seeing it in the context of a highly integrated modern society. In many respects the British people find themselves caught between their idealised view of Britain and its institutions and the less comfortable realities at the threshold of the twenty-first century. But in facing these dilemmas a more dynamic and cohesive society seems to be emerging after more than thirty years of self-doubt. These themes are explored further in the following chapters.

Ex. 2. Translate the text into English.

В первом столетии до нашей эры и раньше кельтские племена населяли территорию Великобритании. В то время Римская империи была самой могущественной и процветающей страной в мире. В 55 году до нашей эры, после восьмилетней войны с Галлией (Франция), римская армия пересекла Ла-Манш и вторглась на территорию Британии. Кельты отчаянно сражались с захватчиками, и римляне под предводительском одного из величайших полководцев, Юлия Цезаря, вернулись на континент. Второе вторжение Юлия Цезаря в Британию годом позже было более успешным. Однако настоящее завоевание Британии римлянами началось почти столетием позже. Юлий Цезарь первым описал обычаи и образ жизни людей, населявших юго - восточную часть Великобритании.

В 73 году нашей эры римская армия вторглась на территорию Британии и захватила юго – восточную часть острова. Кельты мужественно боролись против оккупантов, которым так и не удалось стать хозяевами всего острова. Римляне остались в Британии в течении четырех столетий. Римские губернаторы правили провинцией, а римская армия защищала ее территорию. Вместе с высокой цивилизацией римляне принесли цивилизацию и рабство на Британские острова. И хотя римлянам не удалось превратить свободолюбивых кельтов в рабов, они должны были платить высокие налоги т работать на захватчиков. Как только римляне поселились в Британии , они начали строить города, великолепные виллы, мосты и широкие прямые дороги по всей стране. Лондон (Лондиум в то время) стал крупным торговым центром. Много латинских проникло в язык коренных жителей. Римляне научили кельтов многому, чего те не знали. Однако римляне и коренные жители так и не стали одной нацией. Только предводители кельтских племен Юга и Востока стали богатыми, приняли образ жизни завоевателей и разговаривали на латинском языке. Все остальные коренные жители разговаривали на кельтском языке и не понимали языка завоевателей. В начале пятого столетия (407 год н.э.) римские легионы ставили Британию, чтобы защищать центральные провинции Римской империи от врагов, и никогда не вернулись назад. В середине пятого столетия германские племена ангелов, саксов и ютов с континента захватили Британию. Они разговаривали на языке, который позже учёные назвали древнеанглийским языком.





Speak on:

1. Early Britain, compare the Roman civilization with the level of development of the British tribes.

2. The British colonial policy. When did Britain reach its peak as a colonial empire? What presaged the Empire’s dissolution?

3. The development of industry in Great Britain and what the Industrial Revolution brought about.

4. Modern Britain, its stability and changes in modern times, its role in the world.



Summarise the information from Init I and get ready to speak on the main stages in Britain’s development.


Unit II





1. How do you understand the words “ civilization” and “colonization”?

2. What ancient civilizations do you know?

3. Which of the civilizations do you consider to be the oldest ones?

4. Have any civilizations been found on the territory of your own country?

5. What do you know about the strongest colonial powers of the world? What were they?

6. Why did they come to a downfall in your opinion?

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