Civil liberties in Britain during the Cold War (1945 to 1989)

Joan Mahoney, who teaches civil liberties at BU, is currently working on a book with Keith Ewing of King’s College, London.  This project follows earlier work that Keith has done with Conor Gearty on British civil liberties in the first half of the 20th century, and includes material from Joan’s dissertation on the McCarthy period in Britain, looking at civil liberties in Britain during the Cold War, from 1945 to 1989.

In particular, the project is concerned with government action regarding employment, limits on the right of assembly, free speech, and government surveillance. Much of the researchers’ material comes from the government archives, although they have also found useful sources in the archives of Liberty, the Labour Party, and other, smaller, collections.

By comparing the United States and Great Britain during this period, it  can be seen how the protection of free speech and political association broke down in the US, despite the written constitution and a powerful Supreme Court, while the political atmosphere in Britain remained comparatively open, despite a level of government surveillance and secrecy beyond what was generally public knowledge.