3. Great events, great changes
In 1952 the year of the Queen’s accession, Britain became the world’s third nuclear power, after the USA and Russia, and in 1955 produced a hydrogen bomb. Despite the rapid reduction of armed forces following World War II Britain was still a major, heavily-armed international power with a large empire.
However, after the 1956 Suezdebacle, Britain increasingly cast off the trappings of power and Empire. In 1957, while Queen Elizabeth II addressed the UN General Assembly, America and the USSR vied for supremacy in the space race, which culminated in the US putting a man on the moon in 1969.
The 1960s saw England win the World Cup, the old British Empire shrinking as more nations gained independence and the rise of the Beatles. In 1971 Britain introduced decimal currency and in 1973 became a member of the EEC. In 1976 the supersonic Anglo French Concorde went into service.
In 1982 Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands, surrendering to the British Task Force two months later after heavy fighting. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and East and West Germany were re-united in 1990. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991, marking the end of the cold war. In alliance with the USA, NATO and the UN, Britain was also involved in military actions in the Middle East in 1991, 2001, 2003 and most recently in Libya.