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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
February 2018
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Book description

On 5 June 1975, voters went to the polls in Britain's first national referendum to decide whether the UK should remain in the European Community. As in 2016, the campaign shattered old political allegiances and triggered a far-reaching debate on Britain's place in the world. The campaign to stay in stretched from the Conservative Party - under its new leader, Margaret Thatcher - to the Labour government, the farming unions and the Confederation of British Industry. Those fighting to 'Get Britain Out' ranged from Enoch Powell and Tony Benn to Scottish and Welsh nationalists. Footballers, actors and celebrities joined the campaign trail, as did clergymen, students, women's groups and paramilitaries. In a panoramic survey of 1970s Britain, this volume offers the first modern history of the referendum, asking why voters said 'Yes to Europe' and why the result did not, as some hoped, bring the European debate in Britain to a close.


Winner, 2019 Morris D. Forkosch Prize, American Historical Association


'A jaw-dislocating page-turner. If you care about contemporary politics, you really need to read it …'

Andrew Marr Source: New Statesman

'A captivating read, meticulously researched and exquisitely written … Saunders has a wry and gently amused prose style, with unhurried and uncontrived allusions and a fine eye for detail. His narrative carries you along as if you were reading a novel.'

Daniel Hannan Source: The Spectator

'Saunders writes with swagger … he demolishes many of the myths about Britain's relationship with the rest of Europe on which Brexiters and Remainers have long depended. … [A]s a study of a rare and seminal event, this book bursts with valuable details.'

Andy Beckett Source: The Guardian

'Saunders makes you feel you were in the room … And when you read how that first battle over whether we should stay in Europe was fought, it becomes a little easier to fathom what went wrong or right in 2016, and why.'

Nick Comfort Source: Daily Telegraph

'Saunders's new book provides us with a perfect opportunity to reflect on the long, turbulent story of Europe in British politics.'

Alex Dean Source: Prospect

‘Beautifully written, and provides a thoroughly reliable and stimulating account of one of the most important events in Britain's post-war history.'

Vernon Bogdanor Source: Times Higher Education

'There is not only much to learn from Saunders's book about a fascinating historical episode: it also illuminates the issues we face today.'

Michael Mosbacher Source: Standpoint

'This is a timely book that will be read with great interest by commentators on recent events in Britain. It is also a hugely impressive work of scholarship that uses a single event to reconstruct a social and cultural world that now seems curiously distant. Most of all, it is a pleasure to read – clearly argued, full of vivid detail and illuminated by flashes of surreal wit.'

Richard Vinen - author of Thatcher's Britain

'I was actively involved in the 1975 referendum – on the losing side – and can attest that Dr Saunders' book thoroughly, brilliantly and objectively captures the context and the atmosphere of the 1975 campaign.'

Neil Kinnock - former leader of the Labour party

'This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Britain's confused relationship with Europe, and how we got where we are today. It's also pleasurable reading: a beautifully written history, full of warmth and wisdom.'

Alwyn W. Turner - author of Crisis? What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s

'This is history at its best: an insightful, exhaustively researched and immensely readable book that captures the period as well as the vote.'

Alwyn Turner Source: BBC History Magazine

'This is a fascinating account of the 1975 referendum when Britain voted in favor of joining the (then) European Community. It is a timely book, appearing just as Britain is negotiating its exit from a crisis-ridden European Union. The relationship between Britain and Europe has always been a matter of intrigue, and Saunders grasps this relationship well. The book includes rigorous detail with political analysis that, for once, has not forgotten that Britain includes more than England and that issues in 1975 remain as relevant today. In fact, an analysis of the 1975 referendum shows how the tables turned within a generation. In 1975, the Conservative Party fervently supported Britain's joining the EC; by 2016, the party was profoundly divided over the issue. Summing Up: Recommended.'

M. Clua Losada Source: Choice

'Robert Saunders’ thoroughly-researched and stylishly-written study … could not be timelier. … It is a riveting read full of eccentric characters and colourful anecdotes …'

Mathias Haeussler Source: Reviews in History

'Book of the Year 2019'

Source: New Statesman

'… Yes to Europe! is an important book … the most convincing argument of this excellent book is that in order to understand the vote in 1975, one must see it as a product of its time.'

Lindsay Aqui Source: Journal of Contemporary History

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Page 1 of 2

  • Introduction: ‘A Fanfare for Europe’
    pp 1-26

Page 1 of 2

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Archives and Manuscripts

  • Bodleian Library, Oxford University

    • Conservative Party Archive

    • Papers of:

      • Castle, Barbara

      • Jenkins, Roy

      • Marten, Neil

      • Wilson, Harold

  • British Archives Online (

    • Parliamentary Labour Party Papers

  • Cardiff University

    • Plaid Cymru Archive (microfilm)

  • Church of England Record Centre, London

    • Papers of:

      • Board of Social Responsibility

      • General Synod

  • Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge University

    • Papers of:

      • Powell, J. Enoch

      • Thatcher, Margaret

  • Labour History Archive and Study Centre (LHASC), People's History Museum, Manchester

    • Papers of:

      • Beever, Colin

      • Foot, Michael

      • Hart, Judith

      • Heffer, Eric

  • London School of Economics

    • Papers of:

      • Campaign for an Independent Britain

      • Shore, Peter

  • Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

    • Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staff

    • Confederation of British Industry

    • Trades Union Congress

    • Transport and General Workers’ Union

  • Museum of London

    • J. Sainsbury Archive

  • The National Archives, Kew

    • CAB 128 (Cabinet Conclusions)

  • National Library of Scotland

    • Scottish National Party Archive

  • Northern Ireland Political Literature: Periodicals, 1966–1989 (Belfast: Linen Hall, 1993)

  • Parliamentary Archive, London

    • Britain in Europe (BIE)

    • National Referendum Campaign (NRC)

  • The Women's Library, London School of Economics

    • Women's Europe Committee Papers


  • An Phoblacht/Republican News

  • ASTMS Journal

  • Belfast Newsletter

  • Birmingham Post

  • Bristol Evening Post

  • British Farmer and Stockbreeder

  • British Ulsterman

  • Catholic Herald

  • Church of England Newspaper

  • Church Times

  • Combat: The Voice of the Ulster Volunteer Force

  • Comment

  • Coventry Evening Telegraph

  • Daily Express

  • Daily Mail

  • Daily Mirror

  • Daily Telegraph

  • Director

  • The Economist

  • Encounter

  • Evening Standard [London]

  • Federalist

  • Financial Times

  • Glasgow Herald

  • GMW Herald

  • Guardian

  • Home and County: Journal of the National Federation of Women's Institutes

  • Housewives Today

  • India Weekly

  • Irish Catholic

  • Jewish Chronicle

  • JS Journal [Sainsbury's]

  • Labour Monthly: A Magazine of Left Unity

  • Labour Newssheet

  • Labour Weekly

  • Land Worker

  • Liverpool Daily Post

  • Loyalist News

  • Manchester Evening News

  • Methodist Recorder

  • Miner

  • Morning Star

  • New Europe

  • New Scientist

  • New Statesman

  • Observer

  • On Target

  • Orange Cross

  • Protestant Telegraph

  • Red Rag

  • Resistance News

  • Scots Independent

  • Scotsman

  • Scottish Daily Express

  • Scottish Daily Mail

  • Scottish Daily News

  • Shrew

  • South Wales Argus

  • South Wales Echo

  • Spare Rib

  • Spectator

  • Starry Plough

  • St Michael News [M&S]

  • Sun

  • Sunday Express (Scotland)

  • Sunday Mail

  • Sunday Telegraph

  • Sunday Times

  • Tablet

  • TGWU Record

  • The Times

  • Townswoman

  • Tribune

  • Ulsterman

  • Ulster Workers’ Council Journal

  • Unfree Citizen: The Newspaper of People's Democracy

  • Welsh Nation

  • Western Mail

  • West Indian World

  • Which?

  • Woman's Own

  • Workers’ Voice

  • Workers’ Weekly

  • Yorkshire Post

Diaries and Memoirs

Adenauer, K., Memoirs, 1945–53, translated by von Oppen, Beate Ruhm (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966)
Adeney, M., Baggage of Empire: Reporting Politics and Industry in the Shadow of Imperial Decline (London: Biteback, 2016)
Benn, Tony, Office without Power: Diaries, 1968–72, ed. Winstone, Ruth (London: Century Hutchinson, 1988)
Benn, Tony, Against the Tide: Diaries 1973–76, ed. Winstone, Ruth (London: Century Hutchinson, 1989)
Boothroyd, B., The Autobiography (London: Century, 2001)
Brandreth, G., Something Sensational to Read in the Train: The Diary of a Lifetime (London: John Murray, 2009)
Brown, G., In My Way: The Political Memoirs of Lord George-Brown (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972)
Callaghan, J., Time and Chance (London: Collins, 1987)
Castle, B., The Castle Diaries, 1974–76 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980)
Clark, A., Diaries: Into Politics, ed. Trewin, I. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000)
Clark, A., Diaries: In Power, 1983–1992, ed. Trewin, I. (London: Phoenix, 2001 edition)
Donoughue, B., Downing Street Diary: With Harold Wilson in No. 10 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005)
Donoughue, B., ‘The Inside View from No. Ten’, in Baimbridge, Mark (ed.), The 1975 Referendum on Europe: Volume 1: Reflections of the Participants (Exeter: Imprint-Academic, 2006)
Evans, G., For the Sake of Wales: The Memoirs of Gwynfor Evans, translated from the Welsh by Stephens, Meic (Caernarfon: Welsh Academic Press, 1996)
Heath, E., The Course of My Life: My Autobiography (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998)
Hume, J., Personal Views: Politics, Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland (Dublin: Town House, 1996)
Jay, D., Change and Fortune: A Political Record (London: Hutchinson, 1980)
Macmillan, H., Pointing the Way, 1959–1961 (London: Macmillan, 1972)
McIntosh, R., Challenge to Democracy: Politics, Trade Union Power and Economic Failure in the 1970s (London: Politico's, 2008)
Milligan, B., The Bridge: Reflections of an Unreconstructed Ecumaniac (London: Christians Aware, 2011)
Morris, J., Fifty Years in Politics and the Law (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011)
Oliver, C., Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016)
O'Neill, C., Britain's Entry into the European Community: Report by Sir Con O'Neill on the Negotiations of 1970–1972 [1972], ed. with a Foreword by Sir Hannay, David (London: Whitehall History Publishing/Frank Cass, 2000)
Prothero, C., Recount (Ormskirk: Hesketh, 1982)
Shore, P., Separate Ways: The Heart of Europe (London: Duckworth, 2000)
Talfan Davies, G., At Arm's Length: Recollections and Reflections on the Arts, Media and a Young Democracy (Bridgend: Seren, 2008)
Tynan, K., Diaries of Kenneth Tynan, ed. Lahr, J. (London: Bloomsbury, 2002)
Williams, P., Voice From the Valleys (Aberystwyth: Plaid Cymru, 1981)
Wilson, G., SNP: The Turbulent Years, 1960–1990 (Stirling: Scots Independent, 2009)
Wilson, H., Final Term: The Labour Government, 1974–1976 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1979)
Wistrich, E., ‘The Labour Committee for Europe’ [witness seminar, 12 June 1990], Contemporary Record, 7:2 (Autumn 1993), 363385
Wistrich, E., Recollections of a Federalist: My Life (London: Bettany Press, 2013)

Pamphlets and Contemporary Literature

Attlee, C., Empire into Commonwealth: The Chichele Lectures (London: Oxford University Press, 1961)
Benn, T., Arguments for Democracy, ed. Mullin, C. (London: Cape, 1981)
Benn, T., Speeches by Tony Benn, ed. Bodington, J. [1974] (Nottingham: Spokesman, 2012)
BCC, Going Into Europe: Implications of Britain's Membership of the Common Market. A Study Kit for British Christians (London: British Council of Churches, 1972)
Britain in Europe: The Social Responsibilities of the Church (London: Board of Social Responsibility, 1972)
Christians and the European Community: Reports and Papers of Conference, 1974, 16–20 April, Roehampton, London (London, 1974)
Christians and the Common Market: A Report Presented to the British Council of Churches (London, 1967)
Blaker, P., Labour's ‘Renegotiation’ Policy: A Conservative View (London: CPC, 1974)
Brittan, S., ‘The Economic Contradictions of Democracy’, British Journal of Political Science, 5 (1975), pp. 129–59
Callaghan, J., James Callaghan on the Common Market (London: Labour Committee for Safeguards on the Common Market, 1971)
Coates, K. (ed.), What Went Wrong? Explaining the Fall of the Labour Government (Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1979/2008)
Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1973–74, 85th issue (Oxford: Church Commissioners, 1975)
Dale, I. (ed.), Conservative Party General Election Manifestos, 1900–1997 (London: Routledge, 2000)
Dale, I. (ed.), Labour Party General Election Manifestos, 1900–1997 (London: Routledge, 2000)
Dicey, A.V., Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution [1885], eighth edition (London: Macmillan, 1915)
Elles, D., Housewives and the Common Market (London: CPC, 1971)
Evans, D., While Britain Slept: The Selling of the Common Market (London: Victor Gollancz, 1975)
Evans, G., A National Future for Wales (Swansea: Plaid Cymru, 1975)
Farage, N., ‘A Referendum Stitch-Up? How the EU and British Elites are Plotting to Fix the Result’ (UKIP, 2012):
Fekete, I., The How and Why Wonder Book of the Common Market (London: Transworld Publishers, 1974)
Goodhart, P., Referendum (London: Tom Stacey, 1971)
Goodhart, P., The People's Veto (London: Bow Group, 1975)
Grimond, J. and Neve, B., The Referendum (London: Rex Collings, 1975)
Hart, J., Aid and Liberation: A Socialist Study of Aid Politics (London: Gollancz, 1973)
Hart, J., The New Realities of Development: The Fourth Annual Tom Mboya Lecture, Ruskin College, Oxford, February 1975 (Dorking: Ariel Foundation, 1975)
Jay, D., The Better Alternative for Britain (London: CMSC, 1975)
Labour Research Department, 1975 Referendum: The Common Market: IN or OUT (London: Labour Research Department, 1975)
Le Carré, John, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1974)
Lomas, A., The Common Market: Why We Should Keep OUT (London Co-operative Political Committee, 1970)
Miliband, R., Parliamentary Socialism: A Study in the Politics of Labour [1972 edition] (Pontypool: Merlin, 2009)
Montagu, V. and Meyer, A., Europe – Should Britain Join? (London: Monday Club, 1966)
National Farmers’ Union (NFU), British Agriculture and the Common Market (London: NFU, July 1971)
National Farmers’ Union (NFU), A Review of the Common Agricultural Policy (London: NFU, September 1973)
Nutting, A., Europe Will Not Wait: A Warning and a Way Out (New York: Hollis & Carter, 1960)
Pickles, W., Not with Europe: The Political Case for Staying Out (London: Fabian International Bureau, 1962)
Pickles, W., Where Do We Come In? Your Rights and the Common Market (London: GBO, [1975])
Pinder, J., Danger: Referendum at Work (PEP/New Europe, n.d.)
Plaid Cymru, Power For Wales: Plaid Cymru Election Manifesto (Cardiff: Plaid Cymru, 1974)
Plaid Cymru, Wales and the Common Market (Cardiff: Plaid Cymru Research Group, 1975)
Powell, J. E. and Maude, A., Biography of a Nation [1955], revised second edition (London: John Baker, 1970)
Powell, J. E., No Easy Answers (London: Sheldon Press, 1973)
Powell, J.E., ‘The Nature of Sovereignty’, in Evans, Douglas and Body, Richard (eds.), Freedom and Stability in the World Economy (London: Croom Helm, 1976)
Powell, J.E., Reflections of a Statesman: The Writings and Speeches of Enoch Powell (London: Bellew Publishing, 1991)
Powell, J.E., ‘Crown and Canon: An Address to the Annual General Meeting of the Prayer Book Society’, Churchman, 107:3 (1993)
Powell, J.E., The Evolution of the Gospel: A New Translation of the First Gospel, with Commentary and Introductory Essay (London: Yale University Press, 1994)
Salter, N. and Gummer, J. S., Britain in Europe: The Social Responsibilities of the Church (London: Board of Social Responsibility, 1972)
Seldon, A. (ed.), Crisis ‘75…? (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1975)
Wistrich, E., ‘The Irish, Norwegian and Danish Referenda: The Lessons for Britain’, New Europe, 3:1 (Winter, 1974/75)
Young European Left, Labour's Programme and Europe (London: YEL, 1974)

Official and Party Papers

Labour and the Common Market: Report of a Special Conference of the Labour Party [26 April 1975] (Transport House, London: 1975)
Labour's Programme 1973 (Transport House, London: 1973)
Legal and Constitutional Implications of United Kingdom Membership of the European Communities, Cmnd 3301 (HMSO, London: 1967)
Membership of the European Community: Report on Renegotiations, Command Paper 6003 (HMSO, London: 1975)
Referendum on United Kingdom Membership of the European Community. Accounts of Campaigning Organisations, Command Paper 6251 (HMSO, London: 1975)
The Liberal Manifesto for Europe, 1975 (Liberal Europe Campaign, London: 1975)
The United Kingdom and the European Communities, Command Paper 4715 (HMSO, London: 1971)

Secondary Literature

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Armstrong, K., Brexit Time: Leaving the EU – Why, How and When? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Baimbridge, M. (ed.), The 1975 Referendum on Europe: Volume 1: Reflections of the Participants (Exeter: Imprint-Academic, 2006)
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Balsom, D. and Madgwick, P. J., ‘Wales, European Integration and Devolution’, in Kolinsky, M. (ed.), Divided Loyalties: British Regional Assertion and European Integration (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978)
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Beaumont, C., Housewives and Citizens: Domesticity and the Women's Movement in England, 1928–64 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)
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Unpublished Dissertations

Brewitt-Taylor, S. ‘“Christian Radicalism” in the Church of England, 1957–70’, unpublished Oxford D.Phil. thesis (2012)
Cotton, C. ‘The Labour Party and European Integration, 1961–1983’, unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. thesis (2010)
Jóhannesson, G. ‘Troubled Waters. Cod War, Fishing Disputes, and Britain's Fight for the Freedom of the High Seas, 1948–1964’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis (Queen Mary University of London, 2004)
Richardson, D. ‘Non-Party Organisations and Campaigns on European Integration in Britain, 1945–1986: Political and Public Activism’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis (Birmingham, 2013)

Online Resources

British Cartoon Archive:
Conflict Archive on the Internet [CAIN]:
Enoch Powell: The Official Speech Archive:
Margaret Thatcher Foundation Website:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:


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