chapter  2
21 Pages

Growth and living standards

British interwar economic performance has been viewed in both optimistic and pessimistic terms. For contemporary observers the divisions were largely regional. J.B. Priestley (1934) discerned four Englands: the nineteenth-century England of the industrial North; the England of the Dole which could be said to have included most of the industrial North as well as extending into Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; the traditional rural England of the southern counties and finally twentieth-century England of the bustling home counties, of bypasses and housing estates and suburban villas and cocktail bars gleaming with chromium trim (quoted in Mowat 1955:480-90). More recently, historians have pieced together much more quantitative information on interwar economic performance but without reaching consensus. Opinions have included the highly optimistic views of Aldcroft (1967) who saw the period as one of greatly enhanced growth performance and entrepreneurial rejuvenation and Alford (1972:82) who is more pessimistic, in part because of the heavy unemployment which prevailed.