chapter  3
Processes of Socioeconomic Change
Pages 9

The British economy has been in ‘crisis’ since the late nineteenth century when Germany and the United States in particular made considerable efforts to industrialise. On the whole the state has not been used as an engine of growth for the UK economy as in other countries, for example with Germany. One notable exception occurred during the Second World War when the output of the entire British economy was geared to the war effort and government policy to increase domestic food supplies made agriculture the most efficient in Europe. It could be argued that global investment and the availability of imperial markets had enabled successive UK governments of all political persuasions to avoid any radical thinking about the continual decline of manufacturing during the first half of the twentieth century. The City of London, which was strongly attached to the Conservative Party from the 1880s onwards, had opposed the manufacturing lobby over free trade versus protection and financial measures such as exchange and interest rates. Imperialist ideology thus perpetuated industrial weakness in the UK. Even during the interwar years, despite the rapid growth of the consumer industries (such as motor vehicles and white goods) largely located in the South East, the UK’s share of new consumer products in the world continued to fall.