chapter  2
20 Pages

The Nature of State Enterprise in Britain


By 1950, state-owned enterprises in energy, telecom, and transport were common in all European countries, but in manufacturing, banking, and commerce there were considerable differences-much higher in Italy, Spain, Germany, and, to some extent, France than in Britain and Scandinavia. Various factors explain this greater intensity: the autarkic policies of Germany in the interwar period (and Spain after the Civil War), the problems of fi nance and entrepreneurship in Italy, and the French state’s determination after 1945 to plan and/or own those industries important for national security. Even in the infrastructure industries, the origins of state enterprises differed quite strongly. State ownership of trunk railway lines, for example, started in the 19th century for Germany and Scandinavia, whereas public ownership of Britain’s railways dates from 1948. So a major aim of this chapter is to explain how and why the origin of state enterprise was different in Britain compared with in Continental Europe.