Economic Policy and Performance in Interwar Britain

Department of History, School of History and Cultures

College of Arts and Law


Code 23095

Level of study Second Year

Credit value 20

Semester 1&2

Module description

The module first provides an overview of British economic performance in interwar Britain, with international comparisons when appropriate. It then considers the development of official responses to perceived economic problems in a number of sub-set periods, namely 1919-25, 1925-31 and 1932-39. In doing so it highlights the preoccupations of the authorities with the principal features of Edwardian economic `success’, including free trade, balanced budgets, minimum state intervention, and the role of sterling. The second part of the module focuses upon a principal outcome of economic transition and instability, the emergence and persistence of increasingly long-term unemployment and the policy response. The nature and causes of interwar unemployment are explored, as are the roles of industrial merger, rationalization, and cartelisation. The debate over regional versus national responses forms a background to the wider disputes about the appropriate role of the state, introducing students to the clash between economic radicals and the orthodoxies of the Treasury and the Bank of England. The course concludes with an assessment of how far economic policy prescriptions and perceptions had altered over the interwar period.