Britain and the Economic Problem of the Cold War: The Political Economy and the Economic Impact of the British Defence Effort, 1945-1955, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Britain and the Economic Problem of the Cold War

The Political Economy and the Economic Impact of the British Defence Effort, 1945-1955, 1st Edition

By Till Geiger


372 pages

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Many accounts of British development since 1945 have attempted to discover why Britain experienced slower rates of economic growth than other Western European countries. In many cases, the explanation for this phenomenon has been attributed to the high level of defence spending that successive British post-war governments adhered to. Yet is it fair to assume that Britain's relative economic decline could have been prevented if policy makers had not spent so much on defence? Examining aspects of the political economy and economic impact of British defence expenditure in the period of the first cold war (1945-1955), this book challenges these widespread assumptions, looking in detail at the link between defence spending and economic decline. In contrast to earlier studies, Till Geiger not only analyses the British effort within the framework of Anglo-American relations, but also places it within the wider context of European integration. By reconsidering the previously accepted explanation of the economic impact of the British defence effort during the immediate post-war period, this book convincingly suggests that British foreign policy-makers retained a large defence budget to offset a sense of increased national vulnerability, brought about by a reduction in Britain's economic strength due to her war effort. Furthermore, it is shown that although this level of military spending may have slightly hampered post-war recovery, it was not in itself responsible for the decline of the British economy.


’Overall this book makes an important contribution to the subject of the political economy of British defense spending in the decade after the Second World War… The author provides us with a thorough tour and critique of the existing literature and relevant historical sources. He is scrupulous in dealing with different views, and he asks occasionally difficult questions, but ultimately he guides his reader to conclusions that derive from careful argumentation and balanced considerations.’ Business History Review

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: Britain and the economic problem of the cold war: themes and questions. Part I the political economy of British defence expenditure: Securing the people’s peace: reflections on the anachronistic nature of the British warfare state in the early cold war, 1945-55; An antagonistic partnership: Britain and American economic assistance, 1945-50; 'Tied to the tail of a Kilkenny cat'?: the Anglo-American relationship, British rearmament and the political crisis of 1951. Part II British defence production policy: ’The next war is bound to come’: defence production policy, supply departments and defence contractors in Britain, 1945-57; The wasting of high technological potential?: the British warfare state, the aircraft industry and technological nationalism, 1950-58; Maintaining the war potential: rearmament and productivity in the British ammunition industry in the 1950s. Part III the economic impact of British defence expenditure: The British defence effort and investment during the transition from war to peace, 1945-55; Britain and the economic impact of the Korean war; Too much defence, too little peace production?: the British capital-goods industry, regional development and the Korean war rearmament. Conclusion: Britain and the economic problem of the first cold war: reconsidering the political economy and economic impact of British defence expenditure, 1945-55; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Till Geiger is a Lecturer in International History at the University of Manchester, UK.

About the Series

Modern Economic and Social History

Modern Economic and Social History
Modern Economic and Social History encourages the publication of scholarly monographs on aspects of modern economic and social history. While emphasis is placed on works embodying original research, the series also provides studies of a more general and thematic nature which offer a reappraisal or critical analysis of major issues of debate. Economic and social history has been a flourishing subject of scholarly study during recent decades. Not only has the volume of literature increased enormously but the range of interest in time, space and subject matter has broadened considerably so that today there are many sub-branches of the subject which have developed considerable status in their own right.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History
HISTORY / General