Modern Britain: An Economic and Social History

By Sean Glynn; Alan Booth | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

Introduction

On almost any reckoning, the 1914-18 war marks a major watershed between the comparatively stable nineteenth-century world system, focused on British hegemony, and the shifting fortunes of the twentieth century. For historians it may be said that the twentieth century commences in 1914. This book deals with British economic and social experience between the First World War and the present. It is essentially an introduction to modern British economic and social history designed principally for first year university and college students and those without a substantial background in the subject and will also be of use to students at Advanced Level GCE.

In a short work of this kind it is inevitable that coverage of detailed developments has had to be heavily circumscribed and we seek to focus on themes rather than giving a blow by blow account of eventualities. In terms of chronology we have taken the two world wars as historical dividing lines. Part I of the book considers developments up to the end of the Second World War and Part II deals with the period since. Within these broad sub-periods we examine the main features of economic and social development under a number of headings which are intended to inject a more orderly and analytical approach to the examination of change than a simple chronological catalogue might.

There is now a formidable body of literature on twentieth-century economic and social history which is still growing at a rapid rate. In the past two decades there has been a flood of a new writing on twentieth-century Britain. Much of the textbook literature, particularly on the period since 1945, is for advanced and specialist students and this book seeks to fill a gap in general literature. Any exercise in contemporary history gives hostages to fortune and runs the risk of soon being superseded while the pitfalls of writing recent history are well known and have been much discussed there is, nevertheless, an undoubted importance in seeking to understand the developments which have

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