Britain's Place in the World: A Historical Enquiry into Import Controls 1945-60

Britain's Place in the World: A Historical Enquiry into Import Controls 1945-60

Britain's Place in the World: A Historical Enquiry into Import Controls 1945-60

Britain's Place in the World: A Historical Enquiry into Import Controls 1945-60

Synopsis

Britain's Place in the World examines the establishment and effectiveness of import controls, particularly quotas. Placing quotas back in the centre of British history, Milward and Brennan make some radical claims for Britain's economic performance in a global context.Looking into a wide variety of industries from motorcars to typewriters, raw chemicals to food produce, they examine the intended and actual obstruction to imported goods represented by quotas, and the political and financial ramifications beyond the statistics.This is the fourth book to be published in the Routledge Explorations in Economic History series.

Excerpt

Our book is a study of the use of quantitative import controls in the post-war British economy. It argues that these were far more effective in achieving their objectives than government and economists concluded at the time. They were responsible for a much greater saving on the import bill than contemporary calculations implied and in many cases provided a significant infant industry protection, allowing certain industries which would otherwise not have been able to stand up to foreign competition to take root or to grow. A hidden industrial policy that operated after 1945 has been left largely undiscovered because of the lack of interest of historians and economists in non-tariff barriers to trade.

Because the effectiveness of non-tariff restrictions, particularly of import quotas and state bulk purchasing, was underestimated, it was not understood how far the relative success of British post-war industrial recovery and the relatively favourable balance of trade and payments surplus for the 1950s as a whole depended on their existence. In the 1950s the balance on current account averaged around £200 million annually except in the crisis years 1951 and 1955. A permanent surplus of over £300 million was believed to be in reach. Especially the underestimation of the effectiveness of import quotas against western European exports led British governments to take a stance in international financial and commercial diplomacy that took insufficient account of the increasing competitiveness of continental western European manufacturing with that of Britain. While extensive import quotas against American manufactured imports were maintained until 1958-9, those against western European exports were relaxed first between 1949 and 1951, and after their reimposition in 1951-2, relaxed once more from 1953 onwards in pursuit of an ambitious global design which required

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