Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939-1955

Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939-1955

Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939-1955

Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939-1955

Synopsis

'Winner of the NACBS British Council Prize for the best book of 2000 on any aspect of British studies since 1800... It is a superb book. The prose is appropriately austere and economical. The argument is clear and, in many respects, compelling... A short review cannot do justice to the coherence and force of Zweiniger-Bargielowska's argument, or the excellence of her research.' -Twentieth Century British History'I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the British history of the mid-twentieth century.' -John Singleton, EH. NET, July 2000.'At last we have a full history. Austerity in Britain is required reading for anyone who thinks that utility furniture and pencil-line stockings say it all.' -Richard Overy, The Sunday Telegraph'The austerity regime has not attracted the academic study it deserves, and this scholarly and thoroughly researched book by Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska will, therefore, be widely welcomed. She challenges received opinion in several ways and has much of interest to say for students of war, British administration, women, and party-political history... Readers of Austerity in Britain will particularly enjoy the detailed discussion of the black market.' -Martin Pugh, Times Literary SupplementAusterity in Britain is the first book to explore the entire episode of rationing, austerity, and fair shares from 1939 until 1955. These policies were central to the British war effort and to post-war reconstruction. The book analyses the connections between government policy, consumption, gender, and party politics during and after the Second World War.

Excerpt

Rationing, austerity, and fair shares occupy a central place in British history during and after the Second World War, but there is no study which focuses on these policies throughout the entire episode from the outbreak of war in 1939 until the termination of rationing and controls in the mid–1950s. The purpose of this book is to explore this topic from a range of perspectives. Chapter 1 examines how rationing and controls were administered and assesses the implications of the policy on consumption and dietary trends. Subsequent chapters analyse the public response to the austerity policy by focusing on popular attitudes, women's experiences, and the black market. The continuation of austerity after the war became increasingly controversial, and the final chapter discusses the party political debate about post-war austerity and its electoral implications.

The austerity policy during and after the Second World War involved an exceptional degree of state involvement in the economy. Imports, production, distribution, and prices of consumer goods were extensively controlled, resulting in an unprecedented reduction in and regulation of consumption. While only a limited range of foodstuffs, clothing, and petrol were actually rationed, all consumer goods became subject to comprehensive regulations issued under emergency legislation and administered by a sizeable bureaucracy As a result of rationing and controls, consumption of food, clothing, household goods, and private motoring was reduced dramatically as economic resources were channelled into the war effort. The post-war recovery policy prioritized exports, investment, and collective provision, and consumption continued to be curtailed. Consumption was not only reduced but also more evenly distributed between income groups as a result of the combined effect of rationing, price controls, and subsidies coupled with full employment and high taxes. This was true particularly with regard to food, which was the largest single category of consumer expenditure. Although total consumer spending had returned to pre-war levels by 1950, for many foodstuffs and consumer goods pre-war consumption levels were reached again only after the abolition of rationing and controls in the mid-1950s.

This book explores the connections between government policy, consumption, gender, and party politics in the exceptional circumstances of the 1940s and early 1950s. During this period, the regulation of consumption became a major element of the relationship between the state and British society. This development was not gender neutral. Men and women responded differently to the reduction in consumption since women in their . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.