Measures of Economic Mobilization: The British Example
All the belligerent powers faced three major and interrelated economic tasks: to secure sufficient raw materials to meet the ever-growing needs of war production, while at the same time providing for minimum civilian requirements; to expand rapidly certain key industries (such as armaments, shipbuilding, and chemicals); and to mobilize the labor force for a maximum effort in essential industries at a time when millions were diverted from productive employment to the trenches. The character of the problems and the means by which they were met differed from country to country. The reaction in Britain at the outbreak of the war was, in a phrase attributed to Winston Churchill, “business as usual.” Only gradually, especially during 1916 and 1917, was a system of government economic control established in response to inflationary pressures, shortages of food and materials, and labor-management conflicts. A coalition government, led by David Lloyd George and established at the end of 1916, paid special attention to mobilizing the economy. Some of the basic difficulties of economic mobilization as well as its implications for the future were discussed in the report of the British War Cabinet for 1917. The selection that follows is taken from the introduction to that report.
KeywordsCoalition Government Productive Employment Economic Mobilization Private Undertaking Staple Commodity
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