The State, War and Technical Innovation in Great Britain, 1930–50: the Contrasts of Military and Civil Industry

  • David Edgerton
Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


Three separate literatures have grown up in recent years, each concerned with one aspect of a large, interrelated subject. Increasing attention has been given to the relationships between the state and war, to those between the state, technical innovation and economic performance and to the connection between warfare and technical innovation. In the course of this growth, three hallowed assumptions of Western social theory have come to be questioned. It had been assumed widely that the state and inter-state relations were not centrally significant, that economic progress — its rate and nature — was the product of civil society, and that war and preparation for war were destructive and wasteful. These assumptions have not been held universally: outside the ranks of those engaged in the new turn of thinking there is an author who has written the most detailed, interconnected analysis of the state, war and technical innovation in Britain. Correlli Barnett has been described as ‘probably the only modern British historian whose creed is Bismarckian nationalism’ (Addison, 1986, p. 7), and yet, notwithstanding this judgement, The Audit of War has won widespread critical acclaim and is set to join Martin Wiener’s English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit as the reflective, action-orientated analysis of the British decline. Both works have been influential across the political spectrum. Indeed, Perry Anderson (1987) has gone as far as to describe The Audit of War as ‘the most detailed and devastating panorama of the misery of British industry … and the most radically wounding to national illusions. It is’, he writes, ‘composed at a … depth that makes previous treatments seem indulgent sketches by comparison’ (p. 47n.).


Industrial Policy Technical Innovation Aircraft Industry Military Aircraft Aircraft Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© British Sociological Association 1990

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  • David Edgerton

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