From the Postwar Settlement to Thatcherism
The British economy in the postwar period can only be fully understood in terms of Britain’s unique industrial history. The three key terms that need to be understood here are: early industrialization; empire, and individualism. The term ‘industrial revolution’ has become a contentious one for economic historians, not least because more recent work has shown that the acceleration of economic growth was slower than had earlier been supposed (Crafts, 1985). There had been manufacturing industries in Britain before the late eighteenth century and ‘already in the 1700–60 period Britain had a relatively high proportion of the labour force in industry’ (Crafts, 1985, p. 64). However, traditional industrial production was transformed by the application of steam power, the development of the factory and a series of technical innovations, initially in the textile industry. By 1840 ‘Britain had a far higher proportion of exports in manufacturing than any country achieved, by far the highest urbanization level, by far the lowest proportion of the labour force in agriculture’ (Crafts, 1985, p. 60).
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