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Unemployment in Interwar Britain: A Case for Re-Learning the Lessons of the 1930s?

Sean Glynn and Alan Booth
The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Aug., 1983), pp. 329-348
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Economic History Society
DOI: 10.2307/2594968
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2594968
Page Count: 20
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Unemployment in Interwar Britain: A Case for Re-Learning the Lessons of the 1930s?
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Abstract

This paper surveys recent literature on unemployment and the experience of unemployment in interwar Britain. It is argued that the causes of British interwar unemployment are multiple and result from a complex interaction of both long-run and short-run influences. A 'dual economy' model is advanced, with heavy 'classical' unemployment in the staple industries, and growth sectors constrained by the level of demand. In this light, the criticisms (largely from a Keynesian perspective) which have been made of interwar government policy are considered with scepticism. A unilateral solution to the unemployment problem was always remote, but amelioration was possible. Unemployment relief is examined in some detail, and, in general, it is argued that the benefits system was not a major cause of unemployment, but its effects in supporting wages and the existing social order are stressed.

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