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Whitehall, industrial mobilisation and the private manufacture of armaments: British state-industry relations, 1918-1936

Packard, Edward Frederick (2009) Whitehall, industrial mobilisation and the private manufacture of armaments: British state-industry relations, 1918-1936. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis presents a comprehensive account of the complex relationship between the British government and the domestic military-naval arms industry from the armistice in 1918 until the period of rearmament in the 1930s. Challenging traditional 'declinist' assumptions, it offers a multifaceted interpretation of the industry's strengths and weaknesses and its place in national security. In this regard, British governments always prioritised national interests over the private armament manufacturers' particular concerns and never formulated a specific policy to help them adjust to peacetime conditions. Indeed, the wartime experience of industrial mobilisation – the mass production of war material by ordinary firms – made specialist arms producers appear less important in supply planning: a view that proved more important than disarmament and retrenchment in damaging state-industry relations and, together with Britain's liberal economic traditions, helped to foster an enduring but exaggerated sense of relative weakness. Faced with the government's apparent indifference, the overextended arms industry underwent comprehensive internal reorganisation, led by Vickers and supported hesitantly by the Bank of England. This reduced the overall number of manufacturers but it also brought modernisation and a comparatively efficient nucleus for emergency expansion. Internationally, British firms retained a large share of the global arms market despite rising competition. Policymakers rarely accepted widespread public criticism that private armaments manufacture and trading were immoral but believed that the League of Nations' ambition to enforce all-encompassing international controls posed a far greater risk to British security. Although the government imposed unilateral arms trade regulations to facilitate political objectives, and was forced to address outraged popular opinion, neither seriously damaged the manufacturers' fortunes as the country moved towards rearmament. Indeed, the arms industry was never simply a victim of government policy but instead pursued an independent and ultimately successful peacetime strategy, before rearmament led to a cautious renewal of state-industry relations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Edward Frederick Packard
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Sets: Departments > International History
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Stevenson, David and Boyce, Robert

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