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By Tim Rooth

After greater than three-quarters of a century of unfastened alternate, Britain re-adopted protectionist guidelines early within the melancholy of the Nineteen Thirties. Tim Rooth's accomplished learn examines the forces at the back of the abandonment of loose exchange and how that Britain then used safety to discount for exchange benefits within the markets of her leader providers of nutrients and uncooked fabrics. The retreat from multilateral alternate regulations, the expansion of safeguard and the concomitant improvement of nearby monetary groupings has seen parallels with present advancements on the earth economic climate.

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Yet profits were too low for new capital to be attracted into the industry. The industry did not escape the general British trend of the 1920s towards greater concentration, and indeed there was some increase in bank intervention. But there was nothing to match the rationalisation of West European industry. Plants remained small, poorly sited, and unintegrated by European and American standards, and techniques, particularly in blast furnaces, were well behind best practice elsewhere. Belgian and French producers had the advantages of a fresh start after the war, much of the rebuilding being subsidised by government grants, and French and Belgian prices, reflecting higher productivity and probably depreciated currencies, were much lower than British.

K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs, II, Problems of Economic Policy 8 1918-1939 (Oxford, 1942), pt. I, 95. Davenport-Hines, Docker, 132. Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, Baldwin, A Biography (1969); John Ramsden, A History of the Conservative Party: the age of Balfour and Baldwin 1902-1940 (1978); K. W. D. D. 1974), and Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Labour, 1920-1924: the beginning of modern British politics (Cambridge, 1971). 38 British protectionism and the international economy intractable unemployment also worried Baldwin, all the more so since Conservative inaction could benefit the increasingly powerful Labour Party.

However, from the perspective of the dominions, the 1920s were a decade of growing economic independence from Britain. Imports were increasingly drawn from sources other than the UK and other sales outlets were also found. The onset of the depression in 1929 brought intense pressure on sterling, and finally precipitated the abandonment of free trade. The political economy of protectionism, 1919-1932 After nearly eighty years of free trade, the return to protectionism by Great Britain in 1931-2 was a dramatic event in its economic history.

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