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Britain – The Economy, 1918-39

5. 1936-39: Rearmament

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About this Lecture


In this module we think about the performance of the British economy in the period 1936-39, focusing in particular on: (i) the growth in the 1930s of militaristic and expansionist regimes in Germany, Japan and Italy; (ii) the assumption that the British electorate was pacifist in temperament, i.e. did not want another war; (iii) the re-electon of the National Government in 1935 and the scale of the rearmament effort in that year; (iv) the contemporary belief that rearmament would derail the economic recovery, compared with our understanding today of the contribution of government spending to economic growth; (v) the extent to which the early years of rearmament favoured particular industries (and regions) over others; (vi) the attempts by the government to keep a lid on military spending, and the economic and political reasons for doing so; (vii) the extent to which the British economy rode through the ‘Roosevelt recession’ of 1937-38; (viii) the ramping up of military spending following the failure of appeasement, and the extent to which this benefited different parts of the economy that had not benefitted earlier in the decade; (ix) the government’s response to a collapse in the value of the pound in 1938; (x) the extent to which unemployment remained stubbornly high throughout the decade; and (xi) the extent to which we can assess the interwar period as a single unit, given the stark differences between the performance of the British economy in the 1920s, early 1930s and late 1390s, respectively.


In this course, Dr Christopher Price (York St John University) explores the development and performance of the British economy between 1918-39. In the first module, we consider the state of the British economy in the immediate aftermath of the First World War (1914-18), and the major differences between the pre- and post-war economy. In the four modules that follow, we look at four distinct periods in the performance of the British economy – the difficulties of the 1920s, the Great Depression, recovery in the first half of the 1930s and rearmament in the lead-up to war. In each case, we think about the economic and political considerations that informed economic policy, as well as the extent to which the international situation shaped the British economy in this period.


Dr Christopher Price is a Senior Lecturer in History at York St John University. His research interests encompass political, economic and military history with a particular focus on British and US history in the period surrounding the Great Depression and the two World Wars. His most recent publications in 2014 and 2015 explore the scientific and mathematical bases of British performance in twentieth century conflicts. His earlier publications investigated the performance of the British and US economies in the interwar period and the economic and financial basis of Anglo-American relations in the re-armament period before the outbreak of war in 1939.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Price, C. (2021, January 14). Britain – The Economy, 1918-39 - 1936-39: Rearmament [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Price, C. "Britain – The Economy, 1918-39 – 1936-39: Rearmament." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jan 2021,

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