The state, war and industry : the effects of the First World War on the profitability of British industry.
Militarism and war have had important, but poorly-understood effects
on economic development. The intention of this thesis is to add to
our knowledge of these processes by analysing the effects of the
First World War on the profitabiity of British industry.
War is an act of state policy and the thesis considers the role of
the state and its relationship with the economy and its major
interest groups in general terms before examining the changes in this
relationship that were brought about by the First World War. The
state can act by means of compulsion or through institutionalised
social negotiation; the First World War is of particular interest
because, for the first time, the latter was used extensively as a
means of government and because the state's policies involved a new
politicization of the profit concept.
War-time concerns over 'profiteering' appear to conflict with the
available economic data, which suggest that this was not a
particularly rewarding period for business, but the data that is
available on company profitability is too flawed, chiefly by the
accounting practices of the time, properly to resolve the
The main part of the thesis provides an analysis of data derived from
the archives of a set of thirty companies, which enable internally
calculated and externally published pre- and post-tax profits to be
compared. These results provide important new evidence on industrial
profitability across the trans-war period, on the nature of the
accounting practices of the time, and on the effects of the state's
taxation policies, which had been bargained for labour restraint, on
the industrial sector.