1929 the U. S stock market crash, more commonly known as the Wall Street crash. It crashed due to the over speculation of shares. As a result the U. S economy went into recession. This meant that the British exports to America would immediately cease. To try and break the recession the American government recalled all foreign loans. Britain still owed money to America from the First World War. They were forced to repay it. Then due to repayment of the stock market crash and the repayment of the loan, Britain also went into recession. By 1932, 3 million people were unemployed.
When the British government realised that there would be war, they forced the industries to prepare for it. The economy recovered as from 1935. Due to the governments efforts the increase in war production lead to full employment and the economy was back on its feet and feeling secure. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was introduced during the First World War. It was introduced because the need for war equipment such as artillery and munitions was high. The act enabled the government to control factories and tell them to produce munitions.
Before the Second World War the government realised that DORA was very restrictive and that it would not cover everything that was essential to the war effort. On the 24th August 1939 the Emergency Powers Act was established. This meant that the government would be able to control Iron and Steel production, which would be used for planes, motorised vehicles, munitions and Anderson shelters. The coal industry was also under the control of the government, this industry was essential for powering the furnaces in the iron and steel industries, transport (steam trains) and to produce electricity.
The control over the transport industry was needed, so that the government could get food, raw materials, finished products e. g. ammunitions and troops to there required destinations. These certain industries were chosen because the war was dependent on them for ‘normal workings’. To control these industries meant that the government would be able to stipulate how much was produced, the distribution of the product and the prices of them. Rather than trying to get the individual factory owners to comply with the governments needs.
The Emergency Powers Act was an extension to DORA, but it allowed the government to control what was produced and in what quantities. An example of how the government needed to be in charge of steel and iron production was during the Battle of Britain, at this time aeroplanes were most needed, but then tanks were needed after 1941 for Russia and the land war. The production priorities changed rapidly throughout the war, the government had to make sure the army, navy and R. A. F had what they needed at all times.
At the beginning of the war there was a shortage of workers, because the men who would usually work in the factories had been conscripted up to join the armed services. The depression of the 30’s also affected the number of workers in wartime, but the difference being that the shortage was in skilled labour. This occurred because the loss of jobs during the 30’s meant that apprentice (the future skilled factory workers) numbers shrank in essential industries like engineering. The few skilled workers would then be pulled away to work as mechanics and other similar jobs.
The measures taken to resolve the lack of factory workers were to employ women and men unfit for military service. For women to be able to produce war materials they had to be taught the basic skills. In 1941 Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, opened up training colleges for this specific purpose. These colleges had previously been for unemployed men during the 20s. The women would go for four to six weeks learning the repetitive factory-style work. The more able workers were taught in specialised skills. The long-term labour shortage affected industry; unskilled labour went into the factories with no previous experience.
The products produced would have been of poor quality and of no use to anyone. If workers were absent often their employers could not afford to replace them, because there would be no one to fill their position. This would lead to a fall in production if there were a number of absentees. Workers would have to work longer hours since there would not be enough people to work in the factories. At times when production needed to be increased, workers days would often last as long as 12 hours. At the beginning of the production drive the workers would be fine, but when the drive stopped they would suffer from fatigue and illness.
Reducing the amount produced throughout the country. Skilled women workers were given new opportunities to work that they had never had before. The independence that women gained during the war set the foundations for post-war equality. When countries are at war they are always trying to get ahead of the opposition, one way in which to do this is to find better and more efficient ways of doing things. The government wanted industries to research new ways of getting ahead. The demands on the individual industries alone will lead to advances.
The industries that were modernised during the war were the ones that had the most strategic importance, such as aircraft, agriculture, chemical and surveillance. Industries that supplied the basic materials for most war machinery needed to be improved otherwise production of these essentials would remain constant. Electric furnaces were built and they could smelt the highest quality steels at a faster rate. The advances in the steel industry made their product cheaper, since they were able to smelt the steel more efficiently than ever before.
The need for planes throughout the war was great, in 1939 there were only 2,800 planes but in 1944 this increases to a staggering 26,000. The ability to produce this amount of aircraft shows the advances in technology to make the raw materials more efficiently, thereby reducing the amount of time taken to build a single plane. They were able to churn the planes out faster than were shot down, whereas the axis powers could not. This was the area that Britain ruled; no one else in the world was as efficient.
To be able to lead in the skies the airforces had to come up with better and faster planes. The invention of the jet engine by Frank Whittle in 1941 gave designers a whole new area of aviation. The amount of coal in Britain that was being hewed mechanically was about 60% with around 70,000 pit ponies at work. The German mines were far more advanced; they used machinery for 97 per cent of their output. By being able to use machinery instead of animals the cost of mining would dramatically decrease since they would not have to pay for the shelter and food of the ponies.
British mining had to increase in efficiency or the Germans would be able to get there coal out more quickly, resulting in a steady stream of fuel to all that needed it. Giving them the advantage on the battlefield. It was vital to the war effort for the industries to modernise, so that they could get the upper hand on the axis powers. If the industries had not modernised then they would have fallen behind, giving the enemy the upper hand. The development of heavy bombers during the war would have a more peaceful role.
Their design would be used as airliners for travel purposes; people would be able to travel anywhere in the world faster than ever before. For the production of planes to be so efficient new ways of mass production were used such as production lines. Where there would be many people making one product, they would split up the construction process into smaller tasks so that on whole the product would be made faster. Due to the great need to know when the German bombers were coming, radar was invented, aeroplanes would know exactly where they were and where the enemy was.
Chemical advances were also made, the discovery of Nylon saved hundreds of lives when used as parachute material, since it was so much stronger than silk which rips easily. Nylon was also a lot cheaper to produce that silk. The world’s first computer, Colossus, was held in an entire house in Buckinghamshire. It could not store any information, but what it did was to make thousands of rapid calculations to crack the enemies codes. Artificial fertilisers became in wider use enabling more food to be produced per acre that was desperately needed in Britain.
Breakthroughs in medicine lead to new antibiotics and penicillin. Without these many of men would have died some of a simple infection. The medicines helped saved thousands of lives and continue to today. Today due to the invention of the jet engine we now have aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Radar has been further developed for commercial flights, and can now direct rockets to their required destinations. Colossus has to be the most influential invention of the war years. It has spawned generations of computer technologies that practically now run our lives.
Without the computer hundreds of other inventions would have never taken place, such as space travel and complete businesses would have never been set up. Today’s world could not exist without the invention of the computer. The allied powers needed Colossus to crack the axis codes, without it the war and thousands of lives may have been lost. Artificial fertilisers have continued to increase in concentration so even more food can be grown per acre. If the advancements in many areas in Britain had not been made during the war then they would have taken far longer to be discovered.
Since the industries would not have been under pressure to advance further. Once the war was over, Britain now had the task of repairing everything that had been damaged by bombs, a long and expensive task. During the war the government had taken part in a ‘lend-lease’ plan. Which meant that America would give vital supplies of war materials to Britain and let them pay for it after the war. By 1950 Britain had to pay America back. This was a big problem. Britain had lost over i?? 1,000 million of overseas investments and the earnings from trade had shrunk.
Britain had debts of i?? 3,300 million, to make the situation worst J. M Keynes was sent to America to ask for another loan. They accepted and Canada also added to Britains debt. Soon after, America called in their lend lease loan, Britain had to find the money to pay for it. With the repairs to be made and now the loan had been recalled Britain was looking in a worse and worse state. To get out of the red, Britain would have to increase exports by 75 per cent by 1950. The current labour government had two aims, one was full employment and the other was the export drive.
This would mean that Britain would have to go through a period of great austerity. The government used controls that were left over from the war to nationalise more industries. The industries that were the most essential to the British economy were nationalised, they were the Coal Industry Act-1946 Electricity Act-1947 Transport Act-1947 Gas Act-1948 Iron and Steel Act- delayed until 1951 The government controlled one fifth of all industry in Britain, as well as being the complete boss of all industries brought into nationalisation. This enabled them to maintain the export drive.
The government did not own the factories themselves but the public did. The industries were taken over by local councils that the government had picked. The boards had to make there own decisions about the company that they had. The main reason for nationalising industries was to modernise them, so they could offer a more efficient and better service. An example of this is that there were 500 separately owned power stations feeding into the national grid. By nationalising the coal industry the government resolved the disputes between the miners and the owners.
It was then possible to start modernising the coalmines themselves, adding such things as pit-head baths. The former owners of the various industries would have never helped the export drive as much as was needed; they would have wanted to produce goods for Britain. The government was tougher after the war than it had been during it. Rationing was worse and cars were being made in Britain but they were not allowed to be sold to the population. This was because the government would only give steel to car companies who would produce cars for export.
Building licences were needed for companies who wanted to come to Britain. There were conditions for the licences, the new companies would have to open in area of pre-war unemployment, e. g. Hoover went to Merthyr Tydfil, Ford was sent to Liverpool and Chrysler to Scotland. To meet the export drive the British people would have to do without luxuries. So that all materials produced could be exported, otherwise the high target set would not be made. Rationing continued on after the war and it was stricter after the war than during it.
So the basics that British people needed were being sent abroad when they were needed closer to home. One of the hardest things to come by was fuel. 1947, the worst winter in decades, people shivered in their homes, many died because of the shortage of fuel. Britain used to import fuel from America, but this was too expensive. So refineries were built around the coast to make it, it was cheaper crude oil bought from the Arab countries. Producing much cheaper British fuel instead, which was cheaper than the Americans’, and was exported more around Europe.
This also gave Britain the raw materials for such man-made fibres as nylon and rayon. With the amount of home production Britain managed to keep out factory-made goods. To make sure that the government did not need to import iron and steel they opened up new factories, such as the one at Corby, Northamptonshire. By 1950 the government had met there target and exceeded it, they had managed to get up exports by 77 per cent on 1946. The exports were mostly in the heavy industries such as steel, vehicles, ships, chemicals and machinery.
If the government had not have been so stringent, the export target would never have been met. Only by forcing the British people to through a period of austerity was it achievable. The changes in industry were wide ranging. In such industries as steel and iron many improvements were done because they were greatly needed during the war and after it. Other industries such as the cotton and textile industries did not come on in the same ways. These industries had a bad time during the war and after it. There were other countries such as Japan and India that were making cloth that was far cheaper than British product.
This was because they could afford to pay there workers low wages where in Britain they could not. The war was the main factor in the modernisation of many industries. All essential industries that fed the war need had great pressure to come with better and cheaper ways of producing their goods. The industries which dealt in luxuries, textiles, were in a bad way. Due to the export drive they could not sell anything to the public, and what they could make was always more expensive than foreign products.
The government needed the most up-to-date technologies to win the war; they gave money to industries to improve themselves. The war encouraged growth and modernisation to the extent that most industries were greatly improved upon. The effects were long lasting, they gave the bases for many things we have in today’s society. The nationalisation lasted many years, some of the industries have been returned to the private sector but some are still public, such as the NHS and the education board. Without the improvements made during the war we have a world that would be totally different and still backward.