During the First World War, the British imperial state deployed economic expertise on a new scale. This article examines how such expertise was involved in the management of the supply and distribution of red meat, a key commodity because of its caloric and symbolic value. Meat was managed not through a centralized bureaucracy, but through the often contradictory policies and initiatives of several government departments. These departments, particularly the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Food, had vastly different ideological commitments about the proper economic role of the state and the importance of market liberalism. They also had highly distinct bureaucratic agendas related to the war. But all departments shared an interest in deploying economic expertise to pursue better their policy and political goals. Economics thus became both a real and a rhetorical tool. This article explores how economic information on meat was collected, analysed, and deployed by Whitehall offices during the First World War. In so doing, it contends that the variegation and ideological divergence of the departments helped integrate economic expertise into the fabric of the administrative state, thereby increasing the power both of the economic discipline and the state itself.
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