Skip to main content Accesibility Help
×
×
Home

MEAT AND ECONOMIC EXPERTISE IN THE BRITISH IMPERIAL STATE DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR

  • IAN KUMEKAWA (a1)
Abstract

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.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      MEAT AND ECONOMIC EXPERTISE IN THE BRITISH IMPERIAL STATE DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      MEAT AND ECONOMIC EXPERTISE IN THE BRITISH IMPERIAL STATE DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      MEAT AND ECONOMIC EXPERTISE IN THE BRITISH IMPERIAL STATE DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
History Department, Harvard University, Robinson Hall, 35 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138kumekawa@fas.harvard.edu
Footnotes
Hide All

I am grateful for the helpful comments received at workshops at Harvard and UCLA, and at the New England Historical Association's Conference on earlier versions of this article. Thanks are also due to Emma Rothschild and the editors and referees of the Historical Journal.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 Report of the physiology (war) committee of the Royal Society, 9 Dec. 1916, London, The National Archives (TNA), MUN 4/3221. William Ashley, ‘Notes on participation on the Royal Society food (war) committee’, 2 Sept. 1920, London, British Library (BL), ADD MS 42244 A, fos. 1–2.

2 On economic mobilization, see Broadberry, Stephen and Howlett, Peter, ‘The United Kingdom during World War I: business as usual?’, in Broadberry, Stephen and Harrison, Mark, eds., The economics of World War I (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 206–34.

3 MacLeod, Roy, ed., Government and expertise: specialists, administrators, and professionals, 1860–1919 (Cambridge, 1988); Davidson, Roger, Whitehall and the labour problem in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain (London, 1985).

4 Tooze, Adam, Statistics and the German state, 1900–1945: the making of modern economic knowledge (Cambridge, 2001); Mitchell, Timothy, Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, and modernity (Berkeley, CA, 2002); Stapleford, Thomas A., The cost of living in America: a political history of economic statistics, 1880–2000 (Cambridge, 2009).

5 Ross, Dorothy, The origins of American social science (Cambridge, 1992); Grimmer-Solem, Erik, The rise of historical economics and social reform in Germany, 1864–1894 (Oxford, 2003).

6 Morgan, Mary S., ‘Economics’, in Porter, Theodore M. and Ross, Dorothy, eds., The Cambridge history of science (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 275305; Furner, Mary O. and Supple, Barry, eds., The state and economic knowledge: the American and British experiences (Cambridge, 1990); Bernstein, Michael A., A perilous progress: economists and public purpose in twentieth-century America (Princeton, NJ, 2004).

7 On the blockade, see Offer, Avner, The First World War: an agrarian interpretation (Oxford, 1989); Lambert, Nicholas, Planning Armageddon: British economic warfare and the First World War (Cambridge, MA, 2012). On the global importance of food, see Trentmann, Frank and Just, Flemming, eds., Food and conflict in Europe in the age of the two world wars (Houndmills, 2006); Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina, Duffett, Rachel, and Drouard, Alain, Food and war in twentieth-century Europe (Farnham, 2011); Davis, Belinda, Home fires burning: food, politics, and everyday life in World War I Berlin (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000); Seikaly, Sherene, Men of capital: scarcity and economy in mandate Palestine (Stanford, CA, 2016); Vernon, James, Hunger: a modern history (Cambridge, 2007).

8 Pork is not treated here, despite being the dominant protein wartime import from the United States to Britain.

9 Food (war) committee (FWC), ‘On the rationing of meat’, 9 Jan. 1918, London, Royal Society (RS), CMB 73, fo. 189.

10 Rogers, Ben, Beef and liberty: roast beef, John Bull and the English nation (London, 2003); Waddington, Keir, ‘“We don't want any German sausages here!” food, fear, and the German nation in Victorian and Edwardian Britain’, Journal of British Studies, 52 (2013), pp. 1017–42.

11 Perren, Richard, The meat trade in Britain, 1840–1914 (London, 1978), p. 3.

12 Rew, R. H., ‘The nation's food supply’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 76 (1912), p. 101.

13 This was down from over a third a decade earlier. Jones, E. G., ‘The Argentine refrigerated meat industry’, Economica, 26 (1929), p. 170.

14 Bashford, Alison, Global population: history, geopolitics, and life on Earth (New York, NY, 2014), ch. 7.

15 Report (with appendices) of the royal commission on the meat export trade of Australia (Cd 7896), Apr. 1915.

16 See TNA, BT 13/66, E 28958, ‘The “beef trust” and United Kingdom meat supplies’, 24 July 1916; TNA, BT 13/74, E 31661, ‘Meat supplies of the empire’, 25 Apr. 1917; TNA, BT 13/94, E38546, interdepartmental committee on meat supplies, 1919.

17 See Winter, J. M., The great war and the British people (London, 1985), pp. 215–30; Gregory, Adrian, The last great war: British society and the First World War (Cambridge, 2008), pp. 277–9; see also Barnett, L. Margaret, British food policy during the First World War (London, 1985); Offer, The First World War.

18 Muller, H. G., ‘Marching on their stomachs: the soldier's food in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’, in Wilson, C. Anne, ed., Food for the community: special diets for special groups (Edinburgh, 1993), pp. 165–8.

19 Duffett, Rachel, ‘A taste of army life’, Cultural and Social History, 9 (2015), pp. 251–69.

20 Ibid., p. 255; Manual of military cooking and dietary mobilization (London, 1915).

21 Hanson, Simon G., Argentine meat and the British market: chapters in the history of the Argentine meat industry (Stanford, CA, 1938), ch. 7; Barnett, British food policy, pp. 32–4.

22 Trentmann, Frank, Free trade nation: commerce, consumption, and civil society in modern Britain (Oxford, 2008).

23 Ashley, W. J., ‘The task of the welfare supervisor’, Economic Journal, 26 (1916), pp. 455–6.

24 Winter, The great war and the British people, pp. 215–29. Winter estimates that working-class families increased food spending by about 60 per cent between 1914 and 1918.

25 Barnett, British food policy, pp. 88–9.

26 Gilbert, Bentley, David Lloyd George: organizer of victory, 1912–1916 (London, 1992), pp. 209–50; Hattersley, Roy, David Lloyd George: the great outsider (London, 2010), ch. 25.

27 British beef hit a maximum price of 15.75 pence per pound in August 1917 and decreased in price thereafter. Winter, The great war and the British people, pp. 215–29.

28 Shotwell, James T., ‘Editor's preface’, in Beveridge, William, British food control (Oxford, 1928), p. ix.

29 ‘Mr. E. M. H. Lloyd’, Times, 29 Jan. 1968, p. 8.

30 Lloyd, E. M. H., Experiments in state control at the War Office and the Ministry of Food (Oxford, 1924); Beveridge, British food control.

31 Davidson, Roger, ‘Llewellyn Smith, the labour department and government growth’, in Sutherland, Gillian, ed., Studies in the growth of nineteenth-century government (London, 2009).

32 See TNA, BT 13/64, E28579, French contract with American meat companies; TNA, BT 13/63, E28110, cablegram from government of New Zealand to high commissioner, 19 June 1915; TNA, BT 13/63, E28110, Macrosty to MacKenzie, 24 June 1915.

33 TNA, BT 13/61, E27247, Financial Times to Runciman, 1 Dec. 1914.

34 Hanson, Argentine meat, ch. 6.

35 TNA, BT 13/59, E26997, memorandum on convoy protection, 9 Sept. 1914.

36 Macrosty, H. W., ‘Army meat supplies: the work of the Board of Trade’, Board of Trade Journal, 109 (1922), p. 603.

37 TNA, BT 13/59, E26997, draft letter from General Walter Long, 27 Sept. 1914; TNA, BT 13/60, E27004, memorandum on Argentine beef contracts, Nov. 1914.

38 Beveridge, British food control, pp. 10–12.

39 Perren, Richard, Taste, trade and technology: the development of the international meat industry since 1840 (Aldershot, 2006), p. 121.

40 TNA, BT 13/60, E27007, Argentine contracts, Aug.–Sept. 1914.

41 G., M., ‘Obituary: H. W. M.’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 104 (1941), pp. 8590.

42 Macrosty, H. W., Trusts and the state: a sketch of competition (London, 1901), p. 306.

43 Macrosty, H. W., ‘Proposals for an economic survey of the United Kingdom’, Economic Journal, 19 (1909), p. 1.

44 TNA, BT 13/69, E29717, staff list for statistical department, 14 Apr. 1916.

45 TNA, BT 13/74, E31640, imported meat supplies for the allied forces and British civilians, 1914–18.

46 TNA, BT 13/63, E28085, meat purchases, approximate financial statement to 31 Mar. 1919. Present value calculated using GDP deflator on measuringworth.com.

47 TNA, BT 13/60, E27003, meat for army and navy; Barnett, British food policy, p. 33.

48 TNA, BT 13/59, E26997, Macrosty to Hawtrey, 19 Oct. 1914.

49 On coal, see TNA, BT 13/69, E29704, H. W. Macrosty, ‘Coal supplies for the River Plate meat works’, 25 May 1916. On tin, see in TNA, BT 13/82, folders E34315, E34103, and E32821.

50 TNA, BT 13/62, E27579, H. W. Macrosty, ‘The requisitioning of refrigerated space in Australasian steamers’, 18 Mar. 1915; meat supply for imperial uses act of 1914 (5 Geo V, No. 2), Queensland Historical Acts.

51 TNA, BT 13/64, E28393, meat supplies from South Africa.

52 TNA, BT 13/70, E29991, meat supplies from the Sudan.

53 TNA, BT 13/74, E31661, H. W. Macrosty, ‘Nigerian herds’, Nov. 1917.

54 TNA, BT 13/82, E34078, meat supplies, Falkland Islands.

55 TNA, BT 13/60 E27004, ‘Argentine meat contract’, 27 Nov. 1914; BT 13/59, E26997, draft letter from General Long, 27 Sept. 1914.

56 TNA, BT 13/59, E26998, Macrosty to Barnes, 22 Nov. 1914.

57 Macrosty, ‘Army meat supplies’, fo. 604; TNA, BT 13/60, E27006, contracts with meat producers; TNA, BT 13/64, E28485, correspondence with meat producers and suppliers in River Plate; Hanson, Argentine meat, p. 197.

58 MacLeod, ed., Government and expertise, ch. 11; Beveridge, British food control, ch. 3.

59 Harris, Jose, William Beveridge: a biography (Oxford, 1977), pp. 235ff.

60 Note on folder, Feb. 1917, London, London School of Economics Archives (LSE), Beveridge 4/20.

61 Quoted in Barnett, British food policy, p. 106.

62 Ibid., pp. 109–12. Departmental committee on prices, interim report on meat, milk, and bacon, 1916 (Cd 8358). See also ‘Report on food prices’, Spectator, 7 Oct. 1916, pp. 5–6.

63 LSE, Beveridge 4/21, fo. 63, William Beveridge, memorandum on rationing, 10 May 1917.

64 On the FWC and Hardy's instrumental power-seeking attitude, see Andrew J. Hull, ‘Passwords to power: a public rationale for expert influence on central government policy-making: British scientists and economists, c. 1900 – c. 1925’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Glasgow, 1994), particularly ch. 4.

65 Ashley, Anne, William James Ashley: a life (London, 1932).

66 RS, MS 527/10/3, fo. 57, Hardy to Ashley, 29 Mar. 1917; see also Hull, ‘Passwords to power’, p. 140.

67 Ashley, William, Commercial education (London, 1926), p. viii; Ashley, William, ‘The economic conversion of England’, Scientia, 9 (1915).

68 Grimmer-Solem, Historical economics.

69 Ashley, William, The war and its economic aspects (London, 1914), pp. 89.

70 LSE, Beveridge 4/22, fo. 41, William Beveridge, scheme for sugar distribution, n.d.; LSE, Beveridge 4/22, fo. 80, William Beveridge, draft report of committee on scale of bread rations, n.d. On equity, see Beveridge, British food control, p. 233; Harris, William Beveridge, ch. 10.

71 Beveridge, British food control, p. 34; RS, CMB 72, fo. 23, minutes of FWC meeting, 10 Feb. 1917; RS, CMB 72, fo. 30, minutes of FWC meeting, 3 Mar. 1917.

72 RS, CMB 72, fo. 13, ‘The importance of bread stuffs’, 2 Feb. 1917.

73 Ibid.

74 RS, CMB 72, fo. 38, ‘National food policy’, 16 Mar. 1917.

75 BL, ADD MS 42249, fo. 27, note on part taken on consumers’ council, Feb.–July 1918, n.d. Ashley was a representative of ‘unorganised consumers’. Whether these (the countess of Selborne, Lord Rathcreedan, and Ashley) represented consumers is another matter. The ‘extremist’ was Henry Hyndman. Hilton, Matthew, Consumerism in twentieth-century Britain: the search for a historical movement (Cambridge, 2003), ch. 2; Vernon, Hunger, pp. 204–6.

76 See LSE, Beveridge 4/5, folder 1, fo. 3, Beveridge to Adams, 7 June 1915; Turner, John, Lloyd George's secretariat (Cambridge, 1980).

77 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 1, Hardy to Adams, 2 Apr. 1917.

78 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 3, Hardy to Kempe, 4 Apr. 1917, See also Hull, ‘Passwords to power’, pp. 141–2.

79 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 17, Hardy to Adams, 17 Apr. 1917.

80 Barnett, British food policy, pp. 108–11.

81 Winter, The great war and the British people, p. 226.

82 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 25, Rew to Hardy, 19 Apr. 1917; Beveridge, British food control, ch. 9.

83 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 26, Hardy to Rew, 24 Apr. 1917; RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 30, Rew to Hardy, 26 Apr. 1917.

84 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 37, Flux to Hardy, 1 May 1917; Hull, ‘Passwords to power’, p. 147.

85 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 74, Hardy to Rew, 3 May 1917.

86 RS, MS 527/10/4, fo. 56, Ashley to Hardy, 23 May 1917.

87 Barnett, British food policy, ch. 5.

88 RS, MS 527/10/5, fo. 16, Hardy to Ashley, 23 June 1917.

89 RS, MS 527/10/5, fo. 18, Ashley to Hardy, 26 June 1917.

90 RS, CMB 73, fo. 189, ‘On the rationing of meat’, 9 Jan. 1918; RS, MS/527/10/7, fo. 1, G. D. Noel Paton, ‘Notes on Macrosty's memorandum’, n.d. [Sept. 1917].

91 RS, MS/527/10/8, fo. 10, Hardy to Adams, 5 Nov. 1917.

92 Beveridge, British food control, p. 166.

93 RS, MS/52710/1, fo. 1, Hardy to Beveridge, 1 Jan. 1917; RS, MS/527/10/8, fo. 35, Hardy to Wintour, 16 Nov. 1917.

94 See TNA, BT 13/66, E28926, Thomson to Barnes, 2 Dec. 1915; TNA, BT 13/66, E28926, Macrosty to Searail, War Office, 8 Nov. 1915.

95 TNA, BT 13/79, E33461, A. H. Stanley, ‘Proposed transfer of organisation for purchase of frozen meat and colonial cheese to the food controller’, 22 Oct. 1917.

96 TNA, BT 13/79, E32339, H.W. Macrosty, memorandum on Ministry of Food, 21 Sept. 1917.

97 M. G., ‘Obituary: H. W. M.’.

98 TNA, BT 13/71, E30564, purchase of colonial cheese.

99 TNA, BT 13/79, E32339, Llewellyn Smith to Beveridge, 27 Aug. 1917; Barnett, British food policy, pp. 174–6.

100 Fayle, Charles Ernest, The war and the shipping industry (Oxford, 1927), pp. 214ff.

101 TNA, BT 13/591, E36666, ‘Meat supplies’, 7 Aug. 1918.

102 TNA, MAF 60/73, ‘Meat and fats executive’, 15 May 1918; BT 13/90, E36666, meat + fat executive correspondence re appointment of Mr Macrosty.

103 Freeden, Michael, The new liberalism: an ideology of social reform (Oxford, 1978), pp. 206–24.

104 LSE, Beveridge 4/13, fos. 53–4, William Beveridge, ‘Economic organization of the United Kingdom for war’, n.d.

105 LSE, Beveridge 4/21, William Beveridge, memorandum on rationing, 10 May 1917; Harris, William Beveridge, ch. 7; Beveridge, British food control, ch. 10.

106 LSE, Beveridge 4/5, folder 3, fo. 171, Beveridge to Morant, 1 Jan. 1917.

107 Beveridge, British food control, pp. 51–64; TNA, MAF 60/5, ‘Memorandum of instructions, appendix B IX: the meat organisation’, 1921.

108 Lloyd, Experiments in state control, p. 163.

109 On the consumer movement, see Hilton, Consumerism in twentieth-century Britain, ch. 2. On unrest, see Bonzon, Thierry and Davis, Belinda, ‘Feeding the cities’, in Winter, Jay and Robert, Jean-Louis, eds., Capital cities at war: Paris, London, Berlin, 1914–1919 (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 305–41; Vernon, Hunger, pp. 193–5.

110 Lloyd, Experiments in state control, ch. 14.

111 Ibid., p. 184.

112 Ibid., p. 178.

113 Ibid., pp. 192, 398.

114 TNA, MAF 60/1, fo. 15, memorandum of instructions, 1921.

115 TNA, BT 13/92, E38161, Marwood to treasury, 11 Aug. 1919.

116 TNA, BT 13/92, E37345, Marwood to treasury, 8 Mar. 1919.

117 Smith, Hubert Llewellyn, The Board of Trade (London, 1928), p. 218.

118 Macrosty, H. W., ‘Economic statistics – retrospect and prospect’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 104 (1941), p. 6.

119 Ibid., p. 11.

120 M. G., ‘H. W. M.’, p. 85.

121 Ashley, William, ‘The present position of political economy’, Economic Journal, 17 (1917), pp. 487–8.

122 Hull, ‘Passwords to power’, pp. 202–6.

123 Harris, William Beveridge, pp. 260–3.

124 Beveridge, British food control, pp. 340–2.

125 Kagan, Robert A., Adversarial legalism: the American way of law (Cambridge, MA, 2003).

126 Brooke, Christopher N. L., A history of the University of Cambridge, iv: 1870–1990 (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 468–70; Dahrendorf, Ralf, LSE: a history of the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895–1995 (Oxford, 1995), ch. 3. In Mar. 1914, the Royal Economic Society had 622 members in Mar. 1914, 799 in 1918, and 1,097 in 1921. Minute book of the Royal Economic Society, LSE, RES 2/1/1, fos. 124, 178, 208.

127 Donald Winch, ‘Economic knowledge and government in Britain: some historical and comparative reflections’, in Furner and Supple, eds., The state and economic knowledge, p. 55. See also Morgan, ‘Economics’; Tribe, Keith, The economy of the word: language, history, and economics (Oxford, 2015), pp. 90–2.

128 These quarrels were won by the treasury. Burk, Kathleen, ed., War and the state: the transformation of British government, 1914–1919 (London, 1982); Cronin, James E., The politics of state expansion: war, state and society in twentieth-century Britain (London, 1991).

129 Edgerton, David, Warfare state: Britain, 1920–1970 (Cambridge, 2006), chs. 3–4.

I am grateful for the helpful comments received at workshops at Harvard and UCLA, and at the New England Historical Association's Conference on earlier versions of this article. Thanks are also due to Emma Rothschild and the editors and referees of the Historical Journal.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed