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Britain's Productivity Gap in the 1930s: Some Neglected Factors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2009

S. N. Broadberry
Lecturer and Professor of Economics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.
N. F. R. Crafts
Lecturer and Professor of Economics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.


This article proposes a reinterpretation of the failure of interwar British productivity levels to match those of the United States. We argue that key elements in poor British productivity performance included inadequate human capital, a bargaining environment that allowed workers to maintain restrictive practices, and collusive agreements that limited the exit of inefficient firms. We suggest that weaknesses in the structure of British firms pointed out by Chandler and his followers have been overemphasized and that more attention should be given to the role of the market environment in determining the conduct of business.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 1992

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