WHITEHALL AND THE CONTROL OF PRICES AND PROFITS IN A MAJOR WAR, 1919–1939 1
For much of the interwar period there was discussion in Whitehall of the policy to control prices and profits in any future major war. Opinion was divided between those who believed that the control of prices and profits would be necessary in return for controlling labour in the light of the experience of the First World War, and those who focused on the financial aspects of the issue, in which the control of prices and profits was seen to play little positive role. This second strand of thinking, rooted in the treasury, predominated, particularly once rearmament began: the co-operation of business and labour, it was argued, was best achieved by maintaining the status quo. As a result, once war did break out, legislation had to be enacted very rapidly to meet popular demands. More generally, this study throws light on the nature of interwar government in Britain and its attitude towards intervention.
1 I would like to thank the British Academy for funding this research and the Controller HMSO and the British Library of Political and Economic Science for permission to quote from PRO and Beveridge papers respectively. I would also like to thank Anne Crowther, David Edgerton, Michael French, Rodney Lowe, George Peden, Richard Whiting, Alan Wilt, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts of this article.