Wasted opportunities? The 1950s rearmament programme and the failure of British economic policy
- Park, Jihang
- Issue Date
- SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD
- JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY HISTORY; Vol.32, No.3, pp.357-379
- When the Korean war broke out in June 1950, the first reaction of the Attlee government was one of indifference. Soon, however, Britains relationship with the USA and its position as a world power forced the government to commit ground troops to Korea. Two further results of the war were the enhancing of NATO and Britains rearmament programme of 1950-3. Commentators on the rearmament programme have been almost unanimous in their verdict. The programme has been blamed as a fatal check to the momentum of Britains economic recovery that had been in progress since the end of the war, and for precipitating Britains industrial decline by interrupting the export drive and the expansion in industrial investment. Yet we remain in ignorance of the precise impact of the rearmament programme on the British economy. The question whether without it the British economy might have fared better than it actually did, is more difficult to answer. However, the rearmament phase, which lasted little more than three years, was too short to damage the British economy seriously. By 1953, its impact was no longer excessive. The Korean war obviously placed a considerable burden on the economy, but it was temporary.
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