Business and Economic Performance since 1945: Britain in International Context

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Peter Cirenza



This course is available on the BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History with Economics, BSc in Economics, BSc in Economics and Economic History, BSc in Economics with Economic History and BSc in Management. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The course examines the successes and failures of British business and industry, with an emphasis on the post-World War II period. It examines many of the hypotheses on why the UK economy grew more slowly than other OECD nations during this period. Explanations of relative economic decline are examined in the context of comparisons with other European nations and with the US and Japan. The course is organised to combine economy- wide factors, such as education, management organisation, labour relations, and membership in the EU, with case studies of industries as diverse as cotton, cars, banking and steel. By interacting themes and case studies, students get a sense of how national policies interact with business opportunities, and how governments can both aid and harm business. They also get a sense of why much – but not all – of British business history in the post-war period has been characterised as one of relative decline. The main attention is on the post-war period, including current changes in performance, but the historical roots of Britain's recent performance are also considered.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 of MT and LT.

Formative coursework


During the course students are expected to write three essays or equivalent pieces of written work.


Indicative reading

The main work used in the course is G. Owen, From Empire to Europe: The Decline and Revival of British Industry since the Second World War (2000). The following are also useful: S. Broadberry, The productivity race: British manufacturing in international perspective 1850-1990 (1997), R Floud & P Johnson (Eds), The Cambridge economic history of modern Britain: structural change and growth, 1939-2000 (2004),  B Elbaum & W Lazonick (Eds), The Decline of the British Economy (1986), M. Blackford, The rise of modern business: Great Britain, the United States, Germany, Japan, and China (2008).


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Teachers' comment

Survey questions on feedback to students may be non-informative because assessed work comes later in the term than the survey.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2016/17: 111

Average class size 2016/17: 18

Capped 2016/17: No

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 60%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)