Business and Economic Performance since 1945: Britain in International Context

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Gerben Bakker SAR 6.04



This course is available on the BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History and Geography, BSc in Economic History with Economics, BSc in Economics, BSc in Economics and Economic History, BSc in Economics with Economic History, BSc in Management and Diploma in Accounting and Finance. 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 assesses 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, Japan and more recently China. The course is organised to combine major economic and political themes, such as de-industrialisation, globalisation, education and training, management organisation and practices, labour relations, and Britain’s relationship with the EEC/EU, with case studies of industries as diverse as textiles, motors, banking, pharmaceuticals, and steel. By interacting themes and case studies, students get a sense of how national policies can affect business opportunities, and how governments can both aid and harm business. The impact of government policies such as nationalisation/privatisation, regional policy and competition are also examined in this context. The primary focus is on the post-World War II period, including current changes in performance, but the historical roots of Britain's recent performance are also considered.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

This course includes 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).


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2021/22: 73

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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