20th century British economic history and policy, the interaction between socio-economic change and international relations, and the application to postwar domestic and international economic policy of the ideas of J. M. Keynes. Between 2006-2008 I was engaged full-time on ESRC-funded research into ‘The 1964-70 Labour governments and the international economy’. The focus was on the problems caused for the Wilson governments of 1964-70 by the increasing instability of the international economy at the time. The project has so far led to two major articles, in the Economic History Review and the English Historical Review (see below). The material used and conclusions drawn are also central to a new investigation, intended to result in a book, The Reinvention of Britain, 1960-2010: a political and economic history.
The Reinvention of Britain argues that over the last half-century governments have made three distinct efforts to remould the political economy of the United Kingdom. These were located in the growing concern in late 1950s Britain with 'decline'. The first template for this project was the post-war west European state, reconstructed as social/Christian Democratic and committed to the use of planning to deliver modernization, growth and full employment. The British attempt to emulate this model lasted from the early 1960s until the end of the 1970s. By this time, however, the project was under attack from several directions. First, it was assailed by external financial instability, driven by the increasing tendency of capital markets and large firms towards the internationalization of their activities. Secondly, there had been a sharp spasm of high inflation in the mid-1970s (though this challenge had been contained by 1977). Thirdly, there were bouts of internal conflict between the government, the unions and private industry. These pressures culminated in the political crisis faced by Labour in the winter of 1978-79, which led to the discrediting and breakdown of the first 'reinvention'.
The second reinvention was attempted by the Conservatives after 1979 and this represented a change of direction towards the American rather then the European model. The advent of the Reagan administration in the USA emboldened a faction of free marketeers who had seized the policy-making machinery in the Conservative party, and who saw Britain's future as a an enterprise society based on the small state and committed to low inflation, the weakening of the unions, the privatisation of industry, and a foreign economic policy which promoted, in harmony with the USA, liberal political and economic values. Britain was now seen as the centre of a world marching to a capitalist drumbeat, especially after the fall of Communism in 1989. The European model lost support and was now viewed as a throwback to the 'failed' social-democratic experiment.
The third reinvention of the period 1960-2010 was New Labour's ‘third way’, based on a reaction against the social inequalities, political turbulence, economic instability and international isolation (especially in Europe) apparent at various times in the decades after 1979. New Labour sought to build a new kind of social democracy which harnessed to traditional Labour objectives, for example in the fields of education, and health and welfare policy, the apparently successful wealth generating power of the free market, the City and globalization. It also focussed on constitutional reform to modernise the state’s governing institutions. In foreign affairs, it aimed at closer engagement with Europe than the Conservatives; it sought both to emulate the continental mix of private and public enterprise and generous welfare states, and to join in the EU’s attempt to exert a liberal political influence in global affairs.
This model fell apart in 2007-8 with the (ongoing) financial crisis. The new project is not yet clear; the era at present is one of crisis management.
Creator, Organiser and Convenor of the Cardiff University Keynes Seminar. This involves inviting distinguished figures from the worlds of the academy, journalism and politics to discuss contemporary political and economic history, with the emphasis on Keynes, Keynesian ideas, and the application of these to the understanding of modern Britain and the wider world since 1945.
Speakers for the 2009/10 session have included:
William Keegan (Economics Correspondent, The Observer);
Gerald Holtham (former Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research);
Jim Tomlinson (Professor of Modern History, Dundee University).
The programme for 2010/11 is under construction and will include:
Will Hutton (The Work Foundation and columnist with The Observer);
Larry Elliott (Economics Editor, The Guardian).
The audiences to these occasions are open to all staff members of Cardiff
University, academics from other organizations, and also members of the Welsh
Assembly Government and of the wider political and business community in this
A poster of the Keynes seminar is available as a PDF (2116 kb)
The Global Economy 1944-2000, (London: Arnold, 2004), xvi + 192pp
Profits of Peace: the political economy of Anglo-German appeasement, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 217pp
Joseph Chamberlain: a Bibliography, with Dilwyn Porter (London and Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), xiv + 135pp
Modernization Frustrated: the politics of industrial decline in Britain since 1900, with Dilwyn Porter (London: Unwin Hyman 1988), xv + 224pp
Conflict and Coexistence: nationalism and democracy in Modern Europe, 228pp. edited with Robert Stradling and David Bates (Cardiff: University of Wales, 1997)
‘The sterling devaluation of 1967, the international economy and post-war social democracy’, The English Historical Review, vol. CXXV (2010), pp. 912-945.
Available as PDF at http://ehr.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/ceq164?ijkey=rHLzkCdhft7v3i5&keytype=ref
'Fighting for the possibility of civilization: Dostaler's Keynes and his battles (review article), in Warren J. Samuels, Jeff E. Biddle and Ross B. Emmett (editors) Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, vol. 27-A, pp. 235-244 (Bingley: JAI press, 2009).
'UK manufacturing decline is the real story of the Budget', History and Policy, May 2009, http://www.historyandpolicy.org/opinion/opinion_07.html
'The two sterling crises of 1964 and the decision not to devalue', Economic History Review, 62, 1 (2009), pp. 73-98. Available as PDF 499kb.
'J. M. Keynes and the Postwar International Economic Order', History Compass 4 (2006), 1-6
'Keynesianism, Sterling Convertibility, and British Reconstruction 1940-52', in R. Michie and P.Williamson (editors), The British Government and the City of London in the Twentieth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 257-75
'Deconstructing Harrod: Some Critical Observations on The Life of John Maynard Keynes', Contemporary British History, 15 (2) 2001, pp.15-27
'A Visionary Hope Frustrated: J. M. Keynes and the Origins of the Postwar International Monetary Order', Diplomacy and Statecraft, 11 (1) 2000, pp. 89-210
'Democracy, Nationalism and Varieties of Patriotism' (with Robert Stradling), in Stradling, Newton and Bates (Eds), Conflict and Coexistence: nationalism and democracy in modern Europe (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997) pp.1-18
'Joseph Chamberlain and Tariff Reform: British Radicalism, Modernization and Nationalism', in Stradling, Newton and Bates (Eds), Conflict and Coexistence: nationalism and democracy in modern Europe, pp.84-106
'Appeasement as an industrial strategy, 1938-41', Contemporary Record, 9 (1995), 485-506
'The Keynesian Revolution debate: time for a new approach?, in Gorst. A., Johnman, L., and Lucas, W. Scott, Contemporary British History 1931-61: politics and the limits of policy (London: Pinter, 1991), 75-9
‘“The Anglo-German Connection" and the Political Economy of Appeasement', Diplomacy and Statecraft, 2 (1991), 178-207
'Britain, the Sterling Area and European Integration 1945-50', Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth Studies XIII (1985), 163-82
'The Sterling Crisis of 1949 and British Policy towards European Integration', Review of International Studies, 11 (1985), 169-82
'The Sterling Crisis of 1947 and the British Response to the Marshall Plan', Economic History Review (2nd ser.), XXXVII (1984), 391-408
'How Successful was the Marshall Plan'? History Today, 33 (1983), 11-15
Operation Robot and the Political Economy of Sterling Convertibility, 1951/52 (European University Institute, Florence, Working Paper 86/256, 1986)
2006: £99,072.12 from the ESRC to support a full-time, two year project,
‘The 1964-70 Labour governments and the international economy’.
2002: £12,005 from the AHRB to support research and writing on the political and ideological factors influencing the development of the world economy since the 1940s.
1992: £920 from the British Academy to support my project on the political economy of appeasement.
1983: £500 from the Wolfson Foundation to support research on sterling convertibility in the early 1950s
Economic policy and performance in Wales, 1974-97: the role of the State;
Anglo-German peace feelers during the Second World War.
The Global Economy 1944-2000;
Politics and Economic Policy in Britain, 1945-2001.
2 triple modules: British Expansion Overseas 1870-1945;
Britain and the Integration of Europe, 1940